First record of a two-banded sea bream, Diplodus vulgaris, in Guernsey waters

January 29th, 2009 by Richard Lord

Commercial fisherman Steve Fallaize caught a two-banded sea bream, Diplodus vulgaris, in a gill net set one mile off L’Ancresse off Guernsey’s north coast. The net was set overnight and the fish was landed on the 29 January 2009.

Guernsey commercial fisherman, Steve Fallaize, holds the first recorded two-banded sea bream, Diplodus vulgaris, caught in British waters (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

According to Doug Herdson, formerly of the National Marine Aquarium, this fish is a new record for the British Isles. Mr. Herdson has been expecting this fish to turn up in British waters for sometime. This is principally a Mediterranean species and is also found on the Atlantic Seaboard of continental Europe and North Africa including Brittany where it is rare.

two-banded sea bream, Diplodus vulgaris, landed by Guernsey commercial fisherman, Steve Fallaize (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

Steve Fallaize two-banded sea bream had a total weight of 1011 grams

Total length 37.9 cm

Fork length 33.3 cm

Standard length 29.1 cm

DXI, 15

AIII, 15

P1 16

Eight incisors anteriorly in top jaw. Several rows of small molariform teeth behind the incisors.

Sea Bream in the genus Diplodus in Channel Island waters

Sea bream in the genus Diplodus have been rare visitors to Channel Island waters until relatively recently. The identity of recently seen or captured Diplodus species in Guernsey waters has not been confirmed because none have been positively identified but white bream, Diplodus sargus, has been confirmed from Jersey waters.

On 4 October 2001 at 2100 Alan Martel caught a four inch long bream off Shell Beach, Herm Island. The bream had a pure black band around the caudal peduncle. The fish was silvery grey with some yellow. The bream, which he thinks was a annular bream, Diplodus annularis, had small eyes and was more cigar-shaped than a black bream. It was caught in sea grass beds off-shore from the Shell Beach toilets 1/2 hour after high water using a rag worm for bait. The fish was released.

Guernsey sea fisheries officer David Wilkinson reported seeing two annular bream, Diplodus annularis, off Sark on 24 August 2002. He wrote “I saw two annular Bream (Diplodus annularis) while snorkeling on the beach below the Coupee. I was able to watch the two fish for some 4-5 minutes and am very happy that I have the identification correct. The fish were approximately 10cm long with the prominent dark patch at the base of the tail fin. The sightings reminded me of the same fish I saw in the quarry at Guernsey Sea Farms (near Bordeaux on Guernnsey’s north-east coast) some years ago.”

White bream, Diplodus sargus, have been in Jersey waters for about 8 years. Rob Shipley of The Jersey Evening Press wrote in July 2004 that “we first saw white bream in Jersey waters about four years ago. The first ones were in the warm-water outfall at La Collette. They were not much larger than a 10 pence piece. Subsequently we have seen them at Corbière, Ouaisné, near the White Rock at Rozel, at Grève de Lecq and, of course, at Ronez. Andrew Syvret wrote on 13 May 2004 when recording the occurrence of Akera bullata in St. Helier harbour “this corner of the marina seems to be a man-made “haven” of some sorts – juvenile populations of white bream (Diplodus sargus) have been recorded here in the last few years.”

On 21 July 2004, Rob Shipley, caught a white bream of over a pound while diving off Jersey. He had a glimpse of a shoal a couple of days earlier in the same place off Ronez. “They were quite deep – at least 50 ft – and in tide, so they were not an easy quarry. The fish I captured was probably the largest I have seen so far, though one at the White Rock was of a similar size. The White Rock fish was not deep – it was on the top of a rock outcrop in about ten feet of water.” The fish he caught had a stomach full of barnacles. The fish was probably female; the ovaries were either spent or not fully developed. “Although white bream are superficially similar to a black bream, the black blotch at the root of the tail is very conspicuous underwater, as are the vertical bands on the flanks.”

Rob Shipley has been diving and spearfishing for the better part of 40 years. During that time he has seen plaice stocks diminish to vanishing point, big pollack desert inshore waters, a big increase in bass numbers, the arrival of trigger fish and now an influx of a bream which used to come no further north than southern Brittany. He reported that the white bream off Ronez behaved like their southern cousins. “There were five or six in the group and they were hovering around just above a boulder bank on a slope which goes down steadily to about 100 ft. Because they were well below the kelp line they looked just the same as bream in the Mediterranean, Portugal or the Canaries. White bream often inhabit holes and caves; black bream are always in open water. Now that I have confirmed the identity of white bream I shall leave the rest alone – until, that is, they become a firmly established and common part of the local fish stock. ”

On September 2, 2004 Nick Guilmoto reported seeing white bream, Diplodus sargus, in Rocquaine Bay. Two weeks earlier while snorkelling he saw a dozen bream in Rocquaine Bay for the first time. As he approached they darted away into the kelp. The weather was overcast and conditions were poor so he wasn’t able to have a close look at the fish. He estimated they were 3/4 to 1 lb. each. On the 2 September he snorkelled in the same place and saw 7 or 8 of the same fish. “There were two grey mullet near the bream which seemed to make them calm. They didn’t scatter. The bream were comfortable around the mullet.” He was able to have a close look at the bream and he could see a prominent black mark on the caudal peduncle. They had an extremely forked tail and their caudal fin was dark distally. He was convinced that they were white bream, Diplodus sargus. “Between the Cup and Saucer and the Imperial Hotel there are three reefs that run out to sea perpendicular to the shore. These reefs are called Portelet Houmet, middle Houmet, and Rocquaine Houmet. Immediately behind Portelet Houmet there is another reef. The fish were to the right-hand side of this reef as viewed from the shore.”

Dr. Daniel Latrouite formerly of IFREMER (French fishery research agency) in his Christmas card of 2005 wrote “white bream, Diplodus sargus, is now frequent in shallow waters around Brest and some have been captured near Cherbourg. Common two-banded seabream, Diplodus vulgaris, is less frequent but some are caught from time to time.”

Dave Foxen took video of what appears to be a school of juvenile white bream, Diplodus sargus, in Grand Havre Bay on 21 October 2007.

In response to seeing the video from Dave Foxen, Guernsey sea fisheries officer David Wilkinson wrote on 22 October 2007 “these are exactly the same-looking fish as I observed in Sark several years ago while snorkelling (and reported to yourself). Also while diving in Guernsey Sea Farms quarry I observed a shoal of similar looking fish to these ( autumn 1999). The ones I saw were small (6 inches long ). Looking at Collins guide they certainly appear to fit the white seabream.”

Len Le Page in his fishing column published in The Guernsey Press on 20 February 2008 wrote “Jersey angler R. Allen pushed the shore-caught white bream mark up from 1 lb. 7 oz. 4 drams to 1 lb. 10 oz 11 drams. Catches of white bream in Jersey are following the same pattern as the Couch’s sea bream in our waters. Both appeared for the first time in recent years and regular captures are steadily pushing up the records. It’s strange that Jersey don’t seem to get the Couch’s sea bream and although white bream have been reported in Guernsey waters, they have yet to be caught on rod and line.”

Please be on the look-out for Diplodus species of bream, and particularly for the white bream, Diplodus sargus, with a black band on its caudal peduncle (tail.)  If you have other records of Diplodus species in Channel Island waters I would appreciate learning of them.  Please email fishinfo(at)guernsey.net

To confirm identity of white bream one needs to inspect the teeth as the type and number of rows of teeth are the best way to separate the various sea bream species.  Skin colour cannot be relied on for positive identification.

1 Response to “First record of a two-banded sea bream, Diplodus vulgaris, in Guernsey waters”

  1. Guernsey 2011 - Page 40

    […] my house looking for bream. Found one – not a Gilthead but a two banded bream (diplodus vulgaris – First record of a two-banded sea bream, Diplodus vulgaris, in Guernsey waters at Sustainable Guernse…) About a third smaller than that one and I watched it swim around a little and then away. Little […]

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