A schooling bunch of four-inch fingerling white seabass are the cutest things I could ask to see. They are darling. They are vulnerable. They are also the promise of a strong and vibrant population of a native fish along the West Coast from Mexico to well north of San Francisco Bay.
This is such an important fish that the California Fish & Game Commission implemented an Ocean Enhancement stamp or endorsement to fishing licenses for everyone fishing ocean waters south of Point Arguello.
The funds from purchase of this license endorement go toward a program to make baby white seabass at Hubbs Sea World Research Institute (HSWRI) from broodstock provided by volunteer fisherfolk organized by the Coastal Conservation Association (www.joincca.org), which has a Santa Barbara chapter and a Channel Islands chapter.
HSWRI raises those babies until they are several inches long, implants a tiny wire tag in them for scientific purposes, then trucks them to various volunteer-funded and manned growout pens along the mainland coast and at Catalina Island. Locally, our grow-out pen is in Channel Islands Harbor, manned by dedicated volunteers led by Frank Sullivan, one of my personal heroes.
Frank and his volunteers maintain the growout pens, feed the young white seabass daily and monitor the water, taking action as needed. These guys and gals are amazing and can be seen out there, even in foul weather, making sure the little fish are okay.
Over months, the well-cared-for fish grow. When they are the right size, party boats, charter boats and private boats make volunteer runs to release the fish at various spots along the coast. From the Channel Islands growout pens alone, there have been hundreds of thousands of white seabass released to live their lives and make lots and lots of babies in the wild.
From my decades of experience as a charter captain, watching the population of white seabass rebound and surpass anything I can remember in my lifetime, I am profoundly thankful to volunteer crews like Frank’s who have helped us have the best white seabass fishery I can remember. Now we are catching 50- 60- 70-pounders and bigger. These are some of the best-tasting fish the ocean has to offer.
Besides doffing my well-worn hat in appreciation, I write this to alert my readers to a problem. The Channel Islands growout pens must have new netting (both fish-holding netting and heavier predator netting) before they can raise another batch of fish. This is a community wide interest matter, so I bring it to the attention of everyone.
There is a GoFundMe page to raise the funds needed to replace the netting and make other repairs and adjustments to the growout facilities. The GoFundMe page is:
I sincerely ask you to consider helping with this effort by donating on the page and also by giving the page a “like” on your FaceBook pages so your network of friends is alerted to the opportunity to help Frank keep the pens going. Thank you!
— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.