European bass

Last updated

European bass
Dicentrarchus labrax01.jpg
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Moronidae
Genus: Dicentrarchus
D. labrax
Binomial name
Dicentrarchus labrax
Dicentrarchus labrax map.png
Distribution of European bass
click to expand
  • Perca labraxLinnaeus, 1758
  • Labrax labrax(Linnaeus, 1758)
  • Morone labrax(Linnaeus, 1758)
  • Roccus labrax(Linnaeus, 1758)
  • Sciaena labrax(Linnaeus, 1758)
  • Sciaena diacanthaBloch, 1792
  • Labrax diacanthus(Bloch, 1792)
  • Perca diacantha(Bloch, 1792)
  • Centropomus lupusLacepède, 1802
  • Dicentrarchus lupus(Lacepède, 1802)
  • Labrax lupus(Lacepède, 1802)
  • Centropomus mullusLacepède, 1802
  • Perca elongataÉ. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1817
  • Dicentrarchus elongatus(É. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1817)
  • Labrax elongatus(É. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1817)
  • Perca sinuosaÉ. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1817
  • Labrax vulgarisGuérin-Méneville, 1829-38
  • Labrax linneiMalm, 1877

The European bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) is a primarily ocean-going fish native to the waters off Europe's western and southern and Africa's northern coasts, though it can also be found in shallow coastal waters and river mouths during the summer months. It is one of only six species in its family, Moronidae, collectively called the temperate basses.


It is both fished and raised commercially, and is considered to be the most important fish currently cultured in the Mediterranean. In Ireland and the United Kingdom, the popular restaurant fish sold and consumed as sea bass is exclusively the European bass. [2] In North America it is widely known by its Italian name, branzino. [3]

European bass are a slow-growing species that takes several years to reach full adulthood. An adult European seabass usually weighs around 5 kg (11 lb). European bass can reach sizes of up to 1 m (3 ft 3 in) in length and 12 kg (26 lb) in weight, though the most common size is only about half of that at 0.5 m (1 ft 8 in). Individuals are silvery grey in color and sometimes a dark-bluish color on the back.

Juveniles form schools and feed on invertebrates, while adults are less social and prefer to consume other fish. They are generally found in the littoral zone near the banks of rivers, lagoons, and estuaries during the summer, and migrate offshore during the winter. European sea bass feed on prawns, crabs and small fish. Though it is a sought-after gamefish, it is listed as Least Concern by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature because it is widespread and there are no known major threats.

Taxonomy and phylogeny

An 1877 illustration of the European bass by British naturalist Jonathan Couch FMIB 46071 Bass.jpeg
An 1877 illustration of the European bass by British naturalist Jonathan Couch

The European bass was first described in 1758 by Swedish zoologist Carl Linnaeus in his work Systema Naturae . He named it Perca labrax. In the century and a half following, it was classified under a variety of new synonyms, with Dicentrarchus labrax winning out as the accepted name in 1987. Its generic name, Dicentrarchus, derives from Greek, from the presence of two anal spines, "di" meaning two, "kentron" meaning sting, and "archos" meaning anus. The European bass is sold under dozens of common names in various languages. In the British Isles it is known as the "European bass," "European seabass," "common bass," "capemouth," "king of the mullets," "sea bass," "sea dace," "sea perch," "white mullet," "white salmon," or simply "bass". [4]

M. mississippiensis

M. chrysops

M. americana

M. saxatillis

D. punctatus

D. labrax

Phylogenetic tree of Moronidae based on the mt-nd6 protein. [5]

There are two genetically distinct populations of wild European bass. The first is found in the northeast Atlantic Ocean and the second is found in the western Mediterranean Sea. The two populations are separated by a relatively narrow distance in a region known as the Almeria-Oran oceanographic front, located east of the Spanish city of Almería. The exact reason for this separation is unknown, as the geographic divide itself should not account for a lack of gene flow between the two populations. The larval stage of the European bass can last up to 3 months, during which it is unable to swim well, and even a small amount of water flow should transport some individuals between the two regions. In addition, juveniles are able to survive temperature and salinity changes and adults are capable of migrating hundreds of miles. [6]

Distribution and habitat

European bass habitats include estuaries, lagoons, coastal waters, and rivers. It is found in a large part of the eastern Atlantic Ocean, from southern Norway to Senegal. It can also be found in the entire Mediterranean Sea and in the southern Black Sea, but is absent from the Baltic sea. [1] It is a seasonally migratory species, moving further inshore and north in summer.[ citation needed ]

Diet and behaviour

European bass in their maritime life cycle Dicentrarchus labrax sea bass in their marine cycle.png
European bass in their maritime life cycle

The European bass is mostly a night hunter, feeding on small fish, polychaetes, cephalopods, and crustaceans. They spawn from March to June, mostly in inshore waters. As fry they are pelagic, but as they develop they move into estuaries, where they stay for a year or two. [7]

Fisheries and aquaculture

Capture fisheries

Annual catches of wild European bass are relatively modest, having fluctuated between 8,500 and 11,900 tonnes in 2000–2009. Most of the reported catches originate from the Atlantic Ocean, with France typically reporting the highest catches. In the Mediterranean, Italy used to report the largest catches, but has been surpassed by Egypt. [8]

The fish has come under increasing pressure from commercial fishing and became the focus in the United Kingdom of a conservation effort by recreational anglers. [9] The Republic of Ireland has strict laws regarding bass. All commercial fishing for the species is banned and several restrictions are in place for recreational anglers, a closed season May 15 – June 15 inclusive every year, a minimum size of 400 mm, and a bag limit of two fish per day. In a scientific advice (June 2013), it is stressed that fishing mortality is increasing. The total biomass has been declining since 2005. Total biomass, assumed as the best stock size indicator in the last two years (2011–2012), was 32% lower than the total biomass in the three previous years (2008–2010). [10]


European bass was one of the first types of fish to be farmed commercially in Europe. They were historically cultured in coastal lagoons and tidal reservoirs, before mass-production techniques were developed starting in the late 1960s. It is the most important commercial fish widely cultured in the Mediterranean. The most important farming countries are Greece, Turkey, Italy, Spain, Croatia, and Egypt. Annual production was more than 120,000 tonnes in 2010. [11] European bass is also known as lavraki (Greek: [λαβράκι] ), lavrak (Hebrew: לברק), levrek or bayağı levrek (Turkish), lubina (Spanish), lubin or brancin (Croatian), robaliza (Galician), robalo (Portuguese), bar or loup de mer (French), biban de mare (Romanian), Wolfsbarsch (German) and llobarro (Catalan).[ citation needed ]

Related Research Articles

Brackish water Water with salinity between freshwater and seawater

Brackish water, also sometimes termed brack water, is water occurring in a natural environment having more salinity than freshwater, but not as much as seawater. It may result from mixing seawater with fresh water together, as in estuaries, or it may occur in brackish fossil aquifers. The word comes from the Middle Dutch root "brak". Certain human activities can produce brackish water, in particular civil engineering projects such as dikes and the flooding of coastal marshland to produce brackish water pools for freshwater prawn farming. Brackish water is also the primary waste product of the salinity gradient power process. Because brackish water is hostile to the growth of most terrestrial plant species, without appropriate management it is damaging to the environment.

Bass is a name shared by many species of fish. The term encompasses both freshwater and marine species, all belonging to the large order Perciformes, or perch-like fishes. The word bass comes from Middle English bars, meaning 'perch'.

Sea bass is a common name for a variety of different species of marine fish. Many fish species of various families have been called sea bass.

Flathead grey mullet Species of fish

The flathead grey mullet is an important food fish species in the mullet family Mugilidae. It is found in coastal tropical and subtropical waters worldwide. Its length is typically 30 to 75 centimetres. It is known with numerous English names, including the flathead mullet, striped mullet, black mullet, bully mullet, common mullet, grey mullet, sea mullet and mullet, among others.

Lessepsian migration Unintended migration of marine species across the Suez Canal

The Lessepsian migration is the migration of marine species across the Suez Canal, usually from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and more rarely in the opposite direction. When the canal was completed in 1869, fish, crustaceans, mollusks, and other marine animals and plants were exposed to an artificial passage between the two naturally separate bodies of water, and cross-contamination was made possible between formerly isolated ecosystems. The phenomenon is still occurring today. It is named after Ferdinand de Lesseps, the French diplomat in charge of the canal's construction.

<i>Argyrosomus regius</i> Species of fish

Argyrosomus regius is a fish of the family Sciaenidae. It is similar in form to a European seabass, with a pearly-silver coloration and a yellow-coloured mouth. Length can range from 40–50 cm to 2 m long, with weights up to 55 kg.

Gilt-head bream Species of fish

The gilt-head (sea) bream, called Orada in antiquity and still today in Italy, is a fish of the bream family Sparidae found in the Mediterranean Sea and the eastern coastal regions of the North Atlantic Ocean. It commonly reaches about 35 centimetres (1.15 ft) in length, but may reach 70 cm (2.3 ft) and weigh up to about 7.36 kilograms (16.2 lb).

Little tunny Species of fish

The little tunny is the most common tuna in the Atlantic Ocean. It is found in warm temperate and tropical waters of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean; in the western Atlantic, it ranges from Brazil to the New England states. It is found regularly in offshore and inshore waters, and is classified as a highly migratory species by UNCLOS. Occurring in large schools and weighing up to 36 lb, it is one of the smaller members of the tuna family (Scombridae).

Big-scale sand smelt Species of fish

The big-scale sand smelt is a species of fish in the family Atherinidae. It is a euryhaline amphidromous fish, up to 20 cm in length.

Red porgy Species of fish

The red porgy, or common seabream, is a species of marine ray-finned fish in the family Sparidae. It is found in shallow waters on either side of the Atlantic Ocean, being present on the western coast of Europe and the Mediterranean Sea as well as the eastern coasts of North and South America and the Caribbean Sea. It feeds on or near the seabed and most individuals start life as females and later change sex to males.

Fishing industry in the United States

As with other countries, the 200 nautical miles (370 km) exclusive economic zone (EEZ) off the coast of the United States gives its fishing industry special fishing rights. It covers 11.4 million square kilometres, which is the second largest zone in the world, exceeding the land area of the United States.

Fishing down the food web

Fishing down the food web is the process whereby fisheries in a given ecosystem, "having depleted the large predatory fish on top of the food web, turn to increasingly smaller species, finally ending up with previously spurned small fish and invertebrates".

Golden grey mullet Species of fish

The golden grey mullet is a fish in the family Mugilidae.

Thinlip mullet Species of fish

The thinlip mullet is a species of fish in the family Mugilidae. It is found in shallow European waters and is a migratory species.

Offshore aquaculture

Offshore aquaculture, also known as open ocean aquaculture, is an emerging approach to mariculture or marine farming where fish farms are moved some distance offshore. The farms are positioned in deeper and less sheltered waters, where ocean currents are stronger than they are inshore. Existing ‘offshore’ developments fall mainly into the category of exposed areas rather than fully offshore. As maritime classification society, DNV GL, has stated, development and knowledge-building are needed in several fields for the available deeper water opportunities to be realized.

Spotted seabass Species of fish

The spotted seabass, Dicentrarchus punctatus, is a species of temperate bass native to marine and brackish waters of the coastal eastern Atlantic Ocean from the English Channel to the Canary Islands and Senegal, as well as through the Mediterranean Sea.

Blackfin seabass Species of fish

The blackfin seabass is a Perciforme fish in the family lateolabracidae, found primarily in the shallow waters of the Pacific coast of Asia, in Japan and in South Korea. There are only two species in the genus Lateolabrax, known as Asian seabasses. As a perciforme, the blackfin seabass is among the largest order of fish in the ocean. Blackfin seabass live in shallow, tidal or rocky surf zones, partially as a way to escape competition with the Japanese seabass Lateolabrax japonicus, a close and almost identical relative of theirs, and partially for the breeding opportunity in brackish water by the mouths of rivers.

<i>Liza carinata</i> Species of fish

Liza carinata, the keeled mullet, is a species of grey mullet from the family Mugilidae which is found in the western Indian Ocean and eastern Mediterranean Sea. It colonised the Mediterranean by Lessepsian migration from the Red Sea through the Suez Canal. The keeled mullet is a species of minor importance in commercial fisheries.

Beymelek Lagoon

Beymelek Lagoon is a lagoon on the Mediterranean coast, which is used as a fishery, in Antalya Province, southwestern Turkey. It is named after the village of Beymelek, which is located to the west of the water body. It is situated in Demre ilçe (district) of Antalya Province at 36°16′N30°03′E.

<i>Ceratothoa oestroides</i> A parasitic marine isopod

C. oestroides is a crustacean isopod, obligate ectoparasite of marine fish that dwells in the buccal cavity. It is the causative agent of various pathologies including tissue damage at the parasitisation site (tongue), growth defects, decrease in mean host weight and size and increases mortalities in farmed and wild fish populations. It has been recorded in six different fish families: Sparidae, Carangidae, Clupeidae, Maenidae, Scorpenidae, and Mugilidae.


  1. 1 2 Freyhof, J. & Kottelat, M. 2008. Dicentrarchus labrax. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T135606A4159287. Downloaded on 21 April 2020.
  2. "Sea Bass: the Superstar of the Seas". The Independent. 22 October 2011. Retrieved 2017-12-02.
  3. "Definition: Branzino". Popsugr Food. Retrieved 2017-12-02.
  4. Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2017). "Dicentrarchus labrax" in FishBase . June 2017 version.
  5. Williams, E. P.; A. C. Peer; T. J. Miller; D. H. Secor; A. R. Place (2012). "A phylogeny of the temperate seabasses (Moronidae) characterized by a translocation of the mt-nd6 gene". Journal of Fish Biology. 80 (1): 110–130. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8649.2011.03158.x. PMID   22220893.
  6. Naciri, M.; C. Lemaire; P. Borsa; F. Bonhomme (1999). "Genetic Study of the Atlantic/Mediterranean Transition in Sea Bass (Dicentrarchus labrax)". The Journal of Heredity. 90 (6): 591–596. doi: 10.1093/jhered/90.6.591 .
  7. The Pocket Guide to Saltwater Fishes of Britain and Europe
  8. FAO Yearbook 2009: Fishery and Aquaculture Statistics: Capture Production (PDF). Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2011. p. 138.
  9. Clover, Charles (2004). The End of the Line: How Overfishing Is Changing the World and What We Eat. London: Ebury Press. ISBN   0-09-189780-7.
  10. ICES seabass Advice June 2013
  11. "Dicentrarchus labrax (Linnaeus, 1758 )". Cultured Aquatic Species Information Programme. FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department. 2012. Retrieved 12 October 2012.