Whether cooking at home or ordering out, conscientious shoppers often face difficult choices. But when it comes to seafood, there are plenty of fish you can feel good about eating.
Here are five Gulf of Maine fish that provide an opportunity to support local fishermen, promote a healthy ecosystem, and eat a delicious meal:
Mackerel is a distinctively flavorful fish, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, that serves as a source of selenium, niacin, and vitamins B6 and B12. Although highly valued by foreign markets, there is little demand for mackerel in the United States.
|Roasted mackerel with onions, cherry tomatoes, and oregano (PDF)|
Cape Shark (Dogfish)
Because of its mild flavor and firm white meat, cape shark (also known as dogfish) is easy to cook in a variety of ways: sautéed, grilled, or battered and fried. In the United Kingdom, cape shark has been a staple in fish and chips for years.
Cape shark is a small species of shark that gathers in large schools and is harvested from Maine to North Carolina. This species was once overfished, but has since fully recovered, thanks to management approaches such as annual catch limits and trip limits. Fishermen were allowed to catch roughly 49 million pounds of dogfish in 2014, but they only brought in 46% of that quota. Lack of consumer demand for dogfish contributes to the low price ($0.16/lb on average in 2013) fishermen receive for this species.
|Roasted cape shark with red curry and bok choy (PDF)|
Whiting is a flavorful fish that can be prepared baked whole, pan-fried, or broiled. Their tasty, but small, fillets must be handled carefully so as not to overcook.
Also known as silver hake, whiting is harvested in the Gulf of Maine from July to November. Whiting is popular in foreign markets, such as the United Kingdom and Spain, but less known to consumers in the United States. As a result of the low demand for local whiting, New England fishermen only harvested 28% of allowable quota in 2014.
|Pan seared whiting with cauliflower-raisin quinoa and citrus pan sauce (PDF)|
Small, white, and flaky, redfish fillets are a culinary favorite of local fishermen and chefs. These deep-water fish, also known as ocean perch in some retail markets, are often exported to the Midwest where there is a greater consumer demand.
Redfish are abundant in the Gulf of Maine region, but due to lack of local market demand, New England fisherman harvested only 44% of allowable catch in 2014.
|Maple miso redfish with pickled shiitakes and soba (PDF)|
While Atlantic pollock fillets have a slightly dark color compared to fillets of haddock and cod, pollock is often described as having a desirable flavor because it is higher in unsaturated fat. Because pollock fillets are denser than other white fish, they hold together better and are often called for in chowder and stew recipes.
Gulf of Maine fishermen typically harvest Atlantic pollock from late summer into the winter. The most recent stock assessment of Atlantic pollock indicated that the stock is 115% above the National Marine Fisheries Service’s targeted biomass level. Despite their abundance, only 30% of the allowable catch was harvested in 2014.
|Island spiced pollock sandwich with sauteed spinach, tomato, avocado and cherry pepper aioli (PDF)|
Ask for these species at your favorite restaurants and grocery stores, and know you're making a choice that benefits the ecological and economic health of the Gulf of Maine.