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Rockfish? No, Wreckfish

Lots of restaurants use the word “sustainable” on their menus, but what does it mean?

Wreckfish, which has shown up in many local eateries, is a textbook example. It’s under the jurisdiction of the federally appointed South Atlantic Council, says Jim Chambers, owner of Prime Seafood, one of the few Washington fish purveyors that sell wreckfish.

“Biologists take a stock assessment of the fish and decide whether the population’s in trouble,” Chambers says. “Then the council makes rules based on what the biologists tell them.” The result is that only four boats can pursue wreckfish, which live 80 to 100 miles southeast of Charleston, South Carolina.

Chefs such as Brian McBride of Blue Duck Tavern and Jonathan Seningen of Hook say the commitment to protecting the fish is the main reason they buy it from Chambers. “It’s more a sustainability thing,” echoes Rob Weland, who serves wreckfish with potatoes, a poached farm egg, and a caper beurre noisette at Poste. “It’s well maintained and well treated, which means a lot. Plus I think the fish is delicious.”

Seningan describes the flavor as “sweet and meaty, with big, delicate flakes”—reason enough for it to become popular. But thanks to the South Atlantic Council, it’ll never be overfished.


This appears in the September, 2009 issue of The Washingtonian. 

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