Black Gill Rockfish aka Sebastes melanostomus

This week the Davis drop will be getting black gill rockfish, caught by hook-and-line and landed in Ft. Bragg. Finally. I have been trying to get hook-and-line rockfish for a VERY long time. 14 months or so. Victory!

There is lots of helpful geeky information out there on the many many species of rockfish that are available in our local fisheries. This species identifying guide from NOAA is fun and the black gill rockfish can be found on page 17.

There are at least 70 varieties of rockfish that populate the waters between Washington and Baja California. Due to the high number of varieties and conflicting info on fishery health, navigating rockfish sustainability can be tricky. Many of the usual best resources are too vague to be useful in making decisions about specific varieties of rockfish. They have to be that vague to be useful in a restaurant or at a fish counter. You will probably never know the specific variety of rockfish that you are buying at a fish counter or a restaurant.

These fish were caught by hook-and-line, so they are unanimously rated a good choice by all of the rating systems that I could find. The first step in narrowing down sustainability for fish that is not so clearcut is determining the method of catch. We are all good there. This gets muddier and harder to navigate when we look to the second issue, population health. The tricky part with rockfish is figuring out exactly which species you are dealing with. This usually takes some digging, unless you have access to the fish and game tag, which I do. These fish are Sebastes melanostomus, and while they are not black rockfish, which are widely considered to have the healthiest population levels, they are not a variety that has any specific concerns in regard to overfishing. There are some varieties of rockfish that are known to have depressed populations, and this is not one of them.

So, while I cannot find a specific source that says that this fish is a big old GREEN in terms of sustainability, I think that supporting a small fishing operation that is using a preferred fishing method trumps any lingering small concerns that might exist about fishery health. The black gill rock fish population is healthy AND the fishing method does not result in a high level of bycatch. This is a fish we can feel good about, and I am so glad that we finally get to have it.