California State University, Northridge (CSUN), the non-profit Aquarium of the Pacific, and Cabrillo Marine Aquarium have announced a successful joint effort involving raising and releasing juvenile giant sea bass into the ocean. Giant sea bass are listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List. Their populations are believed to be increasing slowly after years of decline.
In the past giant sea bass have been notoriously difficult to breed in an aquarium setting. The Aquarium of the Pacific was the first public aquarium to successfully hatch and raise a baby giant sea bass in 2016. That fish, named Yutaka, is now on view in the Aquarium’s Amber Forest exhibit near its parents, which have lived in the Aquarium’s Honda Blue Cavern exhibit since its opening in 1998. 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 of the Pacific hosted its second Giant Sea Bass Symposium on February 18, 2020.
For this current project, CSUN shared giant sea bass eggs last summer with the Aquarium of the Pacific and Cabrillo Marine Aquarium to attempt to produce offspring. The Aquarium of the Pacific and the Cabrillo Aquarium were able to successfully rear baby giant sea bass babies from these eggs. The Cabrillo Aquarium used new techniques developed by their animal care team. The Cabrillo Marine Aquarium produced over 300 juvenile giant sea bass raised in the Aquatic Nursery, an Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ award-winning laboratory space dedicated to raising young sea animals and young scientists. Half of those giant sea bass were brought to the Aquarium of the Pacific in late 2019 as both partners prepared for the release of the fish. The new methods for raising giant sea bass were immensely successful, and the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium believes these techniques may end up having further reaching implications if applied as a model for growing other endangered species of marine fishes. The Cabrillo Marine Aquarium has shared many of its aquarium-raised giant sea bass with aquariums across the country to teach aquarium visitors about this intriguing species and share the animal’s story, both as a warning to the dangers of overfishing and to demonstrate the potential success of species protection and aquaculture efforts.
The young fish will all be released into the wild with approval from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Divers from both aquariums will release several hundred fish into the ocean at a time on two trips, the first of which has already been completed. The release location will be kept confidential among the project partners, allowing the young fish to acclimate to their new home.