The cooked-up campaign against seafood hit The New York Times this week, with the leading paper covering an “effort to save imperiled sea bass.” More than “200 prominent chefs in New York and Los Angeles” have just signed on to the “Take a Pass on Chilean Sea Bass” campaign, removing the dish from their menus. Boycott organizers claim 500 other chefs around the country have already signed on.
“Is Chilean sea bass an endangered species? No.” So say the U.S. Departments of State and Commerce in a March public fact sheet, noting, “Chilean sea bass is gaining a popular following now that it is offered in many restaurants and supermarkets.” In fact, it was the Bon Appetit “Dish of the Year” for 2001.
So why the fuss? It’s all because of a Greenpeace-backed effort to convince consumers that it’s bad to eat sea bass. The campaign mirrors the “Give Swordfish a Break” effort of a few years ago that sought to eliminate swordfish as a restaurant choice. Promoted by SeaWeb, that campaign claimed “victory” in 2000, although its failure to change global fishing patterns even slightly indicates that the whole exercise was a PR stunt. SeaWeb executive director Vikki Spruill has admitted that swordfish was chosen as her group’s poster-fish because it would capture the public’s imagination, not because it was actually in any danger.