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by Molly Zaleski

The Gulf of Alaska project has 5 focal fish, that we're trying to learn more about:

Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus)

Walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma)

Rockfish (Sebastes sp.)

Arrowtooth flounder (Atheresthes stomias)

Sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria)


That last one has been a tough one for us to find; this summer's survey on the Northwest Explorer resulted in only three sablefish collected! So, imagine my surprise when I was out on the Oscar Dyson fall survey and we pulled in this haul:

That's right, we single-handedly doubled the year's catch in one haul!

In total, we brought home 5 sablefish from that trip, and while that might not be much, it's a start to learn a little bit more about this elusive, tasty species! In honor of the Black Cod Five, here are 5 fun facts about sablefish:

1. Black cod aren't really gadids – they belong to the family Anoplopomatidae as opposed to cod and pollock who belong to the family Gadidae

2. Our Alaskan population of sablefish ranges from the Aleutian Islands and the Bering Sea through the Gulf of Alaska to Northertn British Columbia, but there's a southern population that runs along Washington, Oregon, and California!

3. Yet another common name for sablefish is “butter fish” because of their high oil content – they melt in your mouth (in the yummy way, not the gross way). My favorite way to eat these fish is smoked: so. amazingly. good!

4. The fishery is mainly a longline fishery, using a line with thousands of hooks spread along the sea floor to catch them. As the line is hauled up, some boats experience whale depredation, which is when sperm whales or killer whales pick the sablefish off the hooks and eat them!

5. There's a tagging program in Alaska NOAA scientists tag the sablefish so that when fishermen catch them, they can report the tag number to NOAA and the researchers can then learn just how far the fish might have traveled. As a “thank you” for the returned tag, you can generally get a hat!

Learn more at NOAA FishWatch!