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Product Spotlight: Black sea bass

This attractive fish is often roasted and presented whole on the plate

Black sea bass is a popular choice for
    Asian-influenced menus, including PF Chang's China
    Bistro. - Photo courtesy Florida Bureau of Seafood and
    Aquaculture
By Linda Skinner
December 01, 2006

If you want an attractive fish to present whole and roasted on the plate or display live in a tank, you might consider black sea bass ( Centropristis striata ). This handsome fish sports a distinctive pattern of white diamonds along its dark sides, and at a 1.5- to 3-pound market size, the bass is a manageable tank size and suitable for a range of preparations.

A cousin of the grouper, black sea bass is one of the most important commercial bass species in the U.S. market. Known also as blackfish or rock bass, the fish ranges from Massachusetts to Florida and is caught by trawl nets, longlines, hand lines and fish traps. There is increased demand for live sea bass in ethnic markets - particularly Asian - in the United States and Canada. The fish is also sold fresh and frozen, both whole and dressed and as skinless fillets.

Commercial and recreational fishermen throughout the Mid-Atlantic target black sea bass. The resource is stable, with commercial landings over the past five years ranging from a low of around 1,542 metric tons in 2000 to a high of 1,928 metric tons in 2002. In 2004, the most recent data available, the catch totaled around 1,628 metric tons.

Landings diminish at the northern and southern end of the species' range. Virginia, Massachusetts, New Jersey and North Carolina are consistently the primary producers, though their ranking varies from year to year. North Carolina topped landings in 2003 and 2004, with nearly 400 metrics tons and 386 metric tons, respectively. New Jersey and Virginia were second- and third-place producers both years.

The black sea bass fishery comprises two overlapping populations in the mid- and south Atlantic. It is managed jointly by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, which divide an annual quota between recreational fishermen (51 percent) and commercial (49 percent).

Black sea bass is a popular choice for Asian-influenced menus. In November at the Noho Star restaurant in New York, which specializes in New American and Chinese cuisine, the Saturday weekly dinner special was Crisp Whole Black Sea Bass with Hot, Sweet and Sour Sauce for $18.50. Skipjack's, with locations in Boston, Natick and Newton, Mass., features Gingered Sea Bass, oven steamed in ginger soy glaze with Asian vegetables, for $29.95. At PF Chang's China Bistro, one of three Asian concepts owned by the Scottsdale, Ariz., company, Oolong Marinated Sea Bass, broiled and served with sweet ginger soy, baby corn and spinach, is a seafood specialty.

 

Contributing Editor Linda Skinner lives in South Portland, Maine

 

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