Māori Name: marari
Name Scientific: Odax pullus
Availability: Year round
Attributes Weight: 1–1.5kg, up to 2.5kg
Attributes Length: 30–50cm, reaching 70cm
They are found only around the New Zealand coast, and are widespread, feeding on kelp beds over shallow rocky outcrops. They are rarely found at depths greater than 15 metres. Butterfish are more abundant south of East Cape, especially around Cook Strait.
Body colour varies according to size and sex. Young fish are golden-bronze with broken white, mid-body stripes. Adults are brown to olive green. Breeding males are bright blue with a light blue stripe on the head. The largest fish are dark blue-black when pulled from the water. The body is streamlined and plump with large anal and dorsal fins, a pointed head, and a small mouth.
Butterfish are also called Greenbone because their bones have a greenish tinge. Butterfish belong to the Odacidae family (butterfishes). Butterfish are not related to the Warehou species of the Centrolophidae family, which are also called Butterfish in Japan and other countries.
The small fish are females that do not change sex until they reach 35-40 centimetres in length. Males establish territories and pair with several females. Spawning takes place from late winter to early summer.
The main butterfish fishery is centred on Cook Strait, between Tasman Bay, Castlepoint and Kaikoura; a smaller fishery is located around Stewart Island. Butterfish were introduced into the Quota Management System in 2002. Butterfish are targeted commercially by set nets in shallow coastal waters, principally around the kelp beds they feed.
Butterfish are caught commercially year-round in set nets.
Did You Know
Butterfish start life and mature as females, with brown to green colouring. As they grow older, they turn into males and become dark blue-black.
Butterfish are prized for their very clean, delicate flavour, translucent flesh and ability to flake well. This fish is also wonderfully tender and moist when cooked, hence the 'butteriness' they are attributed with. Try butterfish baked; marinated; poached; smoked; grilled; or fried.
When buying whole butterfish, always check the... EYES: Bright and clear cornea, shiny black pupil GILLS: Rosy pink pastel coloured gills SKIN: Bright, with a luminous sheen When buying butterfish fillets, always check the... FLESH: semi-transparent and glossy If the fish looks sticky or mushy then it is not fresh.