Happy Fish Day, AO subscribers and ALFA supporters!
Some of you may be wondering what Shakespeare is doing on a fish blog. Well, though little known to most scholars, “ye olde” Bill was actually invoking the sacred sablefish instead of the handsome Romeo.
Sablefish, black cod, butterfish—take your pick. Whatever the honorific, this fish packs a tasty punch. That’s because sables (well, we have to choose one) are prized for their high oil content and rich taste.
Actually, though colloquially referred to as “black cod” sables are actually part of the Anoplopomatide family. Alaskan sablefish typically spawn during March and April along the deep waters of the continental slope. It takes roughly five to six years for sablefish to mature, although they can live up to 90 years in the wild. They’re also a highly mobile fish, with recorded migrations of over 2,000 miles.
Sable fisheries are managed using individual fishing quote (IFQs). Each year, the fishery managers set an amount of fish that can be caught while allowing the stocks to remain stable. The quota is then broken down into shares and allotted to individual fishermen to harvest. The fishery typically runs from March 1st through November 15th, meaning you can get fresh sablefish for most of the year!
This month’s sablefish was caught by longline off the lovely F/V Tamarack. What is long lining, you ask? Longline is a fishing technique where hundreds of baited hooks branch from a single line. Benthic longlines make use of a groundline set along the sea floor with short branch lines (called “gangions”) attached every few yards ending in a baited hook. Our longline fishery does not damage benthos or benthic habitats and can select fish species by choice of hook size and design. Longlines are left to soak for a few hours, with each fish being individually landed.
Though well known by the rest of the world, sablefish is only just enjoying some well-deserved time on the American dinner plate. So tuck in, enjoy, and spread the word!