It's been several years since scientists last assessed the status of the cobia stocks. The data they need to fully assess the population are scarce. Increasing biological sampling of fish landed by the recreational and commercial fisheries, updating information on reproduction, and estimating the bycatch of cobia in other fisheries would improve future stock assessments and fishery management. Scientists plan to assess the stock in 2012.
- Ocean perch
- Sea Bass
- Turbot (Greenland)
ALSO KNOWN AS:
Crabeater, Sergeantfish, Ling, Cabio, Cubby Yew, Lemonfish
U.S. wild-caught from Virginia to Texas
- FISHING RATE
- HABITAT IMPACTS
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Closeup view of cobia being fed and raised in an offshore cage at Snapperfarm, Inc., in Culebra, Puerto Rico.LAUNCH GALLERY
Cobia is a highly valued seafood species – they’re a popular game fish and taste delicious. Most of the cobia you’ll find in the market comes from aquaculture operations. In the wild, cobia are rarely seen in large groups, so only a small amount is wild-caught. Commercial fishermen do not specifically target cobia and only land them as bycatch when fishing for other species.
China is the leading producer of farmed cobia. Other nations are developing technology to produce cobia, so global production of cobia will likely expand in the future. Ocean-cage operations are under way in Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, Vietnam, and Central America. In the United States, a freshwater facility in Virginia is producing and marketing farmed cobia, and research efforts are ongoing to enhance commercial aquaculture of cobia and demonstrate its technical and economic feasibility.
LOCATION & HABITAT
Cobia are found in tropical, subtropical, and warm temperate waters around the world, except in the Eastern Pacific. In U.S. waters, they’re most abundant from Virginia south through the Gulf of Mexico. Cobia migrate seasonally in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. Along the Atlantic coast, they move south and offshore toward warmer waters during the late fall and winter. Cobia found in the northeastern Gulf during the summer move to south Florida waters in the winter, possibly spending the winter near the Florida Keys.
Cobia are pelagic – they live near the surface of the water column. They prefer to live near any structure in the water (buoys, debris, shipwrecks, and artificial reefs) or large animals (sharks, turtles, and stingrays). Cobia are rarely seen in large groups. Adult cobia tend to travel alone or in small pods.
Cobia grow fast when they’re young and more slowly as they get older. They grow up to 6 feet and 100 pounds and can live up to 12 years. Cobia are able to reproduce when they’re young – females mature at age 3 and males mature at age 2. Depending on their size, females have between 375,000 and almost 2 million eggs. Cobia spawn several times throughout their spawning season, which spans from late June to mid-August in the Southeast and from late summer to early fall in the Gulf of Mexico. They spawn in coastal bays and estuaries.
Cobia are strong, aggressive predators, feeding on fish, squid, and crustaceans. In fact, they’re nicknamed “crab eaters” because the bulk of their diet is crustaceans. Larger pelagic fishes prey on young cobia.
Cobia is the only member of the family Rachycentridae in North America. The remora (shark sucker) is their closest living relative. In fact, they’re often mistaken for sharks or remoras. They’re dark brown with a single dorsal fin. Young cobia have distinct coloring, with alternating black and white horizontal stripes and splotches of bronze, orange, and green.
Scientists have not assessed Gulf cobia since 2001, so stock status is uncertain; Atlantic cobia have not been assessed since 1996, before they were recognized as separate from Gulf cobia. The data needed to fully assess the population are scarce. Both stocks will be assessed again in 2012.
Past assessments indicated that cobia was abundant, but scientists remain uncertain about the status of cobia stocks. The data they need to assess short- and long-term changes in the population and the stock status of cobia are scarce. Scientists and managers do know that the cobia population in the Gulf of Mexico has increased since the 1980s, as estimates of spawning biomass (the number of fish in the population old enough to reproduce) nearly doubled from the early 1980s to 2000.
Commercial fishermen do not directly target cobia and only harvest it incidentally while fishing for other pelagic species, such as mackerel, or while trawling for shrimp.
Who’s in charge? NOAA Fisheries and the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Councils
Current management: Fishery Management Plan for Coastal Migratory Pelagic Resources of the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic
- Fishermen must have a permit to harvest cobia.
- Gear restrictions: drift gillnets are prohibited; authorized gear includes automatic reel, bandit gear, hand line, rod and reel, and pelagic long-line.
- Cobia must be a certain size to be harvested, and must be landed with their heads and fins intact.
- Fishermen may only keep two fish per person per day.
- Separate annual catch limits for the Gulf and South Atlantic groups of cobia. If the catch limit is reached or projected to be reached within a fishing year, both the commercial and recreational sectors of the fishery will be closed in the Gulf. In the South Atlantic, if the catch limit is reached or projected to be reached within a fishing year, the commercial fishery will be closed, and the recreational fishing season will be reduced the following year.
Commercial harvests have been relatively stable for the past several years. The 2010 harvest was close to 250,000 pounds.
The 2010 commercial harvest was worth more than $688,000.
Cobia is popular among recreational fishermen because it’s a large, powerful fish that puts up a good fight and provides a tasty meal. Recreational landings make up 90 percent of total landings. Recreational fishermen follow the same regulations as commercial fishermen: a daily possession limit of two cobia per person, gear restrictions, and a minimum size limit.
Cobia have a sweet, rich flavor. The meat has a similar oil content to coho salmon, so it’s moist and firm with a nice flake. Raw cobia meat is light tan. Cooked, it turns snowy white. Cobia skin is very tough and covered with tiny scales. (Seafood Business, 2011 )
Cobia is a good low-fat source of protein. It is high in riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, magnesium, and potassium.
|Serving Weight||100 g (raw)|
|Fat, total||0.64 g|
|Saturated fatty acids, total||0.12 g|
|Sugars, total||0 g|
|Fiber, total dietary||0 g|
Cobia Table of Nutrition
- Coming soon...