European seabass


Seabass ©Alex Mustard/2020VISION

European seabass

Scientific name: Dicentrarchus labrax
Seabass is a seafood favourite, appearing on menus throughout the UK. But it's in trouble in UK seas, with much of the seabass we eat imported from European fish farms.

Species information


Length: Up to 100cm

Conservation status

Considered of Least Concern globally on the IUCN Red List of species, but ICES list the regional stock as overexploited and rapidly declining.

When to see

January to December


The European seabass is a predatory fish found around the UK. They are highly mobile, migrating inshore in summer months when they are found in estuaries and surprisingly far upstream in rivers. In the winter months they move offshore and then in spring will gather in large shoals to spawn. They feed on crustaceans and small fish such as sand eels. Estuaries are also an important nursery habitat for juvenile seabass, where the sheltered conditions and plentiful food supply make for a great place to grow. They are particularly slow growing and don't reach sexual maturity until the age of 4-8 years old.

How to identify

Identifiable by its silvery colour, this large fish has two distinct dorsal fins, the first of which has 8 or 9 spines. Juveniles are recognisable by the black spots on their upper body; these spots are normally absent in adults.


Most common on South and West coasts on England, Wales and Scotland.

Did you know?

Seabass was one of the first fish to be grown in fish farms in Europe. As they love estuaries and coastal waters, they thrived in early attempts to rear them in coastal lagoons in the Mediterranean. They are now reared commercially - in fact, the seabass you eat in the UK has probably come from a Mediterranean fish farm!

How people can help

Choose sustainably sourced seabass - the best option is farmed seabass grown in a recirculating system. If this is not available, any farmed seabass is a better choice than wild caught fish. 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.