Black sea bass flesh is firm and lean, with a mild, delicate flavor. According to some buyers, black sea bass that are caught with hooks tend to be the best quality, followed by trapped fish. Make sure the uncooked flesh is sparkling white and translucent, not opague. Black sea bass tends to only be frozen when the market is glutted or demand is low and because it is a hardy fish, it is also sold live.
Estimated sustainability by volume of black sea bass in the United States based on landings data from 2010-2014 according to current Seafood Watch® ratings is broken down accordingly:
~45% of landings are rated "Best Choice (green)" - caught by handline ~28% of landings are rated "Avoid (red)" - caught by trawl ~27% of landings are unrated - caught by gears such as pound nets, gillnets, and includes landings with unspecified catch method
Eleven states reporting landings in 2014, but the large majority of "Best Choice" seafood comes from 4 states: North Carolina (~35%), Massachusetts (~15%), Florida (~15%), and Virginia (~10%). In the "Avoid" category, the three primary states are Virginia (~40%), New Jersey (~25%), and North Carolina (~15%).
Fresh Seasonal Availability
Recommended Servings per Months
Serving Size: 100g
Amount per serving
Black sea bass are large-mouthed, bottom dwellers that are bluish black in color with light spots that form longitudinal stripes. Their scales are relatively large and their dorsal fin is continuous, but notched with 10 slender spines. Females reach sexual maturity when they are 7.5 inches long, and males when they are 9 inches long. Black sea bass may live up to 20 years, although fish older than 9 years are rare. The maximum size attained is 24 inches and 6 pounds. Black sea bass are protogynous hermaphrodites, which mean they start life as a female and when they reach 9-13 inches (2 - 5 years of age) they change sex to become males. Larger fish such as bluefish, weakfish and striped bass feed on black sea bass, as well as sharks such as dusky sharks. Black sea bass are opportunistic feeders eating whatever is available, preferring crabs, shrimp, worms, small fish and clams.
Black sea bass inhabit Atlantic coastal waters from the Gulf of Maine to the Florida Keys, concentrating in areas from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to Cape Canaveral, Florida. Two distinct stocks of black sea bass exist along the Atlantic coast with overlapping ranges. A temperate reef fish, black sea bass commonly inhabit rock bottoms near pilings, wrecks, and jetties. Black sea bass summer in northern inshore waters at depths of less than 120 feet and winter in southern offshore waters at depths of 240 to 540 feet.
Science & Management
Black sea bass is managed jointly by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council under Amendment 13 to the Summer Flounder, Scup and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan. The black sea bass fishery in the U.S. operates from Maine to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. The black sea bass fishery uses predominantly black sea bass pots, otter trawls, and hook and line. Fisheries change seasonally with changes in fish distribution. Inshore and more southern commercial fisheries are primarily use with fish pots and handlines. When fish move offshore in the winter, they are primarily caught in trawl fisheries targeting summer flounder, scup and Loligo squid. Although the black sea bass fishery was declared rebuilt in 2009, the unique characteristics of the species (e.g., it is a protogynous hermaphrodite, meaning it changes its sex from female to male) contributes to uncertainty about the size of the stock.
Black sea bass are protogynous hermaphrodites, meaning they start as females and mature into males. They have high fecundity but they grow slowly. Black sea bass are divided into two fisheries, the Mid-Atlantic and the South Atlantic, with the line marked by Cape Hatteras in North Carolina. In 2000 the Mid-Atlantic stock was declared overfished. In 2005 scientists discovered overfishing was occurring in the South Atlantic. In recent years both populations have recovered and an early 2013 Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch report stated they were classified as not overfished.
Habitat impacts ( Wild)
Most black sea bass are caught by commercial fishermen using with pots and hook and line gear, which has a low to moderate effect on the seafloor. Some black sea bass in the Mid-Atlantic is also caught using otter trawls, which have higher rates of habitat damage, particularly to live coral and reef habitats. For this reason, the Monterey Bay Aquarium gave the otter trawl for northern black sea bass a red ranking. Trawling has been banned in the South Atlantic for more than 20 years.
Black sea bass fisheries have gear requirements such as escape vents in pots to prevent undersized fish from being caught. Bycatch in pots is minor because the gear is not usually baited for black sea bass, according to the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service. In the Mid-Atlantic, otter trawls are nonselective so there is more unintended bycatch. The Monterey Bay Aquarium reported that the Mid-Atlantic otter trawl fishery was shown to have a negative impact on loggerhead turtles, which are listed under the Endangered Species Act.
In the Mid-Atlantic fishery, strict management measures such as minimum size limits, minimum mesh requirements for trawls, a moratorium on entry into the fishery, and closed seasons have helped black sea bass stocks recover from being overfished. The post-2005 rebuilding plan for the South Atlantic included limits on permits, minimum size limits, gear restrictions as well as rules that prohibited commercial fishing once the annual quota has been met. The Monterey Bay Aquarium called fishery management in both regions highly effective in its 2013 Seafood Watch report.