The Green List: Pacific White Seabass, Halibut, and Sardines
All three of these species of fish are part of fisheries that are heavily regulated and carefully managed, a major factor in their sustainability.
Wild Caught Pacific White Seabass: People love this fish because it’s big and tasty. White seabass meat is mild and slightly sweet with a firm texture. It can be grilled, sautéed, seared, and poached. Try this simple pan-roasting recipe from The Reluctant Gourmet.
They can grow up to 90 pounds and live up to 27 years old. This member of the croaker family is the largest in the Pacific Ocean and is found off the coast of Alaska, California and Baja California. They depend on multiple habitats throughout their life cycle and they have a high affinity for warm water.
Although intense fishing heavily impacted the population in the early 20th century, white seabass populations have rebounded due to increased regulations and closure of gillnet fishing in California since the 1980s. White sea bass have a low maturity age (around 3-4 years) and high fecundity (producing up to 1.5 million eggs per clutch), making them inherently resistant to fishing pressure. Although typically white seabass are caught using set and drift gillnets, there has been an increase in hook and line use, a much more sustainable option. California passed a proposition in 1990 to ban drift and set gillnet fishing in Southern California, increasing the population of white seabass in those areas. The fishing season is from mid-June to mid-March.
Photo by Jonesemyr via Flickr, Creative Commons License
Wild Caught Pacific Halibut: This may be the only fish off the California coast that recreational fishermen love more than white sea bass. Fresh Pacific halibut is available between March and November, or frozen year round. Halibut retains moisture and keeps its texture when cooked. It is mild and sweet-tasting with a fine-grained, dense meat that is white and flaky once cooked. It is extremely versatile and holds up well to many cooking methods and sauces. It can be baked, poached, steamed, grilled, sautéed, and broiled. Try this Pepita Crusted Pacific Halibut with Cilantro Serrano Cream by celebrity chef, Guy Fieri.
It is a bottom dwelling fish that is found in the North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea and migrates from shallow coastal waters to deep ocean to spawn in winter. It can grow up to 8 feet long and have flat, diamond shaped bodies. Most halibut are caught in Alaska where the only method of fishing allowed is bottom long lining which results in little habitat damage and less bycatch than some other methods.
A fixed harvest rate of 20% of the population is set each year by the Pacific Halibut Commission, keeping the population healthy and abundant.
Photo By Shane Anderson via WikimediaCommons, Creative Commons License
Wild Caught Pacific Sardines: For fresh sardines, grilling is recommended with lemon and olive oil, although you need to split or butterfly the sardine to remove the bones before preparing. Other preparations include marinating them in salt, or baking and preparing simply with sauce and toast. For canned sardines, try Alton Brown’s sherried sardines and toast as a prime example of how delicious sardines can be.
Wild caught Pacific sardines are on Monterey Bay Aquarium’s “Super Green List” because they contain more omega-3s than salmon or any other fish, and are extremely high in vitamin D. Most sardines are bought canned, although fresh sardines can be found in markets.
Sardines are less than 16 inches, and travel in enormous schools of up to 10 million fish, in the open ocean. They feed on plankton and reproduce rapidly. Sardine stocks fell after the 1940s due to overfishing and a “boom and bust” cycle based on natural conditions, which occurs every 60 years. Since the 1967 catch limit was introduced, Pacific sardines have rebounded and now enjoy a high growth rate. They are commonly caught by purse seines, which in this fishery produce little bycatch, though the method can be very harmful in other fisheries. Sardines are now managed by the Coastal Pelagic Species FMP. They are the second most popular canned fish product in the US, and are available fresh January-August.
Photo By Brian.gratwicke via Flickr, Creative Commons License