Chilean Sea Bass Ban by Top Local Chefs
Hungry restaurant patrons pretty much ate the entire supply of orange roughy, the trendy new fish of 20 years ago; nobody realized that it's a slow-maturing species that couldn't replace itself if under ruthless overfishing. Now its substitute, Chilean sea bass, is on the seriously endangered list, too. This large cold-water fish, prized for its firm flesh, takes a full five years to mature in the icy, near-Antarctic waters off the coast of Patagonia. Although the Chilean government attempts to limit the catch, most of the fish exported from that country are illegally caught by poachers -- who sell their booty overseas (Japan is a big consumer) and even to licensed fishing boats in their own waters. But the majority of the catch, legal and illegal, lands on restaurant tables in the United States. Recently, increasing numbers of prominent chefs nationwide have heard the news and ceased serving this fish until its stocks recover. Among our own sea bass "refuseniks" are Bernard Guillas of the Marine Room, Ed Moore and Juan Flores of the Third Corner, Matt Rimel of Rimel's Rotisserie and Zenbu, and the King's Seafood chain. This is not the only fish in precious short supply and immediate danger of disappearance. The recently formed Seafood Choices Alliance is providing timely information about fisheries to wholesalers and chefs so they can make informed choices. The group's website allows viewers to compare the buy-or-avoid seafood recommendations of several different organizations.