Took a road trip last week to visit with the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance in the iconic fishing village of Chatham, Massachusetts. Wind blown rain fell on Chatham’s fishing pier, as harbor seals frolicked at the dock. Seal populations have boomed over the past few years, and so has the territorial Atlantic Great White Shark. Researchers have individually identified more than 100 Great Whites having set up housekeeping in surrounding waters.
We met with fishermen whose fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers made their living catching cod. Atlantic Cod, overfished for years, was on the road to recovery when rising water temperatures caused their migration north. Now when they fish off the Cape, the waters teem with Atlantic Spiny Dogfish. Captain Luther Bates runs the F/V Singularity out of Chatham and tells that he can land his 5000 pound trip limit in 3 hours. If only there was a good market for dogfish.
We are working with Chatham fishermen to develop a domestic dogfish market. Currently their entire catch ends up crossing the Atlantic at very low prices to become fish and chips in UK pubs. Some say the name dogfish hurts, but people love catfish. We say that once folks understand that dogfish are so abundant that they are MSC certified, that they are healthy and delicious, that they support traditional fishing communities, and that they are a high quality protein at a low price, they will want dogfish. Our job is to spread the good word.
As U.S. fisheries management continues to improve, it not only helps fish but also fishermen. Before catch shares, fishing seasons were increasingly shortened until fishermen were forced to race against each other in 24 hour derbies—often risking their lives and their equipment. Catch shares eliminate the race to fish. Instead of fishing in a derby, fishermen can time their trips to the best market and weather conditions. After the new rules were put in place, fishermen were given a total number of fish they could catch, rather than being constrained by a short time window. The catch share program is part of the reason why the Coast Guard reported zero operational related commercial fishing fatalities in Alaska in Fiscal Year 2015.
One of the top trends according to the National Restaurant Association’s annual “What’s Hot 2016 Culinary Forecast” is sustainable seafood, especially underappreciated species. “We see this trend continue to gain strong momentum,” says Linda Cornish, executive director of Seafood Nutrition Partnership. Colorado-based The Kitchen Group, which operates eight restaurants, sources only sustainable seafood, including many underutilized species or “trash” fish. “The whole premise is that the ocean is a big place and fishermen can fish for whatever they want. They also get a lot of things that have no value to them, and they don’t have restaurants where they can go that know how to serve [trash fish],” said Kyle Mendenhall, executive chef of The Kitchen who sources from Sea to Table. Underloved species not only provide sustainable, healthy, and delicious choices for diners, but are a winner for the wallets of both fishermen and chefs.
Last week was Sockeye Restaurant Week, as many chefs showed their support for American fishing communities, wild and sustainable seafood, and the pristine environment of Bristol Bay. Among the participants were our friends at EVOO in Cambridge MA, The Kitchen in Chicago, NYC’s Dig Inn, and Smith College in Northhampton, MA. Congrats to all.
All the best,
from the Dimin Family and the Sea to Table team