Thursday, September 10, 2009

Where's the Hoki?

It looks like our appetite for breaded, fried fish products (e.g., fish sticks, fast food fish sandwiches, etc.) might again be forced to again look at new ingredients to inspire our cravings. When commercial fish harvests significantly decreased populations of many of the more traditional fish species, uglier, but still tasty, fish at deeper depths were targeted. The orange roughy, an ugly bottom-dweller formerly known as a "slimehead", was one such popular alternative, until it turned out to reproduce slowly and live to be more than 100 years old. The faster reproducing hoki, whiptail, or blue grenadier, a fish found off the waters of New Zealand, was selected as a sustainable replacement. Now, however, the sustainability of hoki is being questioned. Without formally acknowledging that they are being overfished, the New Zealand government has slashed the allowable catch in steps, from about 275,000 tons in 2000 and 2001 to 100,000 tons in 2007 and 2008 – a decline of nearly two-thirds. With McDonald’s alone at one time using roughly 15 million pounds of it each year, we may be facing yet another fundamental switch in popular breaded and fried white fish products. McDonald's Filet-O-Fish has now gone from cod in the early days to hoki and now to pollock mixed with hoki.

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