Species encyclopedia

European Seabass

Dicentrarchus labrax

Natural environment

The seabass is a fish with a preference for wave-battered coasts. It can mostly be found in surface water, up to 30 m in depth. It has a good tolerance for changes in salinity, which allows it to thrive in brackish water (estuaries, ports, salt ponds, etc.). Some specimens can grow to be up to 1 m long. The European seabass is gregarious, living in shoals from the end of its larval stage. It is not uncommon to see it mixing with other species of the same size.


The age of sexual maturity depends on where it lives and its sex. For example, males in the Mediterranean reach maturity after 2 years, while females in the British Isles only start to reproduce at the age of 8. They lay their eggs from December (Mediterranean) to June (Ireland). A mature female, followed by one or two males, releases her ova into the water for fertilization.

After five days of incubation, they hatch into 3.5 mm larvae that swim on their backs for the first few days before turning over. The temperature of the water plays a large role in the growth of seabass, which occurs mainly from May to October and slows in the winter when the temperature drops. As a result, seabass grow faster in the Mediterranean than in the Irish Sea. Their lifespan however is shorter there. Mediterranean seabass rarely live past the age of 6 years, while those around Ireland can survive for some 20 years.


Seabass are both daytime and nighttime hunters. When young, they feed on small crustaceans, then on crabs and shrimp, and finally, as adults, on other fish.

Seabass have been bred and reared since the 1970s. This fish is a major breed on fish farms. To differentiate them from farmed fish, caught fish are called ‘wild seabass’. They are mainly caught by long-lining, ground-fishing, floating line fishing or trolling, and sometimes by seining or trawling. Regulations on their capture vary from region to region, so it is important to enquire about which fishing techniques and fish sizes are allowed in your geographic area.

The European seabass is very popular for its firm, delicate flesh. But be careful: it's called a 'sea wolf' in the Mediterranean - not to be confused with the Atlantic wolffish (Anarhichas lupus), which is of lower commercial quality.

Atlantic Ocean


Species encyclopedia

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