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The sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria) is one of two members of the fish family Anoplopomatidae and the only species in the genus Anoplopoma.[1] 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.[2] 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.[3] 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.[4][5]

Anoplopoma fimbria.png
Anoplopoma fimbria
4sablefish 500.jpg
Scientific classification

Ayres, 1859
A. fimbria
Binomial name
Anoplopoma fimbria
(Pallas, 1814)


The sablefish is a species of deep-sea fish common to the North Pacific Ocean.[6] Adult sablefish are opportunistic feeders, preying on fish (including Alaskan pollock, eulachon, capelin, herring, sandlance, and Pacific cod), squid, euphausiids, and jellyfish.[7] Sablefish are long-lived, with a maximum recorded age of 94 years[8] although the majority of the commercial catch in many areas is less than 20 years old.[9][10]

Tagging studies have indicated that sablefish have been observed to move as much as 2000 km before recapture[11] with one study estimating an average distance between release and recapture of 602 km, with an average annual movement of 191 km.[12]


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.[9][13][10] The sablefish longline fishery in Alaska is currently certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council[14] as is the U.S. West Coast limited entry groundfish trawl fishery which includes sablefish.[15]

Longline fisheries in Alaska frequently experience predation of sablefish by killer whales and sperm whales which remove the fish from the hooks during the process of retrieving the gear.[16][17][18]

As foodEdit

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.[19]

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[20], 0.2 ppm[21], and up to 0.4 ppm[22]. 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).[23][24] Conversely, the State of Alaska advises "unrestricted consumption" of sablefish for all populations.[25]


  1. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2005). "Anoplopoma fimbria" in FishBase. 10 2005 version.
  2. ^ "Common Names List - Anoplopoma fimbria". Retrieved 12 October 2017.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 July 2010. Retrieved 17 July 2010.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ Sonu, Sunee C. (October 2014). "Supply and Market for Sablefish in Japan" (PDF). NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS. NOAA-TM-NMFS-WCR-102.
  5. ^ Burros, Marian (16 May 2001). "The Fish That Swam Uptown". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 12 March 2019.
  6. ^ "Anoplopoma fimbria". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 24 January 2006.
  7. ^ Yang, M-S and M. W. Nelson 2000. Food habits of the commercially important groundfishes in the Gulf of Alaska in 1990, 1993, and 1996. NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-AFSC-112. 174 p.
  8. ^ Kimura, Daniel K., A. M. Shaw and F. R. Shaw 1998. Stock Structure and movement of tagged sablefish, Anoplopoma fimbria, in offshore northeast Pacific waters and the effects of El Nino-Southern Oscillation on migration and growth. Fish. Bull. 96:462-481.
  9. ^ a b Hanselman DH, Rodgveller CJ, Lunsford CR, Fenske, KH (2017), Assessment of the Sablefish stock in Alaska in: Stock assessment and fishery evaluation report for the groundfish resources of the GOA and BS/AI (PDF), North Pacific Fishery Management Council, 605 W 4th Ave., Suite 306 Anchorage, AK 99501, USA, pp. 307–412
  10. ^ a b Johnson KF, Rudd MB, Pons M, Allen C, Lee Q, Hurtado-Ferro F, Haltuch MA, Hamel OS (2016), Status of the U.S. sablefish resource in 2015 (PDF), Pacific Fisheries Management Council, Portland, OR, U.S.A.
  11. ^ Beamish, R. J.; McFarlane, C. A. (1988). "Resident and Dispersal Behavior of Adult Sablefish (Anaplopoma fimbria) in the Slope Waters off Canada's West Coast". Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. 45 (1): 152–164. doi:10.1139/f88-017. ISSN 0706-652X.
  12. ^ Hanselman, Dana H.; Heifetz, Jonathan; Echave, Katy B.; Dressel, Sherri C. (2015). "Move it or lose it: movement and mortality of sablefish tagged in Alaska". Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. 72 (2): 238–251. doi:10.1139/cjfas-2014-0251. ISSN 0706-652X.
  13. ^ DFO (2016), A revised operating model for sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria) in British Columbia, Canada (PDF), DFO Can. Sci. Advis. Sec. Sci. Advis. Rep. 2016/015
  14. ^ "US North Pacific sablefish - MSC Fisheries". Retrieved 23 August 2018.
  15. ^ "US West Coast limited entry groundfish trawl - MSC Fisheries".
  16. ^ Peterson, Megan J.; Carothers, Courtney (1 November 2013). "Whale interactions with Alaskan sablefish and Pacific halibut fisheries: Surveying fishermen perception, changing fishing practices and mitigation". Marine Policy. 42: 315–324. doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2013.04.001. ISSN 0308-597X.
  17. ^ Sigler, Michael F.; Lunsford, Chris R.; Straley, Janice M.; Liddle, Joseph B. (2008). "Sperm whale depredation of sablefish longline gear in the northeast Pacific Ocean". Marine Mammal Science. 24 (1): 16–27. doi:10.1111/j.1748-7692.2007.00149.x. ISSN 0824-0469.
  18. ^ BBC (3 February 2015), Sperm whales steal from a fishing boat - Alaska: Earth's Frozen Kingdom - Episode 1 - BBC Two, retrieved 24 August 2018
  19. ^ "Sablefish Anoplopoma fimbria". FishWatch. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  20. ^ "Fish Consumption Advice for Alaskans - A Risk Management Strategy To Optimize the Public's Health" (PDF).
  21. ^ "Human Health Risk Assessment of Mercury in Fish and Health Benefits of Fish Consumption".
  22. ^ "Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish (1990-2012)". FDA. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  23. ^ U.S. Food & Drug Administration, "Eating Fish: What Pregnant Women and Parents Should Know" [1]
  24. ^ U.S. Food & Drug Administration, "Questions & Answers from the FDA/EPA Advice on What Pregnant Women and Parents Should Know about Eating Fish" [2]
  25. ^ "2014 Updated Fish Consumption Advice for Alaskans" (PDF).

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