Darren Lovell, chef and owner, Fishbone Bar and Grill.

Orange roughy is on the menu at Queenstown's famed Fishbone this week.

The prized deep sea fish is one of the most popular menu choices at the restaurant recognised by Cuisine magazine this week as one of the country's best.

Fishbone was awarded a prized Hat, New Zealand's version of the Michelin stars.

Owner-operator and head chef Darren Lovell has become a staunch advocate for this country's rich seafood and the sustainability credentials that underpin it.

Yet, for many years he refused to sell roughy, taken in by the Greenpeace line that the species was the poster child for unsustainable fishing.

It was only when he was asked last May to present at the inaugural ConversatioNZ event, aimed at putting this country's food on the world map, that he became a seafood industry convert.

He was asked to present on sustainable seafood and thought he had drawn the short straw.

He looked at Forest & Bird's "good fish" guide and saw just about everything was rated red or orange and therefore should be avoided in their view. 

"I'm allowed to serve mussels and sardines according to them and that's about it," he said. "I wondered if I should even have a seafood restaurant."

Darren began independent research and came to the conclusion New Zealand's Quota Management System was world leading, that it was doing a great job in ensuring sustainable fisheries and there was no call to feel guilty about eating fish.

He was so convinced he decided the QMS is  the "All Blacks of fisheries management".

"Fishing is far more sustainable than even organic farming and has far less impact on the environment. I had never looked at green, rolling hills and thought that ecosystem is totally destroyed and will never be regained.

"Fishing is dangerous work and I feel sorry for fishermen who are subject to a one-sided, unfair story."

Darren aims to have seven species of fish on the menu every night, sourced from Urwins at Bluff, Westfleet in Greymouth and Talley's.

This week, even with the bad weather that has kept southern boats in port and seen Queenstown blanketed in its heaviest snow of an unusually mild winter, he had nine delicious varieties on offer.

As well as orange roughy, dishes included blue cod, gurnard, flounder, salmon, tarakihi, squid, octopus and rock lobster.

The flavours are exquisite and innovative - whole squid is stuffed with ink risotto and the fish fillets are complemented with a croquette of shredded duck.

And Fishbone is the country's biggest restaurant seller of Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc that goes so well with seafood, although Darren is just as happy to serve a red wine.

In researching the seafood story he was encouraged by Listener food writer Lauraine Jacobs, who is also an advocate for our sustainable fishery.

In her August 6 Listener column she wrote: "It's a tough winter for recreational fishermen, with strong winds and rough seas limiting opportunities to dangle a line. Thank goodness for the fleets of commercial fishermen that set out in all weathers to bring home fish for our tables."

The diners at Fishbone and all the other restaurants around the country serving seafood clearly endorse that.

*Darren Lovell is a speaker at the Seafood New Zealand conference to be opened by Prime Minister John Key in Wellington on August 31. You can register here.