The sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria) is one of two members of the fish family Anoplopomatidae and the only species in the genus Anoplopoma. In English, common names for it include sable (USA), butterfish (USA), black cod (USA, UK, Canada), blue cod (UK), bluefish (UK), candlefish (UK), coal cod (UK), coalfish (Canada), beshow, and skil(fish) (Canada), although many of these names also refer to other, unrelated, species. In the US, the FDA accepts only "sablefish" as the Acceptable Market Name; "black cod" is considered a vernacular (regional) name and should not be used as a Statement of Identity for this species. The sablefish is found in muddy sea beds in the North Pacific at depths of 300 to 2,700 m (980 to 8,860 ft) and is commercially important to Japan.
The sablefish is a species of deep-sea fish common to the North Pacific Ocean. Adult sablefish are opportunistic feeders, preying on fish (including Alaskan pollock, eulachon, capelin, herring, sandlance, and Pacific cod), squid, euphausiids, and jellyfish. Sablefish are long-lived, with a maximum recorded age of 94 years although the majority of the commercial catch in many areas is less than 20 years old.
Tagging studies have indicated that sablefish have been observed to move as much as 2000 km before recapture with one study estimating an average distance between release and recapture of 602 km, with an average annual movement of 191 km.
Sablefish are typically caught in bottom traw, longline and pot fisheries. In the Northeast Pacific, sablefish fisheries are managed separately in three areas: Alaska, the Canadian province of British Columbia, and the west coast of the contiguous United States (Washington, Oregon, and California). In all these areas catches peaked in the 1970s and 80s and have been lower since that time due to a combination of reduced populations and management restrictions. The sablefish longline fishery in Alaska is currently certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council as is the U.S. West Coast limited entry groundfish trawl fishery which includes sablefish.
The white flesh of the sablefish is soft-textured and mildly flavored. It is considered a delicacy in many countries. When cooked, its flaky texture is similar to Patagonian toothfish (Chilean sea bass). The meat has a high fat content and can be prepared in many ways, including grilling, smoking, or frying, or served as sushi. Sablefish flesh is high in long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, EPA, and DHA. It contains about as much as wild salmon.
In studies, its flesh contains levels of mercury that range from low to high, with different studies finding average mercury concentrations from 0.1 ppm, 0.2 ppm, and up to 0.4 ppm. The U.S. FDA puts sablefish in the "Good Choices" category in their guide for pregnant women and parents, which carries a recommendation to "eat 1 serving a week" (where a serving size is about 4 ounces uncooked for an adult, 2 ounces for children ages 4–7 years, 3 ounces for children ages 8–10 years and 4 ounces for children 11 years and older). Conversely, the State of Alaska advises "unrestricted consumption" of sablefish for all populations.
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