Seafood Choices

Out of the Blue: Diversify Your P(a)late

Diversifying your seafood choices can help promote healthy ocean ecosystems. Why not give dogfish a taste? Image via NOAA Fisheries.

While seafood is imported into the U.S. to meet consumer demand for shrimp, salmon, tilapia, and canned tuna, many sustainable species within domestic waters don’t show up on people’s plates. A Huffington Post article describes these domestic species as “underappreciated, underutilized species abundant at docks all around the country. Some call them trash fish, they’re anything but; they are simply underloved.”

The Gulf of Maine Research Institute’s Out of the Blue program focuses on such “underloved” species in the Gulf of Maine—bringing attention to species that are bountiful and well-managed but not harvested due to lack of demand. The program goal is to raise public awareness and demand for these “unappreciated” seafood species.

Initially funded through a NOAA Saltonstall-Kennedy Grant in 2012, Out of the Blue continues to promote and build sustainable markets for certain Gulf of Maine fish species. Program species include the Acadian redfish, Atlantic mackerel, cape shark (dogfish), whiting, and Atlantic pollock. Originally Institute staff, local fishermen, restaurants, and food service providers selected these species based on four factors: value (whether increasing demand would increase value of the catch); utilization (whether more of the total allowable catch could be harvested); value discrepancies between markets both abroad and domestic; and management strength of the fishery.

Restaurants sell approximately 70% of seafood consumed in the United States, and thus they play an important role in facilitating increased demand for particular seafood species. The Gulf of Maine Research Institute has culinary partner restaurants in Maine and the New England region that feature Out of the Blue species on their menus to educate consumers and delight them with these palatable options.

From July 3-12, 2015, Out of the Blue is partnering with local restaurants to celebrate cape shark (dogfish). Dogfish is abundant in the Gulf of Maine, but it has a relatively low value ($0.16/lb average boat price in 2013, compared to cod at $2.10/lb); as a result, fishermen can’t afford to harvest it. Foreign markets have a higher demand for dogfish, like the United Kingdom where the fish is a popular ingredient for fish and chips. By drawing attention to dogfish through Out of the Blue, local chefs and fishermen aim to raise consumer demand for this species in the New England region.

Ready to diversify your p(a)late? Check out Out of the Blue’s upcoming cape shark celebration event here.


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