“Is Chilean sea bass an endangered species? No.” So say the U.S. Departments of State and Commerce in a March public fact sheet, noting, “Chilean sea bass is gaining a popular following now that it is offered in many restaurants and supermarkets.”
But chefs across the country are banishing Chilean sea bass from their menus because of trumped-up allegations of over-fishing that mirror the “Give Swordfish A Break” campaign of several years ago. That effort, which sought to eliminate swordfish as a restaurant choice for the same reasons that sea bass is now targeted, also drew government skepticism: A representative of the National Marine Fisheries Service said at the time: “It will end up having a detrimental effect on our fishermen… I know a lot of [U.S. fishermen] who have lost their jobs already.”
Now it’s Chilean sea bass, the Bon Appetit “Dish of the Year” for 2001, that’s under fire. As part of a Greenpeace-backed effort, at least 50 more chefs joined the “Take a Pass on Chilean Sea Bass” campaign in the last few weeks, joining the more than 60 California chefs who banned the dish in February. It’s just the start of things to come: The swordfish campaign eventually removed a popular dish from over 700 restaurant menus.