Though a steaming plate of sea monster probably isn’t your go-to order at a seafood restaurant, fishing industry insiders hope to persuade U.S. consumers to eat more monkfish — a particularly strange-looking creature from the deep.
Otherwise known as goosefish, the predatory monkfish that the Associated Press calls “the stuff of nightmares” can grow to be roughly five feet long, with a gaping maw and jagged teeth.
The bottom dweller has been commercially fished for years, but recent findings from the federal government indicate that monkfish can withstand more fishing pressure.
“It is healthy. We can’t even catch the quota,” said Jan Margeson, a Chatham, Mass. fisherman who switched to targeting monkfish in recent decades, when traditional species such as cod began to decline.
Margeson believes that the availability of monkfish represents opportunity for the industry, as American fishermen often fall short of their quota for the fish, further complicated by a lack of reliable markets and complex fishing regulations.
Brought to shore from Maine to North Carolina, most monkfish land in Massachusetts. From its lobster-like taste and texture to its affordable price tag, proponents say that it’s the future of domestic seafood.
Typically sold as a whole fish or as steaks of tail meat, tails typically retail for around $7 per pound at New England fish markets. Lobsters and flounder, in contrast, go for $10 per pound or more.
“When we talk about diversification, monkfish is one of the things. It’s a fishery that has opportunity for fishermen right now,” said Ben Martens, executive director of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association.
For their part, both the Environmental Defense Fund Seafood Selector and Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch applaud the fishery for its sustainability. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also touts the fishery as a “smart seafood choice” according to their website.
Since 1987, fishermen have caught over 15 million pounds of monkfish every year, according to the AP. The federal government upped the limit to 33.8 million pounds for the 2017-18 fishing year, which will hold until 2020.
- With AP