The article you just read was brought to you by a few thousand dedicated readers. Will you join them?

Thanks for coming by The Tyee and reading one of many original articles we’ll post today. Our team works hard to publish in-depth stories on topics that matter on a daily basis. Our motto is: No junk. Just good journalism.

Just as we care about the quality of our reporting, we care about making our stories accessible to all who want to read them and provide a pleasant reading experience. No intrusive ads to distract you. No paywall locking you out of an article you want to read. No clickbait to trick you into reading a sensational article.

There’s a reason why our site is unique and why we don’t have to rely on those tactics — our Tyee Builders program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip in a bit of money each month (or one-time) to our editorial budget. This amazing program allows us to pay our writers fairly, keep our focus on quality over quantity of articles, and provide a pleasant reading experience for those who visit our site.

In the past year, we’ve been able to double our staff team and boost our reporting. We invest all of the revenue we receive into producing more and better journalism. We want to keep growing, but we need your support to do it.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
Before you click away, we have something to ask you…

Do you value independent journalism that focuses on the issues that matter? Do you think Canada needs more in-depth, fact-based reporting? So do we. If you’d like to be part of the solution, we’d love it if you joined us in working on it.

The Tyee is an independent, paywall-free, reader-funded publication. While many other newsrooms are getting smaller or shutting down altogether, we’re bucking the trend and growing, while still keeping our articles free and open for everyone to read.

The reason why we’re able to grow and do more, and focus on quality reporting, is because our readers support us in doing that. Over 5,000 Tyee readers chip in to fund our newsroom on a monthly basis, and that supports our rockstar team of dedicated journalists.

Join a community of people who are helping to build a better journalism ecosystem. You pick the amount you’d like to contribute on a monthly basis, and you can cancel any time.

Help us make Canadian media better by joining Tyee Builders today.
We value: Our readers.
Our independence. Our region.
The power of real journalism.
We're reader supported.
Get our newsletter free.
Help pay for our reporting.
Views

Tried the Slimehead? Delicious!

How renaming fish is hastening their extinction.

By Jennifer Jacquet 20 Oct 2008 | TheTyee.ca

Jennifer Jacquet, an environmental economist, is with the Sea Around Us Project (SAUP) and the UBC Fisheries Centre.

image atom
You know it as orange roughy.

Every once in a while, an urban neighborhood ditches its gritty old identity and gentrifies by way of a sleek new name. Scruffy South-Central has now disappeared from California maps, replaced with the more dignified "South Los Angeles." Who knows what condo sellers are starting to call the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver as they push their new condo developments?

The rename game is working the same way for seafood. Slimeheads weren't a culinary hit until they became "orange roughy." Today's "spotted sunfish" are yesterday's stumpknockers.

Fishermen off Canada's West Coast once cursed tiny invertebrates that clogged their nets, calling them whore's eggs. Then they realized their little pests were worth big money in Japan. The sushi craze spread across North America where whore's eggs have now been renamed "spicy sea urchin."

Similarly, the same fishermen once discarded their rock crab, also known as mud crabs, until one fishmonger realized that a new name might mean a new market. Rock crab became "peekytoe crab" -- now the darlings of many high end chefs.

Why 'St. Peter's fish' sank

In only a few cases have governments intervened in the renaming frenzy. In the early 1990s, tilapia importers tried to reinvent their product as "St. Peter's fish," since tilapia can be found in Israel's Sea of Galilee and the new name would resonate in the U.S. Bible Belt. The U.S. government denied the evangelical makeover. In 1994, the U.S. government also denied a petition to officially change Patagonian toothfish to Chilean sea bass (toothfish is not at all related to the sea bass).

Industry should be denied the right to makeover its fish because there is far more at stake than a cute name. The renaming of fish confuses consumers as well as complicates trade and fisheries management.

Patagonian toothfish, found in the waters around Antarctica, are in serious decline due to illegal overfishing. In Canada, importers of toothfish confuse the common names Patagonian toothfish and Chilean sea bass, which has allowed 30 to 50 per cent of toothfish imports to enter Canada under a customs code designed for sea bass, an entirely different and unrelated species.

Jon Leibowitz (which "sounded too Hollywood" so he became Jon Stewart) and Calvin Cordozar Broadus (now Snoop Doggy Dogg) decided adopting different names would help them become more popular entertainers. Something similar is happening when original names for some fish are discarded because they don't look appetizing on a menu. "May I recommend the fresh stumpknocker today with a crisp Chardonnay…?" Nice try.

Naming the problem: overfishing

Names like slimehead or mud crab or whore's eggs likely were bestowed upon seafood by people who assumed nobody would want to eat such seafood.

But as demand for seafood has grown and fish in the sea have diminished, we help feed demand and denial by changing the names of fish that sound unfit to eat to sound like fish that are. Spiny dogfish becomes "rock salmon." What's the result? Not good for fish of all kinds. Let's say we want more salmon, but are running short of them. The market gives us a substitute -- "rock salmon" -- but the result is to raise the status of, and make us even hungrier for, real salmon -- thus hastening their demise. In 2002, having run short of old-fashioned Dover sole, the U.K. retailer Marks & Spencer got the nod from government authorities to rename a fish called witch as "Torbay sole." The witch didn't make Dover sole any safer.

"We must recognize renaming seafood for what it really is," says Daniel Pauly, director of the Univeristy of British Columbia Fisheries Center. "A clear symptom of overfishing."

In the meantime, perhaps the trend suggests a new renaming game for all to play. Dogface witch eel. Triplewart sea devil. Ratfish. Acned snake eel. Rotten finger. Fangtooth snake eel. Redspined devilfish. Warteye stargazer.

Got better names for any of these?

What do your taste buds, and wallet, want to call them instead?

Related Tyee stories:

 [Tyee]

Read more: Food, Environment

Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free

LATEST STORIES

The Barometer

Tyee Poll: Are You Preparing for the Next Climate Disaster?

Take this week's poll