Love Chilean sea bass? Well, too bad
April 4, 2002
The Aspen Skiing Co. and 18 Aspen-area restaurants started a boycott yesterday after learning something was fishy with Chilean sea bass.The restaurants and the Skico are banning the fish from their menus to make a statement against their exploitation. Sea bass are being poached into near-extinction, according to the National Environmental Trust.Skico Environmental Affairs Director Auden Schendler said boycotts have popped up recently in restaurants in Chicago and California, among other places, as people learn about the sea bass’ plight. However, sea bass is also extremely popular right now. Last year it was Bon Appetit magazine’s “Dish of the Year.””You haven’t been able to swing a cat without hitting a sea bass,” said Schendler. “It’s so hip.”Schendler said he faxed a letter recently to a local restaurant informing it about the overfishing of sea bass and asking it to join the boycott. He found that several restaurants had already made the move themselves. One was Cache Cache. “We called them about the ban and they said, ‘Oh, yeah. We banned it three years ago,'” said Schendler. Some chefs who weren’t aware of the overfishing gladly joined the ban. One, who Schendler wouldn’t name, expressed skepticism that the fish is really threatened. He said he would ban the fish from his menu but didn’t want to be included on the boycott list. The restaurants that are participating are: Boogie’s Diner; Butch’s Lobster Bar; Campo De Fiori; Cache Cache; Chart House; Crystal Palace; Elevation; Goodfellows Pizza; Gusto; Hotel Jerome; NXT; Montagna Restaurant & Bar; Olive’s at the St. Regis Aspen; Restaurant Conundrum; SIX89; Su Casa; Topper’s Aspen; Village Smithy; and the Woody Creek Tavern. All Aspen Skiing Co. restaurants are participating, including: Sam’s Knob, Cirque Bar & Grill, Two Creeks Mexican Caf, and Up 4 Pizza on Snowmass; Sage at the Snowmass Club; The Sundeck on Aspen Mountain; Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro and Cloud Nine Soup Bowl on Aspen Highlands, and The Little Nell. Schendler said that not all restaurants served sea bass, but joined the boycott for moral support. He said he has always been skeptical about the effectiveness of boycotts, but figures this move has PR value. He expects regional and national media will publicize actions taken in a place like Aspen. Chilean sea bass, also known as Patagonian Toothfish, live off the coasts of Antarctica and Patagonia in South America and suffer from acute overfishing by “pirate” poachers, according to the National Environmental Trust. Scientists have been monitoring the decline for many years and fear the species will be commercially extinct within two years due to the present rates of depletion, low rates of regulation on overfishing and illegal capture of the younger fish before sexual maturation. Paul Wade, executive chef at The Little Nell, said some high-profile chefs nationwide have tracked the research on the decimation of the species, and at the present rates of fishing Chilean sea bass will be extinct by 2005. “More than 70 percent of the total annual harvest is served in restaurants and hotels,” Wade said. “We have to take responsibility for our consumption if we want to see this species stick around.” The boycott in Aspen will continue until a scientifically reliable estimate of the population has been compiled, illegal fishing is eliminated and vessels hunting the species stop killing endangered seabirds.