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White Seabass

The PIER team has several research projects focused on better understanding the movements, spawning dynamics and stock structure of white seabass off the California and Mexican coastlines.

Management and History of the White Seabass Fishery


The white seabass is an economically important species that has historically been targeted by commercial and recreational fisheries throughout their functional range.  Over the past 100 years of exploitation, it has become apparent that white seabass are highly susceptible to overfishing, with stocks plummeting on at least three different occasions.  This susceptibility is likely due to a combination of factors, including relatively slow growth, the long-lived nature of the species, variability in recruitment success and the aggregating behaviors displayed by white seabass during the spawning season.  

Since 2005, PIER has engaged in research focused on filling data gaps that provide better information towards the sustainable management of white seabass fisheries. 

Tracking the Movement Patterns of White Seabass

In 2006 PIER launched a comprehensive project to better understand white seabass catch rates and movement patterns.  This multi-year study deployed various electronic tags to document depth distribution, temperature preferences and migration patterns of white seabass along the California and Baja California coastlines.  The work partners with Mexican colleagues at CICESE and has been the focus of two independent doctoral dissertations.  

Adult white seabass are tagged and released during the spring and summer months in areas where spawning aggregations are targeted by the recreational fleet.  To date, the PIER team has deployed over 500 archival tags in white seabass ranging from 28 to 60 inches (7 to 65 lbs).

Chairman Tom Pfleger tagging a white seabass at Catalina Island

PIER has published three different manuscripts on the movements, depth preferences and catch rates of white seabass tagged off California and Baja California.  The team is now focused on age and growth, size at first maturity and age validation.  

The success of this project continues to be dependent upon fisher involvement through the return of recaptured tags. The return of a recaptured tag receives a reward of $250 and a tagging project T-shirt. Reward and contact information are labeled on all tags.

This work has been generously supported by the George T. Pfleger Foundation and the Offield Family Foundation.

PIER continues to recognizes the importance of documenting accurate age and growth parameters for sustainable management of white seabass.  PIER is currently collaborating with Partners in

Mexico as well as the California Department of Fish and Wildlife on studies documenting the age at first maturity, age validation and understanding differences in growth rates along the range of this species. 

Passive Acoustic Detection of White Seabass Spawning Aggregations


Since 2008, PIER has maintained a long-term passive acoustic array that monitors and records white seabass spawning sounds in the wild.  This work uses Loggerhead Instruments Acoustic Data loggers to record sound production and spawning activity within several of the newly appointed Southern California Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

MPA sites are continuously monitored throughout the Spring and Summer spawning seasons and compared with acoustic records from sites situated within similar, non-reserve habitats.  Recorders are periodically serviced by a dive team and downloaded for subsequent analysis in the PIER laboratory.

To validate the acoustic recordings the PIER team also performs periodic egg trawls and actively samples mature white seabass to verify fish spawning condition.

This work is supported by the George T. Pfleger Foundation, the Offield Family Foundation and Southern California Edison.