Let me introduce you to the King of the Kelp forest, the Giant Sea Bass. This behemoth of a fish can grow up to nearly 7 and a half feet long, can weigh a whopping 560 pounds, and can live to the ripe old age of 75. These fish were, at one point, a prized catch by fishermen. Now, critically endangered, an encounter with a Sea Bass is a rare, exciting, and memorable event.
These mega-fish begin their lives as tiny planktonic larvae, adrift in the ocean at the mercy of the currents. As they grow into juveniles the Giant Sea Bass is golden in color with distinct black spots. As they grow into maturity, which can take up to 10 years, they lose their bright coloration and turn gray. Their spots, while still visible, are less permanent.
Adults are apex predators. Top of the food chain. As such, these fish are a keystone species. Without the Giant Sea Bass the kelp forest ecosystem in which they reside would be drastically changed. On a daily basis the sea bass feeds on a variety of critters that also find their home in the kelp—fish, rays, crustaceans, squid, and sometimes kelp itself. Generally slow swimmers, the sea bass seeks prey that lives on the bottom of the sea floor. Their caudal fin (tail fin) is built, however, for short bursts of speed if need be. Say if, perhaps, the Giant Sea Bass finds itself face to face with its one and only known natural predator: the Great White Shark.