By Public Engagement Specialist Kyle Empringham and SeaChoice Market Analyst Kurtis Hayne
Ever eaten rockfish? It's delicious. You might even have taken a bite and not known it!
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Rockfish are often marketed as "snapper," a term generically applied to any of the more than 70 rockfish species that live off North America's west coast. Most grocery store "snapper" is one of the 15 most commonly sold rockfish species.
Rockfish live for a long time — most species to over 60 years old. But some species live to be about 200 years old! Like other long-lived species, they mature late in life and can be easily overfished if not managed properly.
This is precisely what happened in B.C. and U.S. waters from about 1940 to 2000. Lack of management for these tasty, mild, white fish resulted in depleted rockfish populations and nearly all species were placed on the SeaChoice red or "Avoid" list. But management of these fisheries has steadily improved throughout North America since about 1997. Now most stocks are recovering and being fished to ensure a continued rebound. Updated rockfish recommendations were recently released and there are now no U.S. rockfish with an "Avoid" recommendation.
In Canada, we still have several yellow ("Some Concerns") recommendations and some others remain on the "Avoid" list. The rockfish fishery is among the best-managed fisheries in the world, but even so, stock assessments for some Canadian rockfish species are outdated and will remain a red recommendation until assessments are completed.
So what should you look for when trying to make a sustainable choice? As all U.S. fisheries are off of the "Avoid" list, U.S.-caught rockfish are a good choice. Unfortunately, most rockfish aren't often labelled by species, though this is changing; many SeaChoice retailers are changing how they source their fish and will be identifying these yellow- and green- ranked fish in stores. If you're an iPhone user, download the new SeaChoice app. You'll be able to see different rockfish rankings based on where they're from and how they're caught. Once you ask your fishmonger about your rockfish, use the app to see which option is best for our oceans.