A slimehead by any other name…

by Tara Kimura, CBCNews.ca

Diners aren't likely to find on the dinner menu whore's eggs or slimehead – monikers long abandoned and replaced with the more appetizing spicy sea urchin and orange roughy.

The rebranding of fish is part of a larger movement that masks the overfishing of certain species, according to Jennifer Jacquet, a PhD student at the University of British Columbia.

"Back in the late 70s or early 80s the U.S. government, for instance, actually invested millions of dollars into renaming fish species," Jacquet on Tuesday told CBC Radio's As It Happens.

"As we overfish stocks like cod and pollack, the things that we really want to eat, we've moved into fishing for things like slimeheads and sablefish and dogfish and so we've had to think of names that sound more palatable," she said.

For example, the dogfish has been renamed rock salmon, the oilfish is now known as blue cod and the sablefish is now listed as black cod. In the early 1990s, the Patagonian toothfish made its way onto dinner plates as the Chilean sea bass. Stocks of the fish were significantly depleted by the late 1990s.

Jacquet notes that in some cases, the renaming is not simply about rebranding but is an attempt to sidestep guidelines.

"The renaming does subvert some attempts at regulation — 30 to 50 per cent of Patagonian toothfish that enters Canada illegally comes in because it's labelled as sea bass and it's mislabelled with the wrong customs code," Jacquet said. "This is reason to demand that we use scientific names especially in trade because it's the one thing we can rely on."