The sea bream is a hermaphrodite fish: male when it hatches from the egg, but female when it turns 3 years old. They produce eggs that they later release. This always happens in the high seas in April through May in the Bay of Biscay, and in November through December in the Atlantic. The eggs hatch after 3 days and the fry manage to grow on their own.
The young sea bream live together in schools, while the adults prefer to live on their own, following their habits and their routes, feeding on small mollusks and crustaceans.
The French word dorade is related to the Spanish word dorada, which comes from the Latin aurata (golden) The scientific name for gilthead bream is Spanus aurata.
Gilthead bream farming began in the 1970s, and was perfected in Italy where a breakthrough was made in artificial reproduction ten years later. Italy, Spain, Greece, and France are the leading producers.
The exact name of the fish and its origins must be marked on boxes and labels. This prevents any confusion between wild and farmed sea bream.
Whatever the kind of bream, it should have a good sea smell, solid scales, red or pink gills, and eyes that should not be sunk into their sockets. The belly should be intact if it has not been cleaned.
The minimum size for a gilthead bream in Europe is 20 cm if captured in the Mediterranean, and 25 cm if from the Atlantic.
Black sea bream must have a minimum size of 23 cm, whether from the Mediterranean or the Atlantic.
The pink sea bream must have a minimum size of 33 cm if from the Mediterranean, but there is no set size for Atlantic fish.
There are organic gilthead bream farms.
Farmed sea bream can be found frozen, generally whole as small fish or in fillets.
Sea bream should be cleaned before use. It should also be scaled and trimmed, unless it is to be cooked in a salt crust.
If it is to be filleted, the bones can be kept for stock.
Freshly caught sea bream can be eaten raw, as tartar, or carpaccio. It is one of the most popular fish for sashimi in Japan.
It can be poached, baked – stuffed or otherwise – and broiled.
They can be stored in a refrigerator or cool room at 1–4ºC in their box or paper wrapping.
All sea bream contain plenty of protein and very little fat. Like all fish, they are high in B-group vitamins and minerals.
. Black sea bream
Silver-gray, this is the most common variety of sea bream. Its flesh is white and delicate, but a little soft. The average size is 25–40 cm. It is captured throughout the year in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, but the best season is January through May.
. Pink sea bream
Reddish brown in color, the pink sea bream has a black spot over its gills. Its flesh is firm and fragrant. Its average size is 30–50 cm. It is caught throughout the year in the Bay of Biscay, the Mediterranean, and in the waters off Mauretania and along the African coast.
. Gold lined sea bream
Silver-gray with relatively dark pink highlights in its back, and blue spots on its flanks, it measured 15–60 cm depending on its age, and can weigh up to 6 kg. Captured throughout the year in the Mediterranean and the East and West Atlantic.
. Common pandora
Dark pink, this variety is distinguished by a black spot at the base if its pectoral fins. Its flesh is good, but more insipid than that of the pink sea bream. It is mainly captured in the Bay of Biscay and in the Mediterranean, particularly in September through November.
. Gilthead bream
A close relative of the pink sea bream, this fish is distinguished by a golden stripe edged in black between its eyes that resembles a crown. This is where the French term royale comes from.
. Wild, it is captured from May through October in the Mediterranean and the Bay of Biscay. Its average size is 20–50 cm.
. Farmed, it is reared throughout the year, and generally well reared, particularly as "portion" size fish of 300–500 g, or as larger fish up to 1 kg in weight.
. Mahi-Mahi or common dolphinfish
This is a different family of fish but it is also known as dorade in French. This is much bigger than sea bream, growing to 1 m in size, and lives in warm tropical seas, although it is more often found in the Mediterranean and in the South Atlantic.