The sad little hoki fish inside your Filet-O-Fish sandwich


Though millions of you eat fish sticks, Filet-o-Fish sandwiches, and sushi made of this fish every month, it's a good bet you wouldn't be able to pick the hoki out of a creature-of-the-deep lineup; it's an even better bet you've never heard of the hoki, also known as the blue grenadier. So of course you don't know that the 200 million pounds of hoki -- about 50 million of the ugly little critters -- are at the center of a debate about sustainable fishery practices, a debate that illuminates the larger issue about what, exactly, makes an environmentally friendly fishery, and whether any fish can bear the enormous weight of our hunger.

You probably thought your fish sticks and fish sandwiches were made of cod, a whitefish that has had its ups and downs with sustainability (in 2006, for instance, scientists called for a complete ban on Atlantic cod fishing; but that same year, a "green" fishery off the coast of Alaska was granted a sustainability seal from the Marine Stewardship Council). Some of it still is, along with pollock and several other less well-known fish. According to Lisa McComb of McDonald's (MCD), of the approximately 100 million pounds of white fish the fast food chain makes into sandwiches each year, about 15 million is hoki. Gary Johnson told The New York Times recently that the quantity was dropping; to about 11 million pounds, 11 percent of the company's total fish purchasing.