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Why do restaurants still serve Chilean Sea Bass?

I have looked at the websites you fellow hounds have posted, like monterey bay, etc, and it's obvious that Chilean Sea Bass is on the list of do not eat, but I see it all the time on menus. What is up with that? Isn't that totally irresponsible?

Another question is when I see Sea Bass on a menu, and it doesn't specify it's Chilean, then that's okay, correct? I tasted some sea bass a friend ordered and it was very good, but I want to be sure before I order it.

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  1. I don't travel as much any more, but I notice it on menus in Phoenix- LV -Orange County. Simple answer: it tastes good, and has panache.
    It is still offered in high-end restos in C.A. and S.A., and I admit I still eat it. When it is no longer profitable to fish for it, there will be a new but sad equilibrium somewhere between extinction and commercial viability.

    1. Same reasons that markets still sell Chilean Sea Bass.

      Taste + demand = $$$.

      1. Because it's legal and people like it. Why do stores still sell cigarettes?

        1 Reply
        1. re: BobB

          ... or shark's fin for that matter.

        2. Dani, chances are it's not Chilean sea bass unless advertised as such. if it's just listed as bass, it's most likely black or white....but you should always just ask to be sure.

          1. It is irresponsible (although no less so then say Orange Roughy or Atlantic Cod) but bear in mind there is still technically sustainable Patagonian Toothfishing (its proper and less appealing name) allowed in tiny places on the order of about 10,000 tons a year TOTAL. But of course the illegal fishing dwarfs this by many factors and theres a good chance that your restaurant or grocery store get theirs indirectly from this illegal trade. But you never know. Either way its probably a good idea to minimize purchasing it as much as possible. They are talking about a complete loss of species within 2 to 5 years. And even if thats not true the long net trawlers happily drown seabirds in the tens of thousands to scoop these fish from the deep trenches they live in (not to mention the illegal fishers often use dynamite on sperm and killer whales who might compete with them for the fish). Plus they have a reputation for mercury concentration in their flesh as do many large fatty predators. But I do agree they are quite delicious! Too bad our appetites seem to override our care for the sustainability of an entire species.

            I wonder what a kiwi tasted like...

            2 Replies
              1. re: PaulV

                Ha ha! *is an idiot* Perhaps I was thinking Dodo. Although Ive never had Kiwi either (not counting the fruit). And a number of my New Zealand friends would insist that the statement is true to some degree. ;)

            1. The real irony here is that I have never been a real seafood fan, and have posted on here about my seafood fears. Now I am trying to find seafood, or should I say fish, that I like and then BAM I find out that a lot of it is in danger of totally disappearing. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. It seems to be a complicated issue. I just wish I knew a fisherman so I could eat the fish knowing it wasn't endangering anything else, or in danger of becoming extinct.

              5 Replies
              1. re: danhole

                dont feel bad, danhole. i finally admitted to myself recently that i just dont like fish. people will attempt to convince yo that you just havent found the right species/preparation/restaurant. they will tell you the subtle differences between species is worth the time and money. do not listen to them.
                i have been convincing myself for 40 years i should like it. i dont. its too expensive, it dosent reheat at all, and now we have fished out an entire ecosystem. leave them in the ocean, they are better that way.

                1. re: danhole

                  My concern with Chilean Sea Bass has less (ok, almost nothing) to do with sustainability and environmental impacts, but with the mercury levels in the fish.

                  I'd eat Chilean Sea Bass everyday if it wasn't for the fear of mercury poisoning.

                  1. re: danhole

                    There are still many fish that can be consumed sustainably. For example, you can have all of the anchovies you want. Bon appetit!

                    1. re: zamorski

                      Don't forget catfish- farmed in ponds and tastes great!

                      1. re: Clarkafella

                        Another great tasting fish that that is on the "Best Choices" list is Black cod, or sablefish. It's far more tender, juicy, and flavorful than CBS.

                  2. At one time Chiliean Sea Bass was banned, however, at present, it is legal in "limited quantities". I also questioned the legality of serving Chilean Sea Bass in the restaurants and I have seen them for sale at the whole food markets. All these places assured me, the Chilean Sea Bass they're serving and selling is legal. See the attached website for further details.

                    http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/trade/chile.pdf

                    Chilean Sea Bass and Sea Bass are different types of fish.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: rinkatink888

                      Thanks for that article. Serving it is not as irresponsible as I thought.

                    2. Here is a big reason. The fish is very forgeving. It's hard to over cook since it has such a high fat content. Unlike some other fish with higher fat contents. CSB is very mild, white fish with a soft textue.

                      1. To quote my dear boy, the Eurosnob, while we were walking around Tribeca one evening, " Chilean Sea Bass? What is this 1998?" That was probably around 3 or 4 years ago.
                        It was on a blackboard, outside some random, rubbish restaurant.
                        So, about a decade ago, sure, it was cool, I guess. It is like many items, it IS cool for the cool people who lead the way but then there are all the wannabes, so behind the times thinking they are just the shiniest apple of the bunch. It is sad.
                        There are many great fish, some people who can actually cook instead of just put out the latest and greatest(or so they think)buzz word dishes have substituted.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: dietndesire

                          Well, it really does have great flavor and texture. At $20.00 to $25.00 per pound in the markets, the demand will take care of itself.

                        2. CSB is a wonderful flavorful fatty fish that doesn't taste fishy and is very difficult to screw up. It also has a wonderful umami factor and is very receptive of a wide variety of seasonings and preparations. It used to be number one on my Sunday Night dinner fish entree candidates until I caught the news about its threatened status, as well as the stories behind its harvest. Since then, I haven't eaten it but once in about 10 years - that was only because my wife picked some up without my knowledge.

                          I've been down this road before with the shark fin topic and caught a lot of $#*+ for saying this, but I tend to speak up when I feel places or people are acting irresponsibly. If a restaurant is "gulity" of offering stuff that's on the Monterey Bay Aquarium's "Avoid" list, I have no problems of addressing this with management. But hey, that's just me...

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: bulavinaka

                            The whole time Swordfish were endnagered, the price nevver got anywher near what I see for Chilea Sea bass.

                            1. re: sarge

                              I don't know the economics behind swordfish, but CBS seems to be in demand with all countries and cultures that it touches. I have noticed that the size of the filets has dramatically declined over the last five to six years as well. Getting a 2 1/2-3 inch thick filet was commonplace back in the 90s. Now, the majority seem to be no more than an inch thick. This tells me that the big boys are almost all gone and they must be getting harder to find as well.

                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                You can easily get 3-4 inch thick fillets at Whole Foods. Cooks up great too.

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  I believe the ones are whole foods generally comes from a sustainable fish farming source.

                                  1. re: Blueicus

                                    Supposedly, WF does follow certain eco-responsible guidelines like working with seafood providers who abide by the Marine Stewardship Program, but I still question why they would offer this particular species at their stores. Assuming ipsedixit's find of 3-4" thick filets is systemwide, the culling of the larger breeding adults doesn't say much for marine stewardship. I don't know whether CSB are being farmed, but if they are, I don't believe they'd be producing such large specimens as of yet. This is a long-lived slow-growing species. Here's the wiki:

                                    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patagoni...

                                    Whatever the case, I believe the Japanese market has inhaled a lot of the more choice specimens because of the large demand and willingness to pay top $$ over there (as with a lot of other seafood, coffee beans, etc.). The remainder of the large specimens are being funneled to top dollar shops like WF, I guess. But at the places that I normally get my seafood, the big filets are almost nonexistent.

                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                      Check that.

                                      It wasn't Whole Foods. It was Bristol Farms in Pasadena.

                          2. We are seeing a lot more 'sea bass' on menus these days, though much of it is "European Sea Bass" AKA "Branzino." Most of this is farmed, though not free of environmental/ecological considerations/impacts. You can tell the difference on the plate because European Sea Bass is a much smaller fish than Chilean See Bass/Patagonian Toothfish.

                            1. I didn't know bass is so...um...controversial. Does anyone have like a list of what is and isn't acceptable?

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: AngelSanctuary

                                Try this site:

                                www.seafoodwatch.org

                                It's more of a shortlist but they specify, "Best Choices," "Good Alternatives," and "Avoid," which will cover most of what the typical eater would consider on an average day. The proper name for the fish in question here is, "Patagonian Toothfish," but was anointed the name, "Chilean Sea Bass," for marketing reasons - technically, it's not in the bass family.

                                The biggest problem with seafood today (at least in my opinion) isn't contamination - we are what we eat so if we choose to eat it then we bear the outcome - it's an issue of scale.

                                - So many more consumers are opting for so much more seafood in their diets.
                                - Consumers are eating more per capita than in the past (Supersize, Costco, etc.).
                                - Asia's economic boom has created a market that didn't exist 20 years ago.
                                - Fishing technology has improved, increasing the ability to catch more. The irony is the average catches are rapidly declining because of technology and the factors above.