© Joseph Dougherty. All rights reserved. Stereolepis gigas Ayres, 1859 Giant Sea Bass aka Black Sea Bass Channel Islands, CA. Giant sea bass, now critically endangered, were once a relatively common inhabitant of Southern California waters, yet in the 1980s, it was facing the threat of local extinction off the California coast. Beginning in the late 19th century, the species supported both a commercial fishery taking hundreds of thousands of pounds annually, and a sport fishery that also landed hundreds of fish each year. Giant Sea Bass were also a popular “big game” quarry for both freediving and scuba spearfishermen. In the 1970s, spearfishing for these monsters was made illegal by the California Department of Fish and Game. One unfortunate incident precipitated this abrupt change in the law. Several freedivers had taken 7 fish at Santa Cruz Island. Unable to eat nearly a ton of fish, they sold the fish illegally to a fish market in San Pedro. Fish and Game wardens discovered that the fish had been speared by observing the holes and slip tips left behind in their bodies.
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