What Fish Is Chilean Sea Bass?

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In recent times, the Chilean sea bass has gained a lot of popularity, with its increasing appearance on the menus of several high-end restaurants. This has caused some confusion as to what type of fish it is. So, what fish is Chilean sea bass?

What Fish Is Chilean Sea Bass?

Despite its name, this bass species is not a type of sea bass. It actually belongs to a deep-water species of fish known as the toothfish and its real name is the Patagonian toothfish. It can be caught in the cold, deep waters of the Southern Hemisphere oceans. They can survive in temperatures of 34 to 39 degrees Fahrenheit around depths of between 150 and 12,600 feet.

Over time, the term “sea bass” has been used generically as a classification for quite a number of marine fish species. Oftentimes, most of these marine fish species are well categorized. However, there are species like this bass that do not actually fall into the category.

A person wearing a blue jacket and denim pants is holding with their two hands a fresh fish in the river

Where Does the Chilean Bass Get Its Name?

It was Lee Lantz, an ambitious fish importer in the United States, who came up with the name in 1977 on the off chance that diners would be more interested in a filet of sea bass than a filet of toothfish.

It turned out that Lantz’s suspicion was true, and once consumers were convinced to give it a try, its robust flavor and adaptability quickly established it as a fan favorite.

What Does the Species Look Like?

To identify this bass species, you only have to look out for certain features like its length, head structure, as well some other distinct features. Here are some features to note:

  • The Patagonian toothfish has a sleek, spindle-shaped body that is 5 to 6.4 times its length
  • Its head is flattened with a large, flat space between its eyes 
  • Its mouth extends past the eye’s center
  • Its outer upper jaw teeth are bigger and canine-like, while its lower jaw canines are more spaced
  • At the upper-lower jaw joint, it has additional canine-like teeth

Where Can You Find This Bass?

The Patagonian toothfish inhabits the oceans to the east and west of the equator. It can also be found along the coastal areas of southern Chile, all the way to Patagonia in Argentina and the Falkland Islands. The fish take their time maturing in the cold water, reaching maturity at around 7 years of age, then begin migrating into deeper waters.

This bass can reach lengths of 6.6 feet and body masses of 110 pounds or more. They have been documented to live to be 50 years old, while the average lifespan is closer to 35. The strong teeth that the dark (nearly black) fish utilizes to seek its prey are another distinguishing feature.

They are largely piscivorous as juveniles, eating whatever is most available and of appropriate size in their environment. These bass fish scavenge on fish, squid, and crustaceans as they become larger and their habitat becomes deeper.

What Makes This Bass Famous?

The soft, flaky texture and rich, buttery flavor of this bass has earned it comparisons to cod. Moreover, it goes well with a wide variety of seasonings and sauces, making it a very adaptable fish.

As a result of its rising popularity, especially after it was featured in the Jurassic Park movie, this bass species nearly fished to extinction in the 90s. This prompted the “Take a pass on Chilean Sea Bass” campaign, in which restaurants and restaurant patrons decided to forego serving the delicacy in order to let stocks recover.

This fish is back on restaurant menus these days because of more environmentally friendly fishing methods. However, it is still considered vulnerable and is unlikely to be sold in stores anytime soon.

A silver and black fish with green leaves on top of crushed ice was placed on top of a white container in a marketplace

Why Is This Bass So Expensive?

The flavor and versatility of this fish is the primary reason it is a popular choice. Costing about $30 a pound, it is quite pricey when compared to other white fish on the market.

The supply chain’s difficulty might be another factor influencing its price as these bass fisheries are often far from the shore.

Related Questions

Is This Bass Species Healthy?

As with most white fish, the sea bass is nutritious, low-calorie, and high in protein, selenium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. Low in fat, they have omega-3 fatty acids. this kind of bass fish also contains mercury. This is why the Environmental Defense Fund recommends that individuals should not eat more than two servings a month.

Is There Any Difference Between Sea Bass and Chilean Bass?

This bass species and common bass found in the sea are separate species of fish. They come from two distinct families. The latter typically gets a lot bigger, heavier, and live longer in deeper parts of the ocean when compared to bass found in the sea.


At this point, you can tell that this bass species is very different from the common bass found on the shore or the sea. The Chilean bass is a toothfish, unlike the common version that includes fish species like the black, white, and European seabass.