(Corrects company name from Paiche Amazone to Amazone)
By Caroline Stauffer
LIMA Feb 6 Move over Chilean sea bass,
Peruvians are raising a giant Amazon fish and sending it abroad
to answer growing cries for sustainable seafood in haute
Farm-raised, fresh-water Paiche have journeyed from the
murky Amazon to restaurants in cities from Houston to Paris. The
low-fat, mercury-free white fish may soon be available at select
U.S. grocery stores.
Paiche, which at up to 220 pounds (100 kgs) is one of the
world's largest fish, fed spear-fishing indigenous peoples for
centuries. But their numbers dwindled when nets were introduced
in the Amazon and the region's cities grew and developed.
Amazone, a company backed by Peruvian mining and cement
conglomerate the Hochschild Group, hopes to save the species
from extinction by breeding organic, farm-raised fish for export
and releasing some back into the wild.
"What really got me most interested was the effort to try to
control the commercial fishing of an endangered species," said
Jose Duarte, chef at the Italian Peruvian restaurant Taranta in
"It's a really good fish ... it's almost like a sea bass
with a better texture," said Duarte, who was preparing a daily
special of pan-seared Paiche with panca peppers and scalloped
The Monterey Bay Aquarium has listed Chilean sea bass, also
known as Patagonian toothfish, as a fish to avoid because of
unsustainable fishing practices and potentially high levels of
Amazone is not yet profitable. It expects to export $3
million worth of frozen Paiche this year, up from $500,000 sold
in 2011, when the fish first hit global markets.
Paiche, a carnivorous, air-breathing giant also known as
Arapaima, can be cut into generous, bone-free fillets. Chefs say
it is easy to sear and very difficult to burn due to its high
Restaurants such as Robert at the Museum of Art and Design
in New York, Area 31 in Miami and Latin Bites in Houston now
serve Amazone's Paiche. It is also sold in Spain, France and
"The idea is to have a supply for global gourmet markets,"
said Isaac Gherson, CEO of Amazone. "We don't want Paiche to
become a type of commodity -- that would mean exploiting the
Paiche is also earning a place in Lima, an emerging culinary
capital, where celebrity chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino grills
Paiche steaks and marinates the fish with lime to make ceviche,
a Peruvian staple, at his upscale Malabar restaurant.
Amazone sells the fish in the United States through
ArtisanFish, a Florida-based wholesaler that markets
hormone-free, premium seafood with the goal of protecting the
ArtisanFish has negotiated an agreement to sell Paiche in a
U.S. retail chain, said founder Adrian Burstein. He declined to
name the retailer due to contract provisions but believes Paiche
will have a growing presence in U.S. cuisine.
"It was hard to replace Chilean sea bass with an alternative
that has similar qualities but is truly sustainable," said
Burstein. "Now you have an option -- Paiche is that option."
(Reporting By Caroline Stauffer; editing by Patricia Reaney)