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Businesses Create an Eat Dogfish World

May 28, 2014
Spring 2014

Dogfish. The word alone can incite scorn among fishermen as the treacherous, yet practically worthless species that fishing nets cant stay away from. Its no wonder just 38% of the dogfish quota has been landed with less than 3 weeks left to the fishing year, when prices average between $0.14/lb (Portland Fish Exchange average over the past year) and $0.18/lb (National Ocean Economics Program 2012 average).

Yet with work to introduce dogfish to the marketplace and build demand, it could soon represent hope for a fishery beleaguered by cuts in more valuable species. Dogfish is a prime candidate to keep the fishing industry of New England in business, given that it is a high-volume, responsibly managed fishery, and has a versatile, mild white meat.

Last year, GMRI's Out of the Blue program brought dogfish into the kitchens of some of New Englands best restaurants. Not only did the promotions result in great media attention for dogfish, restaurants had overwhelmingly positive reactions from customers during the promotion, and chefs compared it to working with mahi mahi. Many restaurants have expressed a desire to continue selling dogfish. But without the existence of a larger volume domestic market for dogfish (i.e. retailers), it is difficult for those chefs to source dogfish at the lower volumes that they require.

One business that participated in the Out of the Blue program promoting dogfish was the Beanery, the employee cafeteria at L.L. Bean headquarters in Freeport, ME. Food service provider Aramark Business Dining at L.L. Bean recently became a participant in the Gulf of Maine Responsibly Harvested brand program. By taking that step, the company has committed to sourcing regional seafood and realizes there is a role for them to play in building markets by providing a larger volume pull for lesser-known, but abundant, regional species like dogfish. The company is currently working to incorporate species like dogfish, redfish, and others into their menus, and looks forward to giving its customers a tangible, positive way to support the regions fishing industry. Manny Manno, General Manager of Aramark Business Dining for New England, explains, We are currently working to incorporate species like dogfish, redfish, and others into our menus, and look forward to giving our customers a tangible, positive way to support the regions fishing industry.

Further evidence of the recognition that underutilized species have great potential for the fishing industry is the recent announcement of Saltonstall-Kennedy grants from the National Marine Fisheries Service. In New England, the Cape Ann Seafood Exchange received an award to focus on building processing and marketing capacity for redfish, and the University of New England will be funded to increase awareness of and demand for dogfish.

Aramark Business Dinings choice to serve underutilized species like dogfish is a sign of its commitment to support the fishing industry in the region, and an awareness of the influence that the companys buying power and its customers can have.