Opah, also known as moonfish, is a warm-blooded fish that is found near Hawaii and the coast of California. Their large and dazzling disk-like bodies can be seen tagging along with schools of tuna, even though they are solitary swimmers by nature. They boast a lean yet fatty texture, and their various cuts taste uniquely distinct, making them versatile in different dishes.
Opah was thought to bring good luck to Hawaiian fishermen, but never highly sought after as a food source. They were caught, killed, and often discarded. A main fishing line with branching hooks that is used to catch tuna also captures opah as a byproduct. This technique of longline fishing, as well as, line and rod fishing are the more sustainable methods to catch opah, instead of net fishing techniques.
Tuna is a schooling fish and swim in close proximity to each other. Industry uses drawstring-like nets called “purse seines” and “gillnets” that encircle and seize the greatest amount of tuna for consumer sales. These two methods contribute to the wide decimation of various marine animals such as other species of fish, sea turtles, dolphin, and even whales. Because of the random endangerment from the use of these netting techniques, the biodiversity of the ocean is threatened.
Opahs are not consistently available because they do not school and are not fished in large
quantities. But when opah is offered at a restaurant or the market, opting for this fish shows
support for more sustainable line fishing methods. It rebuilds respect for this fish and shifts
pressure away from tuna. All fish, including opah, should be obtained from a reliable source,
prepared respectfully, and eaten conscientiously. Rather than discarding this dazzling moon-shaped gem of a fish, it should be enjoyed as a center dish on the dining table.