White sea catfish
The white sea catfish is a robust fish with a dark dorsal surface and sides, but with a notably pale white belly. Its body is completely scaleless and is slimy to the touch - it is covered in a protective layer of mucus. Their heads are wedge-shaped, with six barbels on the end of its lower jaw.
Its dorsal and pectoral fins each conceal a large serrated spine. As with many species of fish in this family, the dorsal fin spines of the white catfish are venomous. It is advised to promptly seek medical attention if injured by one of these fish.
It lives in the coastal waters and estuaries from Namibia to South Africa and is particularly common in the waters of the Eastern Cape. It lives in areas where the sea floor is muddy and can be found at depths of between 1 and 120 metres, often gathering in large shoals. Some sightings have also been recorded in Madagascar and Mozambique in Africa, and the United States of America and Mexico in North America, but these are questionable.
The white barbel or white sea catfish is a mouth brooder. The female lays approximately 50 relatively large (15–16 mm diameter) eggs. The male carries them in his mouth for three to four months. During this time he does not feed and can lose nearly a quarter of his body weight.
The white sea catfish is commonly caught in South African waters and is regarded as a pest by many anglers. This unfortunately leads to many white sea catfish being killed unnecessarily.
- Also known as a wit seebaber, white sea barbel, sea barbel or white baggar
- Exceptionally active, constantly foraging for food on the seabed
- Often seen in harbours and under jetties
- Eats crustaceans, polychaete worms, small fish and molluscs, including cephalopods
- Grows to 35cm on average
- Male carries clutches of 50 eggs in his mouth until they are ready to hatch