Products

Sea Bass

Dissostichus eleginoides

Market Name(s): Sea bass, Patagonian toothfish, mero

Contact Purchasing
Sea Bass
  • Primary Source: Argentina, Chile, Namibia, Uruguay
  • Season: Available year-round, with heaviest landings during the austral summer (November - March).
  • Primary Fishing Method: Longline

Size Range:

Max Size: 200 lbs

Avg. Size: 20-40 lbs

Product forms:

FRESH: H&G

FROZEN: H&G, skinless, boneless fillets and portions.

Storage & Handling

Despite its high oil content, fresh sea bass has a relatively good shelf life--up to 12 days from the time it’s caught--when held in ice at 32°F. Frozen product will keep well for six to nine months at -5 to -15°F.

Cooking Suggestions

Rich and full of flavor, sea bass can easily stand alone, simply baked, grilled, broiled or sautéed, with a pinch of seasoning or a squeeze of lemon juice. At the same time, however, this fish pairs up wonderfully with more elaborate flavors. Consider simmering it gently with plenty of tomatoes, garlic and fresh herbs, or marinate it in a spirited teriyaki style marinade before grilling or broiling. Because it will stay moist after cooking, sea bass is excellent in banquet applications.

Selling Points

  • An oil-rich fish that doesn't taste oily, sea bass is noted for its large, thick flake and melt-in-your-mouth texture. It is truly an exceptional eating fish.
  • Sea bass is an excellent substitute for sablefish (in Japan, where both fish are highly esteemed, it's often known as mero).
  • The international fleet currently harvesting and processing sea bass at sea is among the most high-tech in the world, ensuring consistent quality of frozen product.
  • Barring other influences, the best values on sea bass are in winter and spring, when Asian buyers are less interested in the fish

Defects

  • "Jellying," a condition (probably enzyme-related) in which the flesh turns soft and translucent.
  • Yellowing flesh along the belly flap is a sign of poor handling.
  • Compared to fish processed at sea under state-of-the-art conditions, sea bass landed fresh by small boat fishermen in Chile can vary greatly in quality.

The Pacific Advantage

  • Full range of sea bass products, including fresh fillets, refreshed fillets and frozen portion-controlled fillets
  • Ability to take position at opportune buying times and hold inventory means the best prices on frozen and refreshed sea bass throughout the year
  • Extensive knowledge of sea bass production and relationships with major producers assures consistent supply of highest quality product
  • High volume distribution means quick product turnover and maximum shelf life for customers

Summary

Inhabiting the frigid depths of the southern oceans, this large, slow-growing fish is in great demand in the U.S., Japan and China for its firm, white flesh and rich, oily flavor. Although the fishery was started off Chile, the demand for sea bass has led to the expansion of the fishery throughout the circumpolar region, although heavy fishing pressure has led to a sharp decline in catches in recent years.

The name "Chilean sea bass" stems from the fact the fish was first commercially harvested in Chilean waters. Now, however, sea bass are also caught off the coasts of Argentina, South Africa, Australia, as well as assorted remote territorial islands and in the international waters of the southern latitudes.

Although commonly called sea bass, this fish is not a sea bass at all, but rather a unique species— also called mero and Patagonian toothfish--that belongs to the family Nototheniidae.

Sea bass can grow to more than six feet and 200 pounds, although they average between 20 and 40 pounds in the commercial catch. Caught by longline, they can be found as deep as 5,000 feet, which has given rise to another market name, bacalao de profundidad, or "cod of the depths." Because of their large size, sea bass yield large, snow white fillets. Most finished product consists of skinless, pinbone-in fillets, although skinless, boneless portions are also available. Most sea bass comes into the U.S. market as frozen H&G product. This product is generally "refreshed," i.e., frozen fish that is later slacked out and filleted. Frozen within hours of capture, refreshed fish offer excellent quality. Fresh sea bass is also widely sold in the U.S. Almost all this product comes from Chile. Because of its high oil content and poor handling by some small boat fishermen, the quality of fresh sea bass can be highly variable. Because sea bass is so highly regarded in both Japan and China, the flow of fish to the U.S. is greatly affected by conditions in these two markets.

According to figures from the United Nations, global sea bass landings have been around 30,000 to 35,000 metric tons a year recently, although illegal fishing in remote territorial waters probably puts the total even higher. Quotas for sea bass in Antarctic waters (i.e., those managed by an international fisheries-monitoring body) have been 15,000 to 18,000 tons in recent years. However, illegal and high-seas fishing puts the actual harvest much higher, one reason the U.S. and other nations have instituted a catch documentation system that traces sea bass from its harvest to the marketplace. Only documented, legally caught sea bass can be can be imported into the U.S. Since this system was implemented in 2000, illegal catches of sea bass have declined sharply. Due to the circumpolar nature of the sea bass fishery and the prevalence of high-seas fishing, specific fisheries are in a constant state of flux. Recently, the leading suppliers to the U.S. market have been Argentina, Chile and Mauritius (where a lot of high-seas product is off-loaded).