Black sea bream

Scientific name: Spondyliosoma cantharus
The black sea bream really is a fascinating fish. From sex changes to nest building, this fish is full of surprises!

Species information

Statistics

Length: Usually 35-40cm

Conservation status

Considered of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of species.

When to see

January to December

About

The black sea bream, also known as a Porgy, is an omnivorous fish, eating seaweeds and small invertebrates.
They are a warmer water species and found mainly around the south and west coasts of the UK. Black sea bream breed in UK seas between April and May. During the breeding season, the males change colour, becoming darker with vertical white bars. The females have a long horizontal white bar on their body when ready to lay her eggs. The males excavate a small shallow in the seabed, moving the gravel or sand around the edge to create a sort of crater into which the female lays her eggs. The male then protects the eggs until they hatch. He will fan them with his tail to keep them clear of sand or debris and wards off hungry predators, including smaller bream, wrasse and even whelks!

How to identify

A large silvery fish, with an oval shape. Shaded bands running along the length of the upper flanks. It has a long single dorsal and anal fin and a small mouth. The tail is large and forked displaying a black band on it, most obviously noticeable on juveniles.
Juveniles usually have numerous broken yellow stripes running along the body.
Spawning males are nearly completely black in colour, except for vertical white bars.

Distribution

Found off south west Britain the Irish Sea and the English Channel.

Did you know?

All black sea breams are born female! They are protogynous hermaphrodites - meaning they are able change to males when they reach 30cm. All fish over 40cm are male.

How people can help

Avoid catching or eating black sea bream during the spawning season of April-May. If angling, ensure you release any sea bream - especially the larger fish which will be males. The Wildlife Trusts are working with fishermen, researchers, politicians and local people towards a vision of 'Living Seas', where marine wildlife thrives. Do your bit for our Living Seas by supporting your local Wildlife Trust or checking out our Action Pages.