Disclaimer: This is an interactive, draft mock-up that was created to inform the development of the California Fisheries Portal. This is not an active website and does not represent the final draft of the California Fisheries Portal. This mock-up was developed based on the first stakeholder focus group (2018) and serves as an interactive discussion draft for the stakeholder webinar on March 22, 2019.

Barred Sand Bass Enhanced Status Report

Table of Contents

1. The Species

1.1 Natural History

1.1.1 Species Description

Barred Sand Bass (Paralabrax nebulifer) are one of the most common sea basses inhabiting southern California coastal waters along with two other species of bass, Kelp Bass (Paralabrax clathratus) and Spotted Sand Bass (Paralabrax maculatofasciatus). Their coloration varies from grey to whitewith distinct dark vertical bars on their sides thatcan quickly fade when caught. Barred Sand Bass are easily distinguished from Kelp Bass by the height of their third dorsal spine, which is much longer than the rest of their dorsal spines.

Figure 1-1. Adult Barred Sand Bass in kelp forest habitat (Photo Credit: Miranda Haggerty, CDFW).

1.1.2 Range, Distribution, and Movement

Barred Sand Bass range from Santa Cruz, California to southern Baja California, Mexico, but are more common south of Point Conception (Love et al. 1996b). Genetic analysis suggests that they make up one large population with high connectivity and genetic diversity among individuals from southern California to Mexico (Paterson et al. 2015). Juvenile Barred Sand Bass are abundant over shallow sandy bottoms in bays and estuaries at depths of 1.5 to 6.0 meters (m)(4.9 to 19.7 feet)(ft)(Mendoza-Carranza and Rosales-Casian 2002). Adults are typically found in deeper water ranging from 20.0 to 30.0 m (65.6 to 98.4 ft) at the sand/reef interface of natural and artificial reefs (Teesdale et al.2015)but have been observed at depths up to 183.0 m (600.4 ft) (Eschmeyer and Herald 1999).

Adult Barred Sand Bass have high site fidelity and their home range on reefs in southern California is 2.0 to 10.0 kilometers squared (km2)(1.2 to 6.2 miles squared)(mi2) (Mason and Lowe 2010; Teesdale and et al. 2015), but movements can vary both daily and seasonally. For example, acoustic telemetry data indicate Barred Sand Bass use multiple habitats on or near the reef during the day, but are found over soft sediment habitat at night, signifying specific daytime feeding and nighttime resting periods (Mason and Lowe 2010). They are also bottom dwellers, rarely observed more than 2.0 m (6.6 ft) above the substrate outside of spawning season (McKinzie et al.2014). During spawning season, Barred Sand Bass migratefrom reefs to deep sandy areas where they aggregate and may reside, spawning multiple times across a 7 to 35 day period (Jarviset al.2010). Mark-and-recapture and telemetry studies suggest a portion of the total population moves from their home reefs to the same aggregation site on an annual basis and that spawning-related movements average 13.0 to 17.0 kilometers (km)(8.1 to 10.6 miles (mi)) (Jarvis et al.2010; Teesdale et al. 2015)(Figure 1-3).


Figure 1-2. Range map for Barred Sand Bass.

Figure 1-3. Map of Barred Sand Bass tagging locations from historical studies by the Department (1960s and 1990s). Ellipses identify historical spawning aggregation locations in the Southern California Bight (Jarvis et al. 2010).

1.1.3 Reproduction, Fecundity, and Spawning Season

Barred Sand Bass have two distinct sexes, and release eggs and sperm into the water column where fertilization occurs (Love et al.1996b; Hovey et al.2002). They form large annual breeding aggregations at specific locations within the Southern California Bight (Jarvis et al. 2010) (Figure 1-3). Fish in these aggregations spawn predominantly in July and August. Peak spawning occurs in the morning in areas of warm water, before new and full moon phases (Jarvis et al.2014b). Females are batch spawners, so they develop eggs throughout the spawning season and spawn multiple times over the course of several days (Demartini 1987; Oda et al. 1993). Acoustic tracking of fine-scale vertical movements during spawning season suggest Barred Sand Bass spawn by following the thermocline, the transitional layer between warmer mixed water at the ocean’s surface and cooler deep water below, and make repetitive vertical dives toward the seafloor to release eggs and sperm during the day (McKinzie et al.2014). Although fish that migrate to spawning aggregation sites are known to be spawners (Jarviset al.2014b), it is unknown whether the fish that do not migrate spawn on the reefs where they reside.

After spawning occurs, fertilized eggs enter the plankton as larvae for approximately one month (Allen and Block 2012) before settling out into eelgrass (Zostera spp.) beds in sheltered bays and estuaries (Love 1991; Valle et al.1999) and other shallow, nearshore waters in the fall. Once fish near maturity (Total Length (TL)>23.0 centimeters (cm)) (9.1 inches (in)) they transition seaward to settle on coastal reefs, artificial structures, and sandy-muddy habitats.

1.1.4 Natural Mortality

Determining the natural mortality (M) of fish is important in understanding the health and productivity of their stocks. Natural mortality of a fish results from all causes of death not attributable to fishing such as old age, disease, predation, environmental stress, etc. Natural mortality is generally expressed as a rate that indicates the percentage of the population dying in a year. Natural mortality along with fishing mortality result in the total mortality operating on the fish stock.

Estimating natural mortality is difficult and often relies on evaluation of life history traits. The natural mortality of Barred Sand Bass has been estimated at M=0.218 using age and growth parameters (L∞ and k) and Pauly’s growth equation (Pauly 1980; Jarvis et al.2014a). Using methods from Then and others (2015) and an estimator based on maximum age (M=4.899tmax-0.916, prediction error = 0.32 and tmax=24), M=0.27. A review of current methods for estimating natural mortality suggests that tmax-based estimators outperform other methods (Thenet al.2015).

1.1.5 Individual Growth

Individual growth of fishes is quite variable, not only among different groups of species but also within the same species. Fish growth is often represented as a function that asymptotes at an average maximum size. The von Bertalanffy Growth Model is most often used in fisheries management, but other growth functions are also appropriate. Overall, Barred Sand Bass growth is relatively slow with no differences between the sexes. Growth is relatively fast during early years,but declines at around age five (Love et al.1996b). Barred Sand Bass may reach 67.0 cm (26.4 in) TL and 6.0 kilogram (kg)(13.2 pounds(lb))(IGFA 2001). The oldest fish recorded was 24-years (yr)-old (Love et al.1996b). Growth parameters for Barred Sand Bass have been estimated for both sexes combined by fitting data to the Von Bertalanffy growth model:

where Lis the length at aget, L∞ is the maximum average length, is the relative growth rate, is the age of fish, and tis the theoretical age when the length of the fish is zero.The values of those estimated parameters are L= 66.2, k= 0.08, t0 = -2.63 (Love et al. 1996).

The relationship between weight and length for Barred Sand Bass (both sexes combined) has also been modeled using the exponential equation:

where W is the weight in grams, L is the length in centimeters, and aand are estimatd parameters. Williams and others (2013) estimated a=0.00289 and b=2.95 for Barred Sand Bass.

1.1.6 Size and Age at Maturity

Barred Sand Bass mature at a relatively small size and young age compared to other large reef fishes in California. An estimated 50% of male Barred Sand Bass reach maturity by 21.9 cm (8.6 in), between 2-4 yr old, and 50% of females reach maturity by 23.9 centimeters (cm)(9.4 in), between 2 to 5 yr old. All males are mature by 26.0 cm (10.2 in) and all females by 27.0 cm (10.6 in) (Love et al.1996b).

1.2 Population Status and Dynamics

No formal stock assessment exists for Barred Sand Bass in southern California, however from the information available (Section 1.2.1) the population of Barred Sand Bass in southern California is severely depressed. Standard stock assessment methods may be inappropriate for species that form large spawning aggregations such as Barred Sand Bass, unless for hyperstability (high catch levels even when populations are declining) is accounted for when considering the catch history. Stocks targeted during spawning aggregations are particularly vulnerable to overfishing. In addition, depensation (population growth is low at low population levels because fish can not find others to mate with) may mean that recovery will take longer for Barred Sand Bass, even under conservative management (Sadovy de Mitcheson 2016).

1.2.1 Abundance Estimates

Abundance estimates from both fishery-dependent and fishery-independent sources indicate that, as of 2017, the population of Barred Sand Bass has declined and is severely depressed (Erisman et al. 2011; Bellquist et al. 2017) due to a combination of environmental conditions, fishing pressure, and poor recruitment (Jarvis et al.2014a). Aside from Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessel (CPFV); aka “party boat”) logbook and California Recreational Fisheries Survey (CRFS) estimates of catch and effort, annual estimates of the relative abundance of Barred Sand Bass are available from Occidental College’s long-term scuba surveys of fish abundance along the King Harbor breakwater (Los Angeles County). To our knowledge, these surveys are the sole ongoing, long-term, fishery-independent dataset that include an estimate of Barred Sand Bass abundance. The scuba survey data mirrors trends in fishery catch and effort, indicating that adult abundance has remained low since the mid-2000s (Figure 1-4). The data also show that there has been an increase in the number of juvenile recruits observed since 2013.


Figure 1-4. Annual trends in juvenile (<25 cm TL prior to 1991 and <15 cm TL thereafter) and adult (>25 cm TL) Barred Sand Bass abundance at King Harbor, Redondo Beach, Los Angeles County from 1974 to 2016 (Vantuna Research Group, Occidental College).

1.2.2 Age Structure of the Population

As there is no stock assessment for Barred Sand Bass, recreational catch data was used to assess the age structure of the population. Length data from retained catch from private/rental and CPFV modes were converted to ages. At least 12 age classes of Barred Sand Bass are represented in the catch for most years from 1980 to 2017. From 1980 to 2012 there was a decline in the proportion of young fish (<6 yr old) in the landings and a modest increase in the proportion of older fishes (>8 yr old) (Figure 1-3). This pattern suggests there may have been a recruitment failure and that the fishery may not be successfully replenishing itself. In 2013 the size limit was increased from 12.0in (30.4cm) to 14.0in (35.6cm). This means that fish younger than about 7 yr old are now considered sublegal, and thus are no longer retained in the catch. The distribution of legal age classes (7-plus yr) in the landings remained relatively well distributed in 2017, suggesting that the adult population has a healthy age structure.

Figure 1-5. Age structure of harvested Barred Sand Bass from 1980 to 2017. Age classes were converted from length data of retained catch from all fishing modes. All fish older than 15 yr and younger than 4 yr are represented in summed categories, 15+ and 4-, respectively. A size limit increase in 2013 altered the distribution of retained fish (RecFIN; no data collected from 1990 to 1992).

1.3 Habitat

Coastal rocky reefs, including artificial reefs, provide important habitat for adult Barred Sand Bass (Martin and Lowe 2010; McKinzie et al.2014), while sheltered inlets and bays support nursery areas for juveniles (Mendoza-Carranza and Rosales-Casian 2002). Adults are most often observed along ecotonal habitats where sand or mud bottom meet reef structure (Teesdale et al.2015), but larger individuals may also be observed over the sand up to 33 m (108 ft) away from the reef edge (Anderson et al. 1989). Deep sandy and muddy areas with intermittent patch reefs are important habitats for spawning aggregations (McKinzie et al.2014). Although Barred Sand Bass occur on the reefs of offshore islands in southern California (Mason and Lowe 2010), major spawning aggregation sites have only been observed along the mainland coast (Jarvis et al. 2010).

1.4 Ecosystem Role

The Department is not aware of any directed research on ecosystem impacts of the Barred Sand Bass fishery. Spawning aggregations of Barred Sand Bass likely contribute to the ecosystem health of their spawning ground locations. Spawning aggregations of fish can contribute a substantial amount of nutrients in the form of egg masses as well as nitrogen and phosphorous waste products, supporting productivity in the local ecosystem (Erisman et al. 2015). Heavy fishing pressure on Barred Sand Bass and the recent disappearance of historical spawning aggregations may have reduced prey availability for higher-level predators. It also may have reduced any annual nutrient input to local spawning grounds created by the aggregations.

1.4.1 Associated Species

Barred Sand Bass primarily reside in rocky reef, kelp forest, and reef/sand transitional habitats. The list of observed associated species below are the most common species found based on Department surveys conducted on reef ecotone (sand-reef interface) habitats (CDFW unpublished data). During spawning, Barred Sand Bass also occupy soft bottom habitats. Common soft-bottom habitat species (Allen et al. 2006) that may co-occur with Barred Sand Bass are also listed below.

Table 1-1. Barred Sand Bass associated and co-occurring species.

1.4.2 Predator-prey Interactions

Juvenile Barred Sand Bass shelter and forage over sand and eelgrass habitats in protected bays (Valle et al. 1999). Gut contents analysis indicates that more than 50% of their diet is composed of gammarid amphipods, but they also consume small fishes, crabs, clams and isopods (Mendoza-Carranza and Rosales-Casian 2002). Adult Barred Sand Bass shelter and forage along benthic rocky reef and sand edges, or ecotone habitat (Teesdale et al.2015). Adults consume fish, such as Plainfin Midshipman (Porichthys notatus), Northern Anchovy (Engraulis mordax)and surfperch(Embioticidaespp.), as well as octopus, crabs, and polychaetes and ascidians, like bristle worms and tunicate species (Roberts et al. 1984). In turn, Barred Sand Bass may be prey for larger piscivores such as sharks, rays and marine mammals like Harbor Seals (Phoca vitulinaand sea lions.


1.5 Effects of Changing Oceanic Conditions

Oceanic changes due to climatic events impacting water temperature and nutrient availability such as El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and the North Pacific Gyre Oscillation (NPGO) can have profound effects on fishes and fisheries. There may be long-term positive responses in bass populations to warm water regimes given basses are one of the few species that show significant correlation with the PDO (Hsieh et al. 2005). Based on trends in larval abundance and population structure, larvalsurvival is highest during extended periods of warmer than average Sea Surface Temperatures (SST) and may experience lower survivalduring cooler water periods (Jarvis et al.2014a) (Figure 1-6). This is expected since the population in southern California exists at the northern edge of their distribution. In years when oceanic conditions are not ideal for recruitment (i.e. neutral to cooler than average), heavy fishing pressure has had negative effects on the population (Miller and Erisman 2014). Thus, Barred Sand Bass are most vulnerable to overfishing during cool water regimes, but are likely to recruit well during El Niño years and other warm water events.


Figure 1-6. Annual variability in recruitment of “rock bass” (Barred Sand Bass, Kelp Bass and Spotted Sand Bass) based on quarterly plankton tows by CalCOFI from 1951 to 2013. Warm and cool water regimes were determined from trends in the PDO Index (Reproduced from Jarvis et al. 2014a). Larval abundance data were only available up to 2013.

Version: The Barred Sand Bass Enhanced Status Report was updated in print and online in 2019.

Download: Barred Sand Bass Status Report (2019) (pdf)

Contact Us: To contact CDFW regarding Barred Sand Bass, please email fish@wildlife.ca.gov or call (831) 649-2870.

Citation: California Department of Fish and Wildlife. 2019. Barred Sand Bass, Paralabrax nebulifer, Enhanced Status Report.

Contributor(s): Jean Davis and Miranda Haggerty (2019)

Barred Sand Bass Enhanced Status Report (2019)

Table of Contents
  1. The Species
    1. Natural History
      1. Species Description
      2. Range, Distribution, and Movement
      3. Reproduction, Fecundity, and Spawning Season
      4. Natural Mortality
      5. Individual Growth
      6. Size and Age at Maturity
    2. Population Status and Dynamics
      1. Abundance Estimates
      2. Age Structure of the Population
    3. Habitat
    4. Ecosystem Role
      1. Associated Species
      2. Predator-prey Interactions
    5. Effects of Changing Oceanic Conditions
  2. The Fishery
    1. Location of the Fishery
    2. Fishing Effort
      1. Number of Vessels and Participants Over Time
      2. Type, Amount, and Selectivity of Gear
    3. Landings in the Recreational and Commercial Sectors
      1. Recreational
      2. Commercial
    4. Social and Economic Factors Related to the Fishery
  3. Management
    1. Past and Current Management
      1. Overview and Rationale for the Current Management Framework
        1. Criteria to Identify When Fisheries Are Overfished or Subject to Overfishing, and Measures to Rebuild
        2. Past and Current Stakeholder Involvement
      2. Target Species
        1. Limitations on Fishing for Target Species
          1. Catch
          2. Effort
          3. Gear
          4. Time
          5. Sex
          6. Size
          7. Area
          8. Marine Protected Areas
        2. Description of and Rationale for Any Restricted Access Approach
      3. Bycatch
        1. Amount and Type of Bycatch (Including Discards)
        2. Assessment of Sustainability and Measures to Reduce Unacceptable Levels of Bycatch
      4. Habitat
        1. Description of Threats
        2. Measures to Minimize Any Adverse Effects on Habitat Caused by Fishing
    2. Requirements for Person or Vessel Permits and Reasonable Fees
  4. Monitoring and Essential Fishery Information
    1. Description of Relevant Essential Fishery Information
    2. Past and Ongoing Monitoring of the Fishery
      1. Fishery-dependent Data Collection
        Monitoring of Bycatch Rates
      2. Fishery-independent Data Collection
  5. Future Management Needs and Directions
    1. Identification of Information Gaps
    2. Research and Monitoring
      1. Potential Strategies to Fill Information Gaps
      2. Opportunities for Collaborative Fisheries Research
    3. Opportunities for Future Management Changes
    4. Climate Readiness
List of Acronyms

CalCOFI: California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations
CCR: California Code of Regulations
CDFW: California Department of Fish and Wildlife
CPFV: Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessel
CPUE: Catch Per Unit Effort
CRFS: California Recreational Fisheries Survey
DPUE: Discards Per Unit Effort
ENSO: El Niño Southern Oscillation
EFI: Essential Fishery Information
FGC: Fish and Game Code
FMP: Fishery Management Plan
IGFA: International Fish and Game Association
MLMA: Marine Life Management Act
MLS: Marine Logs System
MPA: Marine Protected Area
MRFSS: Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey
MSE: Management Strategy Evaluation
NGO: Non-Government Organization
NPGO: North Pacific Gyre Oscillation
PDO: Pacific Decadal Oscillation
RecFIN: Recreational Fisheries Information Network
SST: Sea Surface Temperature
TL: Total Length

List of Figures

Figure 1-1. Adult Barred Sand Bass in kelp forest habitat.

Figure 1-2. Range map for Barred Sand Bass.

Figure 1-3. Map of Barred Sand Bass tagging locations from historical studies by the Department (1960s and 1990s).  

Figure 1-4. Annual trends in juvenile (<25 cm TL prior to 1991 and <15 cm TL thereafter) and adult (>25 cm TL) Barred Sand Bass abundance at King Harbor, Redondo Beach, Los Angeles County from 1974 to 2016.

Figure 1-5. Age structure of harvested Barred Sand Bass from 1980 to 2017.

Figure 1-6. Annual variability in recruitment of “rock bass” (Barred Sand Bass, Kelp Bass and Spotted Sand Bass) based on quarterly plankton tows by California CalCOFI from 1951 to 2013.

Figure 2-1. Percent change in CPUE by fishing block during peak spawning season (June to August) for Barred Sand Bass between 2000 to 2004 and late 2005 to 2012.

Figure 2-2. Number of CPFV trips in southern California targeting Barred Sand Bass (at least one caught) each year from 1980 to 2017.

Figure 2-3. Proportion of the yearly landings of Barred Sand Bass by month in southern California.

Figure 2-4. Ranking of Barred Sand Bass at landings in southern California from 2004 to 2017.

Figure 2-5. CPUE (black line) and landings (harvested catch) (grey bars) for (A) rock bass (Barred Sand Bass, Kelp Bass and Spotted Sand Bass) retained on CPFV trips from 1947-1980, and (B) Barred Sand Bass retained by CPFVs from 1980 to 2017, and (C) private/rental boats from 2004 to 2017.

Figure 2-6. Annual commercial landings (lb) of sea basses (combined landings of Kelp Bass, Barred Sand Bass, and Spotted Sand Bass) from 1916 to 1953.

Figure 3-1. (A) Annual trends in the proportion of sublegal and legal Barred Sand Bass discarded from CPFVs and annual trends in bycatch of Barred Sand Bass presented as DPUE (black line) and the total number of discards (grey bars) for (B) CPFVs 1995 to 2017, and (C) private/rental boats 2004 to 2017.

List of Tables

Table 1-1. Barred Sand Bass associated and co-occurring species.

Table 2-1. Percent of Barred Sand Bass catch (retained fish) in the recreational fishery by fishing mode from 2004 to 2017.

Table 3-1. Historical record of southern California saltwater bass (Paralabraxspp.) minimum size and bag limit regulations.

Table 3-2. Number caught and percent of trips (frequency of occurrence) for the top ten incidental catch species on CPFV trips where at least one Barred Sand Bass was also caught in 2017.

Table 3-3. Number caught and percent of trips (frequency of occurrence) for species whose take is prohibited.

Table 5-1. Informational needs for Barred Sand Bass and their priority for management. 

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