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DIVE DRY WITH DR. BILL #835: FISH MISNOMERS

Discussion in 'California' started by drbill, Nov 6, 2019.

  1. drbill

    drbill The Lorax for the Kelp Forest Scuba Legend

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    DIVE DRY WITH DR. BILL #835: FISH MISNOMERS

    Those of you who read my column regularly as a sure cure for insomnia know that I am on a campaign to get people to call the giant "sea bass" what it really is... a wreckfish (family Polyprionidae). I'm making small in-roads but too many continue to call it a "sea bass" even though it's not a member of that family (Serranidae).

    Now I don't always agree with those who apply political "correctness" to marine critters. I think most people know that a sea horse is not a horse and starfish and jellyfish are not fish. However, I do think it is appropriate to use biologically correct names for fish.

    I've decided to extend my efforts to get people to call fish by their proper names. No, not Mary, Ted, Sue or Bob... but something consistent with what they really are. The phrase sea bass is too often used improperly and for various reasons. Marketing types chose to refer to the Chilean sea bass since it sounds tastier than its true name, Patagonian toothfish, which is in the family Nototheniidae.

    Another local example is the white sea bass. It, too, isn't in the sea bass family but in the croaker family Sciaenidae. It would still taste as good if it were called a giant white croaker, but somehow many didn't think so. Yet another example of commercial mislabeling?

    A slightly less obvious misnomer is the jack mackerel. It is not a member of the mackerel family (Scombridae) at all, but it is in the jack family (Carangidae). At least they got that one half right. I'm okay with calling a treefish by that name since most people can easily tell the difference between them and an oak. Anyone who has taken high school biology can probably tell that frogfish are not related to the thing in your dissection pan. They are members of the anglerfish family (Antennariidae). And I could go on about catfish, dogfish, lionfish, trumpetfish, cornetfish and butterflyfish but I'll spare you that diatribe.

    I wouldn't expect a blacksmith to be hammering out a sword or shoeing a horse since they are really members of the damselfish family (Pomacentridae). It does seem inappropriate to refer to the cigar-shaped wrasse in our waters as a señorita since a healthy percentage of them must be señors! Likewise those who refer to California scorpionfish as sculpin are off base. They are members of the scorpionfish family (Scorpaenidae) rather than the sculpin family (Cottidae).

    All of these are misnomers, names that are incorrectly applied to a critter. Now some of these are due to changes in our knowledge of a species, often due to new information provided by molecular biology. DNA is a much better way to classify a critter than anatomy. :ppk at the many examples of convergent evolution where species from completely different families evolve to look quite similar. Some are due to deceptive marketing, changing the name of a fish to make it more palatable.

    And really egregious examples of this are when distributors and fish markets intentionally mislabel a fish to promote sales. For example labeling mako shark as swordfish. The FDA is little help in all this as they allow many unrelated fish species to be marketed as sea bass, grouper, snapper or rockfish.


    © 2019 Dr. Bill Bushing. For the entire archived set of over 800 "Dive Dry" columns, visit my website Star Thrower Educational Multimedia (S.T.E.M.) Home Page

    Image caption: School of jack "mackerel" and head of white "sea bass;" California scorpionfish (NOT a sculpin) and blacksmith without its hammer and forge.
    DDDB 835 fish misnomers sm.jpg
     
    Bob DBF, MaxBottomtime and markmud like this.
  2. markmud

    markmud Self Reliant Diver--On All Dives. ScubaBoard Supporter

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    Hi Dr. Bill,

    I enjoyed your article. And I agree; however, I don't have the knowledge base that you have top of mind.

    I love to ask a wait person who offers "mahi-mahi" in a Florida restaurant (or the Caribbean, South Pacific, and etc): Was this mahi flown in from Hawaii? I know that dolphinfish (aka: dorado, or mahi-mahi) roam the world's tropical oceans. I assume they are the same fish, in genetic terms.

    I have caught and eaten swordfish and mako shark. The flesh appears similar and tastes somewhat similar--the texture is a little different and I think the mako has a stronger fish flavor. After all, mako are what they eat, and I understand they hunt swordfish.

    Please correct my uneducated feelings about these topics. I can't wait!

    thanks,
    markm
     
  3. kelemvor

    kelemvor Big Fleshy Monster ScubaBoard Supporter

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    Mahi-Mahi and jewfish both come to mind...
     
    markmud likes this.
  4. MaxBottomtime

    MaxBottomtime Divemaster

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    I've always been amazed at the number of terrestrial animals we have in the ocean. We've got tigers, leopards, lions, and even water bears!
     
    drbill likes this.
  5. drbill

    drbill The Lorax for the Kelp Forest Scuba Legend

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    I have never eaten mako myself but enjoy the occasional swordfish (fresh off the boat) so I can't say from personal experience
     
    markmud likes this.
  6. drbill

    drbill The Lorax for the Kelp Forest Scuba Legend

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: Santa Catalina Island, CA
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    My understanding is that the name jewfish comes from the fact that groupers (and other sea bass?) are considered kosher. It apparently was not a pejorative
     
    markmud likes this.

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