information on the biology of species and the ecology of habitats found around the coasts and seas of the British Isles

Bass (Dicentrarchus labrax)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.



Dicentrarchus labrax is a thick-set fish with large scales that can grow to a length of 100 cm. The flanks are silvery in colour and the fish has a black or blue back and a yellowish or white underside. Juveniles have black spots on the upper part of the body but these spots are rare on adults. Dicentrarchus labrax has two distinct dorsal fins, the first of which is spiny with 8 or 9 spines. The head is moderately pointed and the pre-operculum (gill cover) has a row of forward pointing denticles on the lower edge. Young bass tend to school together, however, the adults are more likely to be found in smaller numbers.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Recorded from the Scottish, English and Welsh coast with more records from south and west coasts but few records from Ireland. However Dicentrarchus labrax is likely to be present around all coasts of Britain and Ireland.

Global distribution



Dicentrarchus labrax is a demersal fish present in the littoral zone over most substrata usually only to 10 m in depth but have been caught at depths of 70 m. The bass is predominantly a marine fish but are found in brackish water and in summer months enter estuaries and can penetrate some way up rivers.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Two dorsal fins entirely separate from one another, tail fin emarginate.
  • First dorsal fin spiny with eight or nine spines.
  • 57-65 scales along lateral line.
  • Grey or blue back with yellowish or white belly.
  • Silvery fish with large scales that grows up to 100 cm in length.
  • Juveniles often have black spots.

Additional information

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Further information sources

Search on:


  1. FishBase, 2000. FishBase. A global information system on fishes. [On-line], 2001-05-03

  2. Howson, C.M. & Picton, B.E., 1997. The species directory of the marine fauna and flora of the British Isles and surrounding seas. Belfast: Ulster Museum. [Ulster Museum publication, no. 276.]

  3. JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee), 1999. Marine Environment Resource Mapping And Information Database (MERMAID): Marine Nature Conservation Review Survey Database. [on-line]

  4. MarLIN (Marine Life Information Network), 2005. SEArchable BEnthic Data (SEABED) Map [on-line]. Data Access Sub-programme, Marine Life Information Network for Britian and Ireland,

  5. National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Atlas website. Available from:  Accessed 01 April 2017

  6. Naylor, P., 2000. Marine Animals of the South West. Plymouth: Sound Diving Publications

  7. Wheeler, A., 1969. The fishes of the British Isles and north-west Europe. London: Macmillan.

  8. Whitehead, P.J.P., Bauchot, M.-L., Hureau, J.-C., Nielson, J. & Tortonese, E. 1986. Fishes of the North-eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Vol. I, II & III. Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).


This review can be cited as:

Reeve, A. 2007. Dicentrarchus labrax Bass. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. (eds) Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 25-09-2018]. Available from:

Last Updated: 31/08/2007