Should I feel guilty for eating Chilean sea bass?

by Zoe on February 17, 2011 · 12 comments

Last Monday Hubby took me out for a non-Valentine’s dinner. We went to an amazing restaurant in Hamilton, Shakespeare’s. Everything about this place was amazing and we felt like king and queen with the service they provided.

When I go out to eat I tend to order things I would never eat at home. Typically it’s anything meat, since I rarely eat meat and almost never cook it at home. However if there is a new fish on the menu (something other than salmon or halibut) you can bet I’m all over it. Fish is not only tasty but a really healthy dish – win win….or so I thought.

I’m telling my friend about this amazing meal and then she springs it on me – Chilean sea bass is almost endangered.


Later on I Google and, yup, low and behold this fish is on it’s way. Activists use the term “over fished”. One source suggest to ask where the fish is from to ensure that it wasn’t poached illegally. Most people say just to avoid it all together since the popularity increases the revenue for poaching.


I will admit – this was probably one of the best tasting fish I have ever eaten. But now I am up there with the kinds of assholes that eat bald eagles and black rhinos.

  • sarsteele

    Sigh, I remember eating Chilean Sea Bass – it is a delightful fish.nDon’t feel guilty, it’s really the restaurant’s fault for serving it. As my husband says any responsible restaurant or fishmongers refuses to sell that fish. He himself has been asked to put it on a menu and he’s refused.nWhen news of the over fishing got out many of the seafood stalls at the St. Lawrence Market put up signs stating they would no longer sell that fish and still don’t today.nEven the big supermarket chain Metro announced that after Sept 2010 they would no longer be selling Chilean Sea Bass. nReally Shakespeare’s should be ashamed and educate themselves better about the product they sell and get that off the menu immediately.

  • Jim Milles

    There’s an iPhone app called Ocean Wise that gives you information on sustainable seafood and which restaurants in Canada serve it.

  • zoeDisco

    Of course there’s an app for that! nnThanks for sharing Jim; I will download it immediately.

  • zoeDisco

    Thank you, your words are comforting. I’m thinking of sending a friendly note to the owners to make them aware as well. It’s too bad, that place was really nice. Let’s hope they were just ignorant like me and just need a bit of education.nn

  • Caitlinferguson

    Hello Zoe, nnI’m glad you wrote about this, it is something that I have been thinking about for a while now. You shouldn’t feel guilty cause you didn’t know at the time, but as the other comment says the restaurant should feel guilty, especially the chef who decided to put it on the menu! It makes me angry actually to think about that! There are so many delicious alternatives to Chilean sea bass…it isn’t necessary to have it on a menu!nnThere are LOADS of fish that we shouldn’t be eating, Cod is a popular one that is over fished, also tuna, especially yellow finned tuna that is used for sushi, it gets fished by using disgusting ten mile long nets! In Europe especially in France they illegally over fish the tuna, and send them off frozen to Japan where they can get the most money for them, it is sad. Because the Oceans are so massive, it is hard to police them, which means there is a lot of dodgy fishing going on…Another interesting thing that I recently learned from a great documentary called ‘End of the Line’ – is that even eating farmed fish isn’t really a good alternative because the amount of the fish that it takes to feed salmon (it’s something like 3 kilos of sardines to get 1 kilo of salmon) so why not just eat the sardines? Which are delicious and very good for us? nnEither way it is great to hear that you are now on the sustainable fish band wagon! We care about the quality of meat that we eat, and how the animal was treated, so why not care about the quality of fish that we eat, right? nnx Caitlin

  • zoeDisco

    I will be’s frustrating to have to be so cautious about food. I want to be able to have a healthy and sustainable meal and sometimes it’s seems impossible. Farmed fish is no good because of unhealthy conditions but wild fish are caught in inhumane ways and over fished – you just can’t win!nnEven when it comes to fruits and vegetables it’s the same concerns. What pesticides, where was it grown, is it genetically modified? I just want food, real wholesome food. It’s sad that it’s so difficult to get nowadays.nnAnd I am going to send a note to the owner. I will give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they just didn’t know. nnThanks for the support Caitlin!

  • James Holmes

    I wonder what Bald Eagle tastes like…nn@Caitlinferguson and @sarsteele – I agree that Zoe shouldn’t feel guilty for eating the Chilean Sea Bass. She honestly didn’t know.nnI find it funny, however, how quickly everyone decided to offload the guilt onto the restaurant without giving the place the benefit of the doubt. This is a small, family run restaurant in Hamilton. Has anyone called the place to find out if the owner/chef is is even aware of the issue before passing blame? Assumptions are what cause things like this to get overblown. I also find it funny that we pass quick judgment when it comes to animals. Did you know black truffles are an endangered plant, yet fancy restaurants have no problems serving that as a treat in their restaurants and we have no qualms about eating them.nnI may be wrong though. They may have been aware and still have served the fish. They may have done it with the best of intentions though. Like, what if they had told the seller that they would take it off their hands because they didn’t want to see it go to waste, with they understanding that this would be the last time they every served Chilean Sea Bass in their restaurant?nnMy point is let’s not automatically pass judgment before we have the facts.

  • Caitlinferguson

    @Jamie – I see what you are saying, but I think it is a chef’s responsibility as well as a restaurant owner to research the produce they are serving, they need to be aware of what they are supporting. I guarantee you the reason they are selling it is because they know it is popular with the consumer, and they can sell it at a higher price. Maybe you should call them and ask, but I doubt they would admit to not caring and selling an endangered fish because their customer demands it…nnBlack truffles, I have never heard they are endangered before, I’ll have to look that up. nnCaviar is a concern too, when a fish is being killed just to steal it’s roe then thrown back in the water, or shark fins, that is bad news too.nnI will admit, I like to eat hare, and that is naughty cause they are life partners, so I have eaten some baby hare’s mom or dad…which is quite sad…nn

  • Sarsteele

    I concur with Caitlinferguson – you’re being too understanding Jamie! :) I don’t think it’s too much to ask for someone in the food business to know something about food. If major supermarket chains are refusing to sell this fish it’s not exactly privileged information, particularly within the industry.nFor the truffles – that’s an interesting case. Truffles are the fruit of a fungus. Harvesting them no more damages the fungus than picking apples damages the tree. The black truffles are in trouble in France due to climate change and without the enormous efforts of the truffle farmers they would actually be in much worse shape.nInterestingly there was a black truffle discovered in Sweden and at the time was classified as endangered. Since cultivation began it has made a dramatic comeback.nIf anything a taste for truffles is keeping these organisms going in the face of droughts and deforestation.

  • Kara Demeyere

    i hate to tell you but i bought chilean sea bass for $15 at the st lawrence mkt last week. it is the 1st time i have had it since 2007 and i had the worst hankering so i caved. it was the best piece of fish i have ever eaten and i ended up on this thread looking for sustainable fish that taste similar to it. Damn it is the perfect fish though. 

  • zoeDisco

    Yes! It is the best tasting fish I have ever eaten. Did you feel guilty eating it? Or did you just not think about it until afterward. I hate that some foods have such emotion tied to them…especially tasty food.


  • Kara Demeyere

    Yes i felt guilty for breaking a 4 year streak of respect but when i was eating it there was no regret, which i regret.

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