Glacier 51 toothfish – Great on the tooth!

February 11, 2014

The last of our 2013 blog posts is from a different point of view and comes from the December issue of Afloat magazine and was pieced by David Lockwood.  See below:

One of the joys of angling is the eating.  Fish you have caught, cleaned and cooked yourself taste better.  But there are some species that are out of reach.  Take the Patagonian toothfish.

If you havent tried the toothfish you are missing out.  The toothfish is amazing on the palate.  I know this after buying a modest steak from my local fishmonger on Thursday night.

The toothfish was being sold under the Glacier 51 brand and was caught by Austral Fisheries in Perth.  Displayed on ice, the toothfish fillet looked as white as snow and was partially frozen.  The fish are caught and processed snappily on dedicated factory ships.

For every tonne landed, Austral has to tag and release one toothfish for research purposes.  Some 2000 toothfish are tagged each year.  You can do the maths to determine the size of the annual catch.  Curiously, the fish has no swim bladder, so they happily swim away after being retrieved from great depths.  The fish is caught anywhere from 50 metres to more than 3km under the sea from 1-4 degree water.  This provides clues to its quality.

Austral uses trawling to catch the smaller specimens, but trapping and long-lining to land the big lunkers.  The toothfish can weigh up to 100kg but are more common around 10kg.

The catch is the price.  My fishmonger was selling the toothfish for $97 a kilo and my fish steak cost $20 on the knocker.  It was about the size of a decent piece of wagyu and the toothfish is akin to a piscatorial version of that prized, fatty marbled meat.

The oil content in the toothfish was just out of this world.  I dry cooked my seasoned steak on a barbecue hotplate and it was soon sizzling in its own fat.  However, unlike a lot of fatty fish, its flavour was mild and scrumptious.  The large white flakes melted in my mouth and the fish needed no fancy adornments at all.

Pirating of Patagonian toothfish was once rife in Australian waters around Heard Island. Today, consumers can take comfort from the fact the fishery is well managed. It has Marine Stewardship Council accreditation and is deemed sustainable, a good thing as the toothfish is long lived.

Given that the fishery is more than 4000km and a weeks steaming from mainland Australia, we hapless anglers are never going to land a toothfish. But the fish is making its mark in Sydney.  Go try it.  With all that omega-3, it has to be one of the healthiest fish in the sea.

A gourmet treat.