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Jul 29, 2009 06:39 AM

Bill's Lobster...fact check. (moved from Ontario board)

I was in Bill's the other day, and looking at their Halibut. I noticed that it was Atlantic Halibut, which has been indentified as an overfished species. DOn't want to be all preachy, but I'm trying to make better seafood purchase choices, so I shared my concern and they told me that the fish they sell is by-catch, meaning that if it wasn't consumed, it would just go to waste, which is obviously a bad thing. Does this explanation sense? Something about the quickness of the response set off my BS detector.

I like Bill's, mainly for the convenience and the quality of their crustaceans (fish is above average). But I find the lady to be pushy. And now I'm concerned about their honesty. I don't want to complain about what they sell, that's not the point of my post. I just want to know if they're feeding me a line of BS.

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  1. FYI...I can understand the concept of by-catch, just wondering if this is a legitimate/reasonable way of selling an overfished species.

    2 Replies
    1. re: grandgourmand

      Did you read this page: where it says:

      "The use of indiscriminate fishing gear leads to the bycatch of immature halibut which is inhibiting population recovery"

      That would seem to indicate that bycatch can be reduced by using the proper equipment. I wonder if that is being done. Otherwise, the fisher-people could be catching more bycatch than if the proper equipment was being used. Something smells fishy when I see a loophole like that one.

      1. re: foodyDudey

        My understanding, based on reading the book "Bottomfeeder" by Taras Grescoe, is that by-catch is usually just thrown overboard dead or dying. A scallop boat, for example, does not have the facilities to keep other valuable species on board so they chuck 'em.

        Sounds like BS to me. I like Bill's, esprecially for their lobsters, but I have detected BS from them in the past. And once I bought super smelly calamari, which I should mention they gave me a credit for.

    2. they also sell chilean sea bass.... they don't seem to be very discriminant about what they sell and have quick excuses for why they sell it.

      3 Replies
      1. re: pinstripeprincess

        And greenland Halibut and white tuna (aka escolar).

        To be fair, most fishmongers sell pretty much anything. There's only one vendor in SLM that doesn't sell chilean sea bass.

        the other thing that happend is when my wife asked about this fish in terms of mercury content and feeding it to the baby..."it's fine for the baby" was her quick response. Didn't offer any additional info.

        I think I'm done with Bill's. I've really enjoyed the lobster and scallops and spot prawns. But I don't trust them.

        1. re: pinstripeprincess

          Not really defending them here but if people don't buy Chilean Sea Bass, there will be no market for it people will stop selling it. Conversely, it's not against the law to sell in when you're trying to make a living, sometimes you feel it's okay to play a little fast and loose with the a moral issue like this.


          1. re: Davwud

            i don't disagree, i more meant that it quickly becomes a sliding scale and that if they'll sell one thing it shouldn't be surprising they'll sell the rest even if that decision takes a bit of time to get to. it's business, once you cross that line there really isn't much of a reason to go back as long as you're making money.

            i haven't been impressed with bill's quality personally but that's beside the point. trying to find a sustainable fish monger with the variety one tends to often want is a difficult task period.

        2. The explanation you received is legitimate (provided they are indeed only selling bycatch). Atlantic Halibut is long lived and slow to mature, so it is vulnerable to overfishing, and stocks are depleted. Bycatch is an issue as it creates continued pressure on the species, and studies have shown that there are indeed low/moderate levels of Atlantic Halibut bycatch.

          White Hake, Cusk, Atlantic Cod, Dogfish, and several other species are caught in association with Atlantic Halibut. There is little information about how much of the halibut is kept for sale or discarded.

          Although there is continuing development of specialized gear to better target particular species, adoption is slow in the commercial fishery, and impacts are minimal so far.

          So, bottom line is that the bycatch argument is possible, but are they truly selling it? No way to know for sure. It is also possible that their supplier has told them it is "bycatch" when in fact it isn't. The fishing industry is rife with scams of one kind or another, usually selling lower cost fish masquerading as higher priced stock. As consumers it is very difficult for us to detect these frauds, and in this case to know whether we are purchasing in a responsible manner.

          My advice is that if you are concerned about the Atlantic Halibut fishery, you should avoid purchasing it, regardless of what you are told. As long as there is a market for it, and consumers are purchasing the stocks, there will continue to be the temptation to overfish to the point of extinction.


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