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A Do-Over for Dogfish

Jun 22, 2016
2016 Issue 1

Dogfish, the much-maligned pillager of the Gulf of Maine ecosystem, has wreaked havoc in fishermen’s nets for years. While plentiful, the market for dogfish is soft, averaging just $0.19/lb in 2014. As such, fishermen avoid the species rather than seeking it out.

However, recent efforts to improve market demand for dogfish aspire to make it a highly sought-after commodity.

A collaborative effort of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance, the University of New England, and GMRI has exposed thousands of people to dogfish’s versatility as a lean, mild, firm fish. The effort, funded by the Saltonstall-Kennedy program, has resulted in promotional events and materials, as well as inventory of dogfish that has been used to offer free samples to buyers across the country. The team has also worked with fishermen to document the best handling methods to ensure high quality product. For instance, it is crucial that fish be kept iced on the vessel to assure quality.

Chefs and institutions have been particularly responsive to well-handled dogfish, serving it in various ways – from fish tacos to baked filets – to thousands of receptive diners.

Ipswich Shellfish produced the first value-added dogfish product, the Shahk Bite, which is being served to student populations at campuses throughout the region. Ipswich plans to expand its product offerings and produce various flavor profiles, given the strong positive response to date.

Sea to Table, a collaborator on this effort, has actively promoted dogfish at campus events across the country, as well as at conferences and events, such as the Seafood Expo North America and Slow Fish conference.

The media have responded well to the story of an overabundant, yet under-loved, product from the region that is in desperate need of strong market demand. Below are some samples of media attention garnered for dogfish.

The big debate remains: Do we call it dogfish or cape shark? Those first exposed to dogfish suggest the name is a turn off. Many chefs feel differently, though. As one chef put it, “We’ll call it dogfish, because that’s what it is.”