2015-08-20 / Front Page

Aquarium Welcomes New Resident

By Jack Kelly


Cobia and an Atlantic burr fish dine on shrimp in their tank. Cobia and an Atlantic burr fish dine on shrimp in their tank. The Save The Bay Exploration Center and Aquarium, at Easton’s Beach, has a new resident that is drawing a lot of attention. Save The Bay aquarist and educational specialist Adam Kovarsky explained, “This little fish is known as a cobia. It was 'slurp-gunned' by a volunteer snorkeler off Ocean Drive in the past week and presented to us for our growing tropical fish exhibit. This little juvenile, about six inches long, will very quickly grow to about 18 inches and 11 pounds in the next few months. This is the first one I’ve personally seen in the area, but I have been told that they are becoming more common.”

Cobia can be found in the warm to temperate waters of the Western and Eastern Atlantic Ocean and they are widespread in the Caribbean. The species is also prevalent in the Pacific off India, Australia and Japan. The Atlantic population winters in the Gulf of Mexico and migrates in spring as far north as the waters off Maryland. However, due to climate change, it appears that the species is moving farther north. Cobia are known to enter estuaries, salt marshes and other near shore waters in search of food. These coastal areas may also serve as nurseries for the young fish.


Newport County residents Sarah Cook and her son, Winston, age 2, explore one of the touch tanks at the aquarium and observe the antics of sea robins. (Photos by Jack Kelly) Newport County residents Sarah Cook and her son, Winston, age 2, explore one of the touch tanks at the aquarium and observe the antics of sea robins. (Photos by Jack Kelly) Males of this species reach adulthood within two years, while females generally mature within three years. Cobia are normally solitary fish, but will gather in pelagic waters to breed and spawn. Biologists believe that the average life expectancy for the cobia in the wild is over 15 years and that the fish can reach a length of over six feet and a weight of over 170 pounds. Their normal diet consists of crabs, squid, and small fish, but they will follow sharks, mantas and sea turtles to scavenge. Large adults are sometimes mistaken for sharks because of their large pectoral fin, which may mimic a shark's profile.

Cobia, also colloquially known as black kingfish, black salmon, ling, lemonfish, crabeater, prodigal son, and black bonito, are highly sought–after game fish because of their white meat and pleasant texture and taste. Fish farmed in many parts of the world because of their rapid rate of growth and their overall health and hardiness, cobia are quickly becoming a culinary delicacy. Farms are now widespread in Panama, Argentina, and the Bahamas. Asian countries including Vietnam and Japan, as well as Australia, have seen a rise in farming in recent years.

“I have been told by a very reliable local scuba diver and spear fisherman that he recently sighted an adult in local waters that was at least five feet long. It makes us wonder what the bay will be like in 50 or 100 years, with the growing effects of climate change,” Kovarsky said.

For now, the diminutive cobia is sharing a tank with a pair of Atlantic burr fish, a tropical puffer fish species. “These two have been with us for a couple of years and were found in the bay in late summer 2013. They would not have survived the winter and they are a wonderful addition to our exhibits. When they occasionally 'puff up,' they resemble a spiked baseball. We’ll have to see how fast the cobia grows and how it makes allowances for that in the future,” Kovarsky explained.

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