For those in the know regarding sustainable seafood, Chilean sea bass (Patagonian toothfish) has become a poster child for red-listed species. Rampant poaching and severe overfishing means Chilean sea bass is often illegally and irresponsibly caught. Known for its flavorful, velvety texture that melts in your mouth, chefs and consumers alike are in love with this fish — making it difficult for some to remove the species from their menus. There are specific stocks that have been certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), but this only adds a higher premium to an already pricy fish (both economically and environmentally). Good news — there is a healthy and sustainable substitute caught off the Pacific and Alaskan coasts year-round!
Black cod, also known as sablefish or butterfish, has the same oily, flaky, and robust flavor properties as Chilean sea bass, but it costs less and is well-managed here in the States and in Canada. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) FishWatch, black cod is very high in heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids, providing almost as much as salmon. The species is caught by trawl and trap methods that are responsibly managed by NOAA Fisheries Service off the Alaskan and US Pacific coasts to ensure healthy stocks and minimal impacts to the surrounding ecosystems. Further, choosing black cod helps support our local fishermen and coastal communities.
Seafood for the Future recently featured local black cod at an event with partner Chef Paul Buchanan of Primal Alchemy Catering. A little salt and pepper and some oil for the grill was all he needed to bring out the delicious buttery flavor of this fish and win over the crowd. The local fare was provided by Santa Monica Seafood, which works with local fishermen to bring fresh, responsible black cod to the market. One World One Ocean recently featured Santa Monica Seafood in their Boat to Belly series, along with Santa Barbara fisherman Mark Brubaker and Chef Lindsay Smith Rosales of Nirvana Grille to document the journey of local black cod from the waters off the Santa Barbara coast to the plate at Nirvana Grille.
Where can you get black cod? In California, look for it at Santa Monica Seafood locations in Costa Mesa and Santa Monica, Roe Restaurant and Fish Market in Long Beach, the Dory Fleet in Newport Beach, and at the Santa Barbara Fish Market. Black cod has also been featured in Santa Barbara’s Community Supported Fisheries (CSF) program. Elsewhere, ask your fishmonger for recommendations and request sablefish in your local restaurants.
Find more responsible seafood substitutions at Seafoodforthefuture.org.
Kim Thompson is the program manager for the Seafood for the Future (SFF) program at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California. SFF is a nonprofit seafood advisory program dedicated to promoting healthy and responsible seafood choices in Southern California. The program works with restaurants, fishermen, seafood purveyors, government agencies and other nonprofit groups to execute its mission. Visit SeafoodForTheFuture.org to learn more about SFF partners and recommendations.