What's in a name?   

A name is more than what we call each other and use to label objects and places. A name includes perceptions, experiences and emotions. The definition of a name has been contested and theorized for ages and I'm not going to join that battle today. I just never imagined how difficult it was to "name" a fish in the seafood market. The best example of how difficult a name can be is with the Yellowtail Amberjack... Or is it Buri?... Or Kingfish?

One of my favourite fish to eat as sashimi is the wild NZ Yellowtail Amberjack. This fish has very sweet flavour with firm yet buttery texture. Though this fish speaks for itself, selling it has been an interesting challenge because of all of the names associated with it. The Yellowtail Amberjack (Seriola lalandi) is found in the Pacific and Indian Ocean.

Since we source ours from New Zealand, Kingfish and Yellowtail are the commonly used names. Yellowtail is also farmed out of Australia as Yellowtail Kingfish. In the U.S., this fish is called Amberjack. However, Kingfish is also the common name for King Mackerel in Eastern North America. The Japanese names for Yellowtail are Hiramasa and Buri. Here's where it gets fun...

Buri is a shared name with Japanese Amberjack (Yellowtail/ Seriola quinqueradiata). Buri has different names depending on the size or age of the fish and area it is served, such as Osaka or Tokyo (Western or Eastern Japan). 6 month old fish are called wakashi or tsubasu; 1 year old fish are called inada or hamachi; 3 year old fish are called warasa or mejiro; and 4 years or older is called buri. Once you get your head around that, yellowtail is heavily farmed in Japan and the farmed version is called Hamachi. Then there's also Kanpachi and Kampachi which are also Yellowtail or Amberjack. Kanpachi is from Japan and Kampachi is a farmed Hawaiian yellowtail. Though the kanpachi is a different fish (Seriola rivoliana), it often gets mixed up in this confusing mess of fish names and what "Hamachi" really is... I think that's all of them.

My challenge here is what I call my product. It's difficult to call it one thing that doesn't tie in with another fish. For example, you may ask what's the harm of calling it Hamachi? Hamachi is a really popular fish so why not piggy-back on its success? Simply put, we have a different fish with different tastes, catch methods and quality standards. We don't want to lose product recognition or the message behind going through the trouble of bringing a wild and proven sustainable option. Not only that, if we sold the Yellowtail as Hamachi or "Wild Hamachi", it may raise the question of whether or not Hamachi is farmed, but for some it will push the false belief that Hamachi is always wild.

Other examples of this issue is naming a fish snapper. Snapper is not the most sustainable fish. The NZ Red Sea Bream is commonly known as Snapper in New Zealand. When Captain Cook discovered New Zealand, he called the bream a snapper and the name stuck. In reality those fish aren't related at all. The list of confusing names goes on and on, including Monkfish (is it angler fish or stargazer?), Snapper (is it bream, rockfish or perch?), and even Steelhead (is it trout or salmon?)To avoid confusing situations such as this and to maintain product integrity, we need to be thinking carefully about what we name our fish.