Posted October 9, 2015
Cape shark is gaining traction as a sustainable seafood choice for institutional food service
Cape shark, or dogfish, is a U.S. fisheries success story. It is a small species of shark that is caught commercially from Maine to North Carolina. Progressive management approaches, such as annual catch quotas and daily trip limits, ensure that populations stay at healthy levels long into the future.
This abundant fish has traditionally been a lower-valued species, with much of the catch being exported overseas. Now there is great collaboration with chefs, suppliers, processors and fishermen to build a robust regional market for this versatile product.
Cape shark is managed under a total allowable catch, and fishermen are allowed to harvest 50 million pounds per year. In recent years, though, fishermen have harvested less than half of that amount, in part due to lack of demand. Expansion of the cape shark market would generate $12 million in economic benefit to fishermen and an additional $26 million in increased economic activity throughout the supply chain.
During the past three years, ex-vessel price for cape shark has fluctuated between $0.11 and $0.22 per pound, while traditional groundfish stocks regularly yield $1 to $2 per pound or more. To create an economically sustainable harvest, fishermen need to receive a similar price for cape shark. Stabilizing the full utilization of the available cape shark quota would grow the fishing economy by 470 jobs (280 harvesting jobs, 155 processing jobs and 35 wholesale jobs).
Cape shark offers a boneless, firm, lean white flesh that is mild in flavor and takes seasoning quite well. Chefs working with cape shark have described it as an extremely adaptable and flavorful fish, similar to mahi-mahi in texture and versatility. Culinary uses for cape shark include chowders, fish tacos, fish stews, fish and chips, and grilled recipes. It is easy to prepare and can be delivered fresh or frozen.
Schools like Colby College and University of New England will be serving cape shark this fall through their participation in the Gulf of Maine Responsibly Harvested program. The Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance and the Gulf of Maine Research Institute are working together to help connect fishermen and institutional buyers interested in cape shark. If you are purchasing for an institution and would like a free, 10-lb box of cape shark fillets to sample and test in your kitchens, please fill out this brief survey.
For more information about sustainable seafood choices, visit the Gulf of Maine Research Institute's website at www.gmri.org.
Fish illustration courtesy of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute