Seafood industry rebranding 'trash fish'

PORTLAND, Maine -- Call them fish sticks for millennials. At any rate, Dana Bartholomew is banking on college students warming up to "Sharck Bites.

See Full Article

"

Ipswich Shellfish, of Massachusetts, for which Bartholomew oversees sales, is offering that product -- nuggets of dogfish coated in a gluten-free, allergen-friendly crust. Bartholomew, who believes so-called "trash fish" such as dogfish are part of the new wave in New England seafood, already has a couple of colleges on board.

Bartholomew's fondness for dogfish, a species East Coast fishermen catch millions of pounds of every year that sells for just pennies at the dock, is part of a growing trend in fish markets around the country. The industry is putting more emphasis on fish that have traditionally lacked market appeal or economic value as old staples -- such as cod, tuna, haddock and shrimp -- decline or become the subject of tougher fishing quotas.

"We know we have to make a great-tasting product that supports local fishermen, supports the local industry and economy," Bartholomew said. "And it's local -- it's right here."

New England's traditional food fish has long been the Atlantic cod, but it has faded in the face of overfishing and environmental changes. Restaurant owners, fishermen and food processing companies said a growing shift to other species is helping to fill that void. Catch of species such as spiny dogfish, Acadian redfish and scup have all increased dramatically since 10 years ago as cod has fallen.

The shift toward trash fish reflects a broader trend in U.S. seafood toward species that are more abundant. Florida fishing regulators, for instance, have incentivized the hunt for invasive lionfish, which many view as pests. Elsewhere, the Jonah crab has also found acceptance as an alternative to the West Coast's popular Dungeness crab.

The evolution of food from trash to delicacy goes back centuries. Many species have overcome an ugly name or gruesome appearance to grow in value. Lobster, for instance, was long ago regarded as food fit only for the lower classes.

Creating a market for underutilized fish species is important in New England today because of warming waters and corresponding changes in fish populations, said Melissa Bouchard, chef at the popular DiMillo's On The Water restaurant in Portland.

"We're trying to get the focus off of cod and haddock and Northern shrimp and bring to light all these species in the Gulf of Maine that are delicious and abundant," Bouchard said.

She served dogfish tacos at a festival in food-crazy Portland and they were well received, she said.

The movement toward trash fish is not without skeptics, some of whom point to sustainable harvesting programs for fish that already have broad market appeal. Ray Hilborn, a marine biologist with the University of Washington, said the push is unnecessary from a sustainability point of view.

"If they truly believe that traditional species are not sustainable, then they don't know much and have not looked very hard," Hilborn said. "There is plenty of cod, haddock, salmon, tuna and shrimp in the world that is sustainably harvested."

But Azure Cygler, a fisheries specialist with the Coastal Resources Center at the University of Rhode Island, said the shift toward what toward what she called "underloved" species is critical for sustaining fisheries and providing local protein sources in New England.

She pointed to the growth of scup, an Atlantic species sometimes sold as "porgy," which has grown from less than 3 million pounds in 2000 to more than 15 million pounds in 2014 and is now advertised by Whole Foods. The fish could be just a more attractive name away from a bigger breakthrough, she said.

She suggests "silver bass."

"If you demand it, it will happen," she said. "It's getting that demand, and then getting fishermen to bring it in. And changing our culinary culture."



Advertisements

Latest Economic News

  • Outgoing Sears Canada employees try to stop $7.6M in bonuses for execs

    Economic CTV News
    Former and current employees of Sears Canada have filed a legal motion in an attempt to stop dozens of company executives from splitting $7.6 million in retention bonuses while many laid-off workers miss out on severance payments. Source
  • Adidas to sell CCM to Toronto-based firm for $110 million US

    Economic CBC News
    German sportswear manufacturer Adidas has announced an agreement to sell its CCM hockey-equipment subsidiary to a Canadian firm for $110 million US. The multinational said Thursday it will sell CCM to Toronto-based Birch Hill Equity Partners, with the majority of the transaction to be paid in cash. Source
  • White House and congressional leaders scrap import-based tax

    Economic CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Trump administration officials and congressional leaders are no longer considering an import-based tax system to rewrite the tax code, which was welcomed by Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland. A border tax system had been contemplated to lower rates without blowing a hole in the American budget. Source
  • Amazon profit slumps 77% as costs surge, shares fall

    Economic CBC News
    (Reuters) Amazon.com Inc. reported a 77 per cent slump in quarterly profit as the company invests heavily in areas such as video content and in fast-growing economies such as India. The company's shares, already up nearly 41 per cent this year, were down 2.6 per cent at $1,019 US in after-hours trading on Thursday. Source
  • Starbucks to shutter all Teavana stores as sales disappoint

    Economic CTV News
    NEW YORK -- Starbucks plans to shutter all its Teavana stores as it seeks to improve its financial performance. The company said Thursday it will close all 379 Teavana locations over the coming year. Source
  • Liberals set up fast-track system for infrastructure bank approvals

    Economic CTV News
    OTTAWA -- The federal infrastructure bank is many months away from opening its doors, but Liberals have given a group of civil servants the power to help fast-track approval of projects for private funding well in advance. Source
  • Branson sells majority stake in Virgin Atlantic in broader tie-up

    Economic CTV News
    LONDON -- Richard Branson is selling his majority stake in Virgin Atlantic. The billionaire entrepreneur's Virgin group announced Thursday that he was selling a 31 per cent stake to Air France-KLM for 220 million pounds ($287 million). Source
  • U.S. Republican leaders announce end of border tax proposal

    Economic CBC News
    A Republican proposal in the House of Representatives to institute a border tax on imported items has been killed, party leaders said on Thursday, saying they did so as part of a tax overhaul deal struck between congressional and administration negotiators. Source
  • Twitter shares take beating as user growth stalls

    Economic CTV News
    Twitter shares took a pounding Thursday after the company reported stalled growth in a key measure of its user base, sparking fresh fears over the future of the social network. Twitter, which has been struggling to keep pace in the fast-moving world of social media, reported a net loss of $116 million in the second quarter, slightly wider than its $107 million loss a year ago. Source
  • Prime spot: Amazon's Jeff Bezos briefly becomes richest man in the world

    Economic CTV News
    Amazon founder Jeff Bezos briefly snagged the crown of “richest person in the world” on Thursday from Bill Gates, in Forbes’ realtime rankings of the wealthiest billionaires on the planet. Bezos’ net worth spiked to US$90.5 billion Thursday morning, putting him just ahead of the Microsoft founder’s $90-billion fortune. Source