Feeding Frenzy

Some high-demand fish are in danger of extinction--and restaurants are caught in the middle

The Marine Stewardship Council operates a program to help consumers identify nonthreatened species. "Five fisheries have been certified to the MSC Standard to date, including Alaska salmon and New Zealand hoki," says Louisa Barnett, London-based communications officer with the MSC, "and around 30 fisheries are currently at some stage of the certification process." Some markets, including Whole Foods, recognize the MSC standard.

Perhaps demand for Chilean sea bass would plummet if chefs listed it on their menus by its more proper name--the Patagonian toothfish. But chefs expect a certain amount of deception, especially when a product becomes wildly popular. "A number of distributors are now selling frozen sea bass and calling it fresh," Neel explains. "I've been burned on that before, so now I order whole sea bass." Other distributors try various scams. One chef encountered drum fillets labeled as sea bass. Another found 2-year-old frozen bass among a distributor's stock.

Ah, aged Patagonian toothfish. Call Starkist.

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