History of the Chilean Sea Bass market
May 4, 2006
Today The Wall Street Journal ran an account of how the Chilean Sea Bass was first brought to market in 1977.
Since its introduction, the species — also known as the Patagonian toothfish — has gone from being shunned to being welcomed at the worst’s finest restaurants. But demand for the fish has taken its toll and the slow-growing species which takes 10-12 years to reach sexual maturity suffers from illegal over fishing in parts of its range. Some groups estimate that the illegal take may be up to five times the legal catch limit, leading some ecologists to predict the immanent collapse of the fishery.
The The Wall Street Journal article, adapted from “Hooked: Pirates, Poaching and the Perfect Fish” by G. Bruce Knecht, details the history of the Chilean Sea Bass from the early years as strange and menacing bycatch to its current status as the “white gold of the Southern Oceans” — a product sought by pirates and top chefs alike. The book and the article recount the harrowing 3 week, 4,000-mile pursuit of an illegal fishing boat through icebergs of the South Atlantic Ocean. The Viarsa, loaded with contraband Chilean Sea Bass, was eventually captured by an international team of ships and its crew now awaits justice in court.