About the Species
U.S. wild-caught cobia is a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under U.S. regulations.
Above target population levels.
At recommended level in the Gulf of Mexico. Not subject to overfishing in the Atlantic.
Fishing gear used to catch cobia rarely contacts the ocean floor and has minimal impacts on habitat.
Minimal, as commercial fishermen rarely target cobia.
- According to the 2013 stock assessment the Gulf of Mexico stock was 7 percent above its target population level, while the Atlantic stock was 29 percent above its target population level.
- Both stocks are not overfished and not subject to overfishing.
- In the Gulf of Mexico, the cobia population nearly doubled from the early 1980s to 2000.
- The 2013 stock assessment determined that there are two separate migratory stocks, the Gulf of Mexico and east Florida stock (Texas through the entire east coast of Florida) and Atlantic stock (Georgia north through the Mid-Atlantic area).
- Scientists from NOAA's Southeast Fisheries Science Center monitor the abundance of these populations, and scientists, managers, and stakeholders assess the status of these stocks through the Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR) process.
- Cobia are 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.
- Cobia are often mistaken for sharks or remoras. In fact, their closest living relative is the remora (shark sucker).
- Cobia are the only member of the family Rachycentridae in North America.
- They grow up to 6 feet and 100 pounds and live up to 12 years.
- They are able to reproduce when they are young—females mature at age 3 and males mature at age 2.
- Cobia spawn in coastal bays and estuaries several times throughout their spawning season, which lasts from late June to mid-August in the Southeast and from late summer to early fall in the Gulf of Mexico. Females release between 375,000 and 2 million eggs each time they spawn.
- They are strong, aggressive predators, mainly feeding on crustaceans but also fish and squid. Larger pelagic fish prey on young cobia.
Where They Live
- In U.S. waters, cobia are 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 of Mexico during the summer move to south Florida waters in the winter, possibly spending the winter near the Florida Keys.
- NOAA Fisheries and the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Councils manage the cobia fishery.
- Managed under the Fishery Management Plan for Coastal Migratory Pelagics in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico:
- Fishermen do not need a federal permit to harvest cobia.
- Gear restrictions:
- Drift gillnets are prohibited.
- Authorized gear includes automatic reel, bandit gear, handline, rod-and-reel, and pelagic longline.
- Cobia must be a minimum size to be harvested, and must be landed with their heads and fins intact.
- Commercial and recreational fishermen have size limits, trip limits, and per person per day or per vessel per day bag limits.
- Separate annual catch limits exist for the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic stocks of cobia.
- To learn more about cobia management, visit the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council's Cobia webpage.