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Rutgers Study: Local Bass Populations Change Gender as They Age

Study Leads to New Data on Black Sea Bass, Helps the Recreational Fishing Industry
Sea Bass
Black sea bass have been found to change gender in the wild. Rutgers Today

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Black Sea Bass, a popular choice for recreational fishing in New Jersey, have historically been poorly understood.

As found in an ongoing Rutgers study, local bass populations change genders as they mature, with approximately a third of female bass changing to males.

Researchers were stymied, but this was not just scientific curiosity.

Poor understanding of these fish have lead to restrictions on the recreational fishing seasons at the Jersey Shore.  This has had a negative effect on the small business owners that operate charter boats.

By teaming up with local fishermen and charter captains, the Rutgers Department of Marine and Coastal Science are gathering more data on these fish, aiming to both improve our management of this resource, and investigate the bass’ suitability for fish farming.

The reasons for the gender change are not yet fully understood but researchers believe the most likely cause is that the changes could actually be caused by the influence of fishing itself.

Fishers tend to favor male bass, thus depleting that population, which may trigger some female fish to change genders in an attempt to maintain equilibrium.

Even though there is no clear-cut answer yet, increased understanding of this species and its relationship with fishers will allow local governments to be able to set fairer regulations, impacting fishing seasons.

This will help small businesses dependent on these fish, such as charter boat owners, as noted by Kirk Moore in Rutgers Today.