Friday, June 28, 2013

One Man's Trash Fish Is Another Man's Dinner- Fishermen and Restaurants Look to Fish Once Considered Undesirable

A face only a mother could love- and even then, that's kinda iffy. Monkfish- also known as known as goosefish- apparently tastes better than it looks.-Photo courtesy of Katrinshine
With new regulations set to cripple New England's traditional commercial fishing industry, an unlikely group of fishermen, environmentalists and restaurateurs are attempting to come up with new concepts to keep fishermen working and seafood on the menu as limits are placed on cod and haddock.

One such solution is the marketing of 'trash' fish- fish that was once considered a nuisance and undesirable by fishermen- to consumers throughout the east coast.

Most people have only ever seen a scorpion fish in an aquarium. Unless they dine at Carolina Crossroads Restaurant in Chapel Hill, N.C., where they’ll find the spiny, venomous creature on the menu.

It’s called trash fish dining, and it’s catching on with chefs around the country searching for fresh ways to fill their menus with sustainable — and delicious — seafood.

“The fishermen would be like, ‘This is all trash, junk,’ but I said, ‘I’ll pay fair price for it if you’ll bring it back to the dock,’” says James Clark, the restaurant’s executive chef. “Eat some butter-poached scorpion fish and you’ll swear it’s lobster.”

Chefs such as Clark go beyond the usual recommendation to eat small, lower-food-chain fish like sardines, and instead delve full force into little-known local catches that many anglers regard as nuisance or “trash” fish. Clark’s menu also offers triggerfish, drum, white grunt and other obscure species.

Meanwhile, New Haven, Conn., sushi restaurant Miya’s features invasive species such as shore crabs and moon snails. At San Francisco’s Incanto, chef Chris Cosentino serves sea slug, tuna spines and roasted fish heads. And at Arrows restaurant in Ogunquit, Maine, award-winning chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier built a “Trash Fish Dinner” around whiting, mackerel and other less desirable species.

Besides introducing the public to lesser-known fish, these top chefs also are promoting a broader concept of how to eat sustainably from the ocean, a concept that conservation experts say could help secure the world’s seafood supply. Just three fish — shrimp, canned tuna and salmon — account for more than half of all U.S. seafood consumption, according to the trade association the National Fisheries Institute.
The 'trash fish' offerings have proven popular with a number of customers, although there is some re-branding involved. For instance, slimehead becomes orange roughy or the Atlantic goosefish becomes monkfish to make it sound more palatable to potential consumers.

Invasive species like the Asian Carp along the Mississippi River are getting similar treatment. Although there isn't much market for the carp in the Midwest, the state of Illinois signed into a contract with China to sell 30 million pounds of carp the Chinese back in 2010. Although there is carp available in China, the rivers there are notoriously polluted. The carp from the Illinois and Missisiippi Rivers, however, are marketed as fresh and clean offerings for upscale Chinese restaurants

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