Sablefish has recently started turning heads and winning fans in high-end restaurants across the country. This is a good thing, because, in addition to its delicious flavor, sablefish is an ocean-friendly seafood selection.

Prized for its rich, buttery flesh, sablefish has become a popular sushi option and is increasingly featured in a variety of cuisines. Try baked sablefish saratoga or spicy sablefish on the grill.

Also known as:

Sablefish, black cod, butterfish, Alaska cod, sable, candlefish, coal cod, coalfish

Availability:

Year-round

Product forms:

Fresh, fillets, steaks and headed and gutted; frozen, headed and gutted; also available preseasoned or smoked.

Shopping tips:

Large sablefish have a higher oil content, leading to a tastier meal. When possible, buy trap-caught sablefish, which is the most environmentally friendly option.

Substitutions:

Sablefish has a rich, buttery flavor, and makes an excellent ocean-friendly substitution for Chilean sea bass, grouper and snapper.

Recipes:

Baked wild-caught sablefish saratoga

Spicy grilled wild-caught sablefish

Sablefish fishery: Sablefish are harvested with trawls, traps and longline fishing gear. More.

Conservation notes:

Sablefish is considered an ocean-friendly seafood choice because it is well managed, and the population is healthy. More.

Last updated: April 2008

 

Sablefish Fishery

Bottom longlines consist of a long central line that has smaller fishing lines with baited hooks spaced along its length. The lines fished on or near the ocean floor and left in the water for several hours before the fishes are harvested. Bottom trawls nets are nets that are pulled through the water along the ocean floor by fishing boats. Accidental capture and injury of unwanted species can be a problem with both longlines and bottom trawls.

Fish pots and traps are designed to capture a specific species and size of seafood. Because these traps are designed to be very selective, bycatch is generally very low with this method of fishing. The traps are also stationary, which means they do not cause significant habitat destruction.

Sablefish live in the Pacific Ocean, and are harvested from Alaska to Baja California. Most U.S.-fished sablefish are caught in the Bering Sea and around the Aleutian Islands.

Conservation Notes

Some popular seafood species have a history of being managed poorly, which can often result in population crashes that can take many years or decades to recover from. Sablefish is managed in such a way to maintain healthy population numbers, and is not considered overfished.

Many types of commercial fishing gear can cause significant habitat destruction, or may catch large numbers of unwanted fishes and other animals. While bottom longline gear is associated with bycatch, damage caused to seafloor habitats is generally considered minimal.

While bottom longline-caught sablefish are fine, trap-caught sablefish are an even better choice. Fish pots and traps sit stationary on the seafloor, which means they do not cause habitat destruction. And, since the traps are specifically designed to capture sablefish, bycatch of unwanted species is extremely low.

When possible, purchase trap-caught sablefish.