Sablefish (Black Cod)
Sablefish is highly prized for an intensely rich, buttery flavour – hence the nickname “butterfish” – and for its surprisingly delicate texture. Although commonly called “black cod,” this deep-sea fish, which can live up to 5,000 feet (1,500 metres) below the sea, is not part of the cod family.
Sablefish have a dark grayish-green body with a pale grey or white belly. Its sleek body is covered with small scales that feel vaguely furry to the touch. Sablefish inhabit shelf and deep-sea waters from central Baja California to Japan and the Bering Sea. Their high fat content provides a rich flavour and velvety texture, making sablefish perfect for smoking.
Sablefish are extremely long-lived, some reaching over 90 years of age. For this species, life begins with winter spawning along the continental shelf at depths greater than 3,300 feet (1,000 metres). After spawning, its lifecycle progresses relatively quickly. Larval sablefish are found in surface waters over the shelf and slope in April and May and within the following six months juveniles will begin to migrate inshore. From the ages of two until five, juveniles will come of age in near-shore and shelf habitats. Growth during this phase is very rapid with the average female growing to maturity in just three to five years. At this point, they establish themselves as highly migratory fish, with significant movement documented from nursery areas in B.C.’s Hecate Strait to the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea.
Bottom Longline with Hooks
This fishery uses a bottom longline that is baited with hooks and anchored to the ocean floor. A longline can be from 1 to 3 miles (1.6 to 5 km) long and have up to 2,000 hooks.