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EFSA - European Federation Of Sea Anglers

Ballan Wrasse (Labrus bergylta)

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WRASSE, BALLAN / LABRUS BERGYLTA
2 4 1.70 3.12 Baggy Point England 190684 R. White
4 8 3.00 6.10 Guerande France 290795 G. Berthelot
6 12 2.65 5.13 La Seca Gibraltar 110691  A. Cano
8 16 2.06 4.9 Cahersiveen Eire 050904 W. Doyle
*AT AT 4.25 9.6 Eddystone England 81 M. Goodacre
*SH SH 4.00 8.13 Jersey Channel Is. 94  S. Gavey

Ballan Wrasse (Labrus bergylta)

are some of the most frequently seen fish in Cornish coastal waters. Individuals of most of the five common species (ballan, cuckoo, goldsinny, rock cook and corkwing) will be seen on virtually every dive, particularly in the summer months.

The ballan wrasse is the largest of the species, reaching up to 50 cm in length. Colouration is extremely variable, with many shades of brown, olive green, grey and red being found. There may be a mottled pattern, strong saddle-type markings or a single light stripe running the length of the body. Young ballans are usually a bright green in colour and can be seen in very shallow water and amongst seaweed in rock pools.

Wrasse are unusual in that they are one of the few fish that are able to change sex during their life. Both ballan and cuckoo wrasse always
Ballan Wrasse (Labrus bergylta) - European Federation of Sea Angling
start life as females but some become males later in life, usually after several years of breeding as a female. In both species this complex behaviour starts when the fish are about six years old. In any one stretch of coastline their will be a single dominant male and if he dies the most senior female undergoes a sex change and becomes the next 'top' male. Unlike the cuckoo wrasse, however, ballans show no obvious colour change to mark their change of sex.

The ballan wrasse is abundant in most rocky areas, from very shallow water down to 20 metres or so. All wrasse have thick protruding lips, and there are strong teeth, both in the jaws (for biting and rasping) and on the pharyngeal bones in the throat (for gripping and crushing). With these teeth they are able to enjoy a mixed menu of shelled animals including barnacles, other crustaceans, and molluscs.

Wrasse are slow growing and long lived (up to 20 years). Their longevity is also helped by being considered inedible by the British; when caught by anglers they are usually returned to the sea. Many wrasse appear to be accustomed to the presence of divers and when left to their own devices they frequently settle down, leaning a little to one side, to sleep peacefully amongst the rocks and seaweed.

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