Selected tags: black sea bass

‘Fish on Fridays’: Black Sea Bass, Virginia Beach Style

Black Sea Bass

Black Sea Bass

If you’ve been to an upscale Manhattan seafood restaurant, chances are you’ve seen Black Sea Bass on the menu. New York chefs drive the bulk of the demand for this tasty Atlantic fish, but you don’t have to be a fancy New York City chef to put Black Sea Bass on the table.  Sea bass fished off the coast of Virginia, Maryland and Delaware is caught sustainably under a catch share program which ensures that catch limits are not exceeded and fish populations can maintain healthy numbers. It is important to note, however, that not all sea bass caught on the Atlantic coast is sustainably managed, so it is best to ask your chef or seafood vendor where the fish was caught to ensure you are supporting fishermen who are fishing sustainably.

This week’s ‘Fish on Fridays’ post features VA black sea bass, currently managed under an ITQ system. Jack Stallings and his partner at Virginia Beach’s Coastal Grill have shared their technique for frying sea bass whole and serving it with scallion butter.

Meet a fisherman and restaurant owner: Jack Stallings

Stallings has been a commercial, hook and line Black Sea Bass fisherman for years. He remembers fishing for it long before it was under Virginia’s IFQ (catch share) program, when the competition was fierce and fishermen were restricted to quarterly quotas that glutted the market and lowered the price they’d get for their catch. Once the IFQ went into effect in 2004, he said, he could pick and choose when to fish, going out when he knew demand (and prices) would be highest, and when he was sure the fish would be biting.

“We know when the trawlers are catching a lot of fish and when they’d be landing,” he said. “We can work in between their landings. We know when prices are low, so we can save our quota for other times, when prices are higher.”

But Stallings doesn’t fish as much as he used to. Now that he’s 65 and semi-retired, he spends more of his time focused on the restaurant he co-owns. Black Sea Bass is only one of many species they cook up for their customers; he’s quick to note that it’s more popular in New York than it is in Virginia Beach.


Black Sea Bass:

One of four species jointly managed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, Black Sea Bass can be fished year round, though it is harder to catch during the summer spawning months. It is a flaky, white fish when cooked that is used in chowder, fried, grilled or stuffed. It can be found near the rocky bottom of the ocean and has stiff dorsal fins that should be handled with care. Stallings said his restaurant serves it with the fins still on.


Fried Black Sea Bass at Coastal Grill


Whole fresh black sea bass

Corn starch

Scallion Butter:

3 Fresh scallions, chopped

1 stick butter, melted

1 teaspoon vegetable oil



For the scallion butter:

Sauté the scallions in vegetable oil. Add to the melted butter.


For the fish:

Scale, gut and remove the gills from the fish. Leave on the head, the tail and the fins.

Make three vertical cuts in each side of the fish to allow it to cook evenly. Then roll in corn starch. Shake it by the tail to remove excess starch, and then, still holding it by the tail, dip it into a fryer “for as long as you dare,” or about five seconds. This makes the fins stand out.

Then “turn it loose” into the fryer and cook for three to four minutes. Remove from fryer, let it drain and set it on the plate.

Drizzle with scallion butter and serve.


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October Brings Even More Closures to the South Atlantic

 If you think the headlines about fishery closures in the South Atlantic are getting old, imagine being a fisherman in the region.  As these closures continue to pile up, they are looking at months off the water.

On October 8, 2012 the commercial black sea bass fishery will close for the year.  The fishery opened on July 1, 2012 after having eliminated half of its fishermen – many who had made serious investments in gear and relied on black sea bass for many years.  This was a result of a fishery management tool called “endorsements” implemented by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council.

Endorsements eliminate fishermen from a specific fishery to handle overfishing by setting a minimum average of pounds of fish that fishermen must have caught in the past to receive an “endorsement” to fish for that species in the 2012 season. The unfortunate truth about endorsements is that conservation-practicing fishermen who fish with less gear, catch less fish, and are paid a higher price for their quality fish are forced out of the fishery in favor of those who use more gear, catch more fish, and flood the market with lower quality fish.

In South Carolina this program eliminated 80 percent of the fishermen who had previously been trapping sea bass. It hurt fishing families throughout the region, and especially in the Carolinas – where in some fishing towns, not a single fisherman received an endorsement.  To make this hardship worse, after all of that, this year’s season only lasted 55 days longer than the previous year.

Fishermen are willing to sacrifice to ensure the long-term sustainability of the fish, but a program that results in blanket removal of fisherman, without any hope for a future stake in the fishery, isn’t good policy.

More closures are coming for fishermen in this region and the question of how long they can hang on is getting harder to answer.  The outdated command and control management isn’t working for the stocks and isn’t working for the fishermen.  They deserve better. Read More »

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Fishermen Face Uncertainty as Valuable Fishing Seasons Cut Short

Catch shares could extend seasons, bring back fish  

These vermilion snapper were landed in Murrels Inlet, SC in late August 2010.

The National Marine Fisheries Service is closing two valuable commercial fishing seasons in the Southeast on Oct. 6 and 7: vermilion snapper and black sea bass, respectively. 

With so many restrictions already placed on commercial fishing in recent years, fishermen are forced to compete with other fishermen to catch vermillion snapper and black sea bass as fast as possible before the catch limits are met and seasons closed. For several years, the limits have been met faster and seasons closed earlier. Once the seasons close, there will be few other valuable fish to catch for the rest of the year. 

These closures are not an accident. They’ve been happening consistently throughout the region for several years, due to outdated fishing rules and lower limits of fish to catch.

  • Since 2008, the vermilion snapper commercial fishing season has decreased in length by nearly 50%, allowing just 6 months of fishing this year.
  • Since 2006, the black sea bass commercial fishing season has decreased in length by more than 60%, allowing just under five months of fishing this year.
  • Since 2005, the golden tilefish commercial fishing season has decreased in length by more than 70%, allowing just over 3 months of fishing this year.
  • In 2009, there were no red snapper season restrictions, but this year fishing for red snapper has been banned the entire year.

This trend indicates that continued fishing under outdated rules could result in even more restrictions, causing further economic damage to the fishing industry and the communities it supports. Some fishermen have already gone out of business; those who are still in business often must go out in dangerous weather to fish before seasons close. Local fish can be hard to come by in the region.

There’s a better way to revitalize fish populations and get fishermen back on the water: catch shares.

Catch shares are the best solution for Southeast fisheries. Catch shares have proven results in fisheries around the world, they improve science through enhanced fishery monitoring and they eliminate the need for fishery closures.

Now is the time to move forward with better management: catch shares.

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