ARCTIC COALFISH (AKA Merlan or Arctic Pollock), a north Atlantic broad-flaked delicate fish popularized by world famous Chef Joel Robuchon is starting to gain popularity in the United States as an incredibly versatile species adaptable to a wide range of applications.
A member of the Cod family Merlan, or more commonly known as Coalfish or Arctic Pollock are a completely different species than the Pacific Pollock readily available in many markets. The fisheries for these species are very different as well - Pacific or Alaskan Pollock is harvested in one of the largest, most valuable industrial fisheries in the world, with landings averaging over 1 million tons. Trips on the Pacific Pollock fleets last weeks at a time where the majority of catches are frozen and then refreshed for commodity markets across the globe.
Arctic Coalfish from Iceland on the other hand is harvested by the Eggertsson Brothers fleet of artisan day trip vessels capable of only a few hours at sea. The nature of the smaller vessels and limited fleet allows arrival of only for True Day Boat Catches, still in rigor mortis.
Supreme Lobster sources these magnificent animals exclusively from the small family fleet of vessels helmed by the Eggertsson Brothers of Húsavik, a historic fishing village on the northeast coast located opposite of the capital of Reykjavik. Tracing their lineage back to the first Viking settlers of Iceland, The Eggertsson Brothers (Ragnar, Björn, Gunner) and their artisan fleet are masters in the art of hunting these northern Arctic waters.
Pollock caught in the U.S. Georges Bank and U.S. Gulf of Maine or with set gillnets or set longlines in the Canadian Maritimes is a "Good Alternative." Pollock populations are healthy in the U.S., and the stock's status is unknown in the Canadian Maritimes. These fisheries also target Atlantic cod, which are severely depleted in the Atlantic. In addition, other species that are depleted, being overfished or potentially undergoing overfishing are caught. Overall management effectiveness has been mixed in the U.S. fisheries. While new measures have been put in place, at the time of Seafood Watch's assessment, it was too early to determine their effectiveness. Canadian management follows a precautionary approach, but more information is needed on many of the other species that are caught. Seafloor impacts are rated a moderate concern because managers employ a number of mitigation measures such as area closures and requiring some gear restrictions or modifications. In the U.S., managers are developing measures to protect the ecosystem.
Pollock caught in the Canada Maritimes with bottom trawls is on the "Avoid" list rather than a "Good Alternative" because bottom trawls have a greater impact on the seafloor compared to set fishing methods like gillnets and longlines.
The flesh of these beasts is a true culinary delight! With a succulently broad, toasted ivory-colored flake and delicately elegant texture, Arctic Coalfish is excellent for sous vide, pan, indirect fire roasting or steamed applications.