Black Seabass

Black Seabass - Centropristis striata

*Information from FAO Species Identification Guide Western Central Atlantic*

Black seabass
Maximum weight about 5 kg; maximum length about 60 cm.
Diagnostic characters:

Body oblong, moderately compressed.Mouth large, oblique; maxilla exposed, scaleless, reaching to below middle of eye; no supramaxilla; preopercle finely serrate, evenly rounded; opercle with 3 flat spines.Total gill rakers on first arch 21 to 29. Dorsal and anal fins high; dorsal fin with 10 spines and 10 to 12 soft rays, the posterior spines shorter than anterior soft rays; dorsal interspinous membranes deeply notched, the spines with fleshy tips; anal fin with 3 spines and 7 soft rays; caudal fin rounded to trilobate, often with a single upper raymuch elongated in adults.Some scales on bases of soft portions of dorsal and anal fins. Colour: adults dark, with a pale spot on each scale, forming longitudinal series of silvery spots; dorsal-fin spines silvery blue, the membranes black, with silvery streaks and spots; irregular pale blotches often visible on dorsal part of body. Adult males develop a conspicuous blue hump on the nape during the spawning season. Juveniles mottled with brown blotches and small white spots, a dark brown or black midlateral band from eye to base of caudal fin; large black spot at base of last 3 dorsal-fin spines; turquoise horizontal streaks on lower part of head.

Habitat, biology, and fisheries

Most common on rocky bottoms and around pilings, seawalls, and jetties. Adults feed mainly on crabs, shrimps, and fish; juveniles eat shrimp, isopods, and amphipods. Spawning occurs off North Carolina in May; and from mid-May to July between Massachusetts and New Jersey. Females become mature in their second year at a length of 20 cm and change sex the following year at a length of 23 cm.
Maximum age is supposed to be 20 years, but fish older than 9 years are rare. A 1-year old fish is 13 cm, a5-year old is 30 cm, and an 8-year old fish is only about 38 cm. Taken in otter trawls, pots and traps, dredges, pound nets, and on hand lines. An important commercial and sportfish north of Area 31 and off the Carolinas.  The most intensive fishery is off North Carolina to New Jersey and Long Island. The catch reported from Area 31 between 1995 and 1999 ranged from 295 to 393 t. Marketed fresh or frozen.

From Massachusetts to central Florida and occasionally to the Florida Keys. In the Gulf of Mexico, the black seabass is confined to the West Coast of Florida from Pensacola to Placida.

The population from the west coast of Florida differs slightly from the Atlantic population in meristic characters and juvenile coloration, and is considered a separate subspecies (Centropristis striata melana Ginsburg, 1952) by some authors.