In the late 1970s, an American fish seller working in Chile renamed the Patagonian toothfish the Chilean sea bass. In the years that followed, a fish that was traditionally considered a "bycatch" species -- one not expressly targeted by fishermen -- became the most lucrative species caught in the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic waters.
Today, the U.S. imports about 11,000 tons annually of fresh and frozen Chilean sea bass, which has meaty white flesh and is high in heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids.
But although the Chilean sea bass moniker stuck, the name for this predatory, deep-sea fish hasn't been accepted by federal agencies, including the Commerce Department's National Fisheries Service. On a Chilean Sea Bass fact sheet, it notes that the Patagonian toothfish "is not really a bass and is not always caught in Chilean waters," and is a different species than sea bass in this country. Much of it comes from Antarctic waters -- where it's technically the Antarctic toothfish -- and is then frozen and shipped.
This deep-sea perch, characterized by rough scales and red skin that turns bright orange once it's caught, goes by the scientific name Hoplostethus atlanticus.
Originally named slimehead after it was discovered in 1957 off the coast of New Zealand, it didn't have many fans. But after a 1979 name change to orange roughy, it became popular -- so much so that several marine conservation groups now have categorized it as vulnerable to overfishing.
By various accounts, including that of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, members of this species live 100 years or more.
By the time this slow-grower is caught in cold, deep waters, the fish often is 30 or more years old. And it's a late-bloomer socially; it doesn't start reproducing until it's 30.
Speaking of fish, there's currently another re-naming effort afoot. Great Lakes states including Illinois are hoping a name change will drive a market for the Asian carp, a non-native species introduced by catfish farmers in the Mississippi River basin to control algae growth. But the fish escaped, and as of late they have invaded the Illinois River and threaten the Great Lakes.
The state of Louisiana is promoting Asian carp as the silverfin. Over in Kentucky, it's being called "Kentucky Tuna." Stay tuned.