Giant sea bass are a critically endangered fish native to the nearshore kelp forests off California’s coast. The Aquarium of the Pacific is home to four giant sea bass, including a breeding pair and additional male living in the Honda Blue Cavern exhibit and a juvenile in Amber Forest named Yutaka. Yutaka represents a milestone for the Aquarium, as this fish was the first giant sea bass to be hatched and raised at a public aquarium. This success occurred in 2016 after a spawning event, and Yutaka was the only surviving larvae. Giant sea bass had been notoriously difficult to breed in aquarium environments. At the time, only one other facility had preliminary success in breeding giant sea bass.
After this initial success, the Aquarium of the Pacific’s husbandry staff planned a regional meeting to gather aquarium professionals and local researchers who had been working with giant sea bass, and multiple partnerships were formed between universities, aquariums, and government agencies. The Aquarium has since held periodic symposiums for partner organizations to share research and conservation achievements.
In 2019 California State University, Northridge (CSUN), the Aquarium of the Pacific, and Cabrillo Marine Aquarium announced a successful joint effort involving raising and releasing juvenile giant sea bass into the ocean. For this project, CSUN shared giant sea bass eggs with the Aquarium of the Pacific and Cabrillo Marine Aquarium to attempt to produce offspring. Three juveniles were raised at the Aquarium of the Pacific, and the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium successfully reared hundreds of baby giant sea bass babies from these eggs.
The young fish were released into the wild with approval from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Divers from both aquariums released several hundred fish into the ocean at a time on two trips in the spring of 2020. The project partners will grow some of these specimens to a size that could be outfitted with radio transmitter tags that are expected to be released as part of a as study in early 2021. The release location will be kept confidential among the project partners, allowing the young fish to acclimate to their new home.