From fish to dish

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
12 April 2007, at 1:00am

US - Aquaculture is a $50 million industry in North Carolina that has been growing 9 percent to 15 percent a year for the past decade, said Tom Losordo, a biological engineering professor at N.C. State University. But most farmed fish are freshwater species.

Shooting fish in a barrel - easy. Raising them in one - definitely not, at least when black sea bass are concerned.

UNCW scientists celebrated their success in conquering that challenge Wednesday, dining on some of the first full commercial crop of black sea bass ever born in captivity and raised to market weight.

Paul Vroman, the chef at downtown's Tango du Chat, served the specimens cut into sushi and fried whole with avocado mint.

"I ate it raw last night and cooked in the morning," said Vroman, one of about 10 area chefs giving researchers feedback on the crop. "It's a beautiful fish."

Scientists at the University of North Carolina Wilmington hope that's a sentiment shared in kitchens across the country as they explore demand for the farm-raised fish and for the trade secrets developed to grow them.

The wild black sea bass market is about a $1.5 million a year industry, said project leader and marine science professor Wade Watanabe, who has been working on raising black sea bass for nearly a decade. The fish are found in waters from North Carolina to New England and are popular in Chinese cuisine.

"It could be real profitable," Watanabe said. "We think the fish has the potential to become a very popular seafood product."