Weekly Fish Reports

Sea to Table's Weekly Fish Report provides weekly information on landings and species availability from each of our partner fisheries.

Sustainable Skate

October 19, 2014

In a success story for U.S. fishery management, Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program has changed the rating for Atlantic trawl-caught winter skate from Avoid (red) to Good Alternative. After a decline in the 1990s, the winter skate stock has increased significantly and is now above the targeted level used to determine the health and abundance of the population. This is great news for challenged New England fishermen.

More encouraging news as the United States has declared almost 500,000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean as the largest marine reserve in the world, completely off limits to commercial resource extraction including commercial fishing. This reminds us of the vastness of the oceans, and how very little we actually know about them. The mysteries of the deep were visited last month as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration explored the deep-sea ecosystems off the U.S. Atlantic Coast with its ship Okeanos Explorer, returning with fantastic photos of many rarely seen creatures.

In another sign of warming seas, the UK Guardian reported an estimated 35,000 walruses spotted on a barrier island in north-western Alaska on 27 September by scientists on an aerial survey flight as summer sea ice continues to fall. “Those animals have essentially run out of offshore sea ice, and have no other choice but to come ashore,” said Chadwick Jay, a research ecologist in Alaska with the US Geological Survey. Until 2007, it was unheard of for walruses to leave the sea ice for dry land for prolonged periods of time. But the retreat of sea ice has seen “drastic changes” in behavior, Jay said. 

Estimated 35,000 walrus near Point Lay, Alaska  Photograph: Corey Accardo/AP
Captain Mike Fox landing the season's first stone crab claws in Tarpon Springs, FL

Near Beaufort, NC our fishermen are landing summer flounder inshore by pound-net, as seen in this video. And across Core Sound at Cape Lookout this amazing video shows a massive school of sharks feasting on bluefish right on the beach.

Stone crab season opened this week in Florida with some good landings. This is an inherently sustainable fishery, as the crabs found in traps have one (so delicious) claw broken off, with the crabs returned to the water where they re-grow their claw in about nine months. Stone crabbers up and down the west coast of Florida have blamed the last two poor seasons on marauding packs of octopus who allegedly have figured out how to open crab pots and remove the precious content.  Stone crab lovers everywhere hope this is only a myth. 

All the best,
from the Dimins and the Sea to Table team


Catfish and Dogfish

October 12, 2014

When wild blue catfish were introduced into three Virginia rivers in the 1970s as a game fish, no one foresaw that the catfish would acclimate so well. Having vacuumed their way through local flora and fauna — even some precious Maryland blue crabs — they now outnumber other fish 3-1 in bay tributaries, having become the dominant fish species in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Now considered an invasive, our friend Steve Vilnit of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources says catching and consuming them is the best way to reduce the fish’s population.  “Developing a market through which food service helps to decrease populations of invasive species is an important tool in the battle against this threat to the natural ecosystem,” said Vilnit.

Thankfully wild blue catfish has a mild, sweet flavor, and because it is not exclusively a bottom-dweller, the taste is clean and delicate. The abundant fish are easy to capture, the nets and traps used when fishing have almost no by-catch, and fishermen can make money while offering catfish at an attractive price. Wild blue catfish from the Chesapeake have earned a green rating from Seafood Choices of the Blue Ocean Institute.

Chesapeake Bay Wild Blue Catfish     courtesy Virginia Sea Grant
Atlantic Spiny Dogfish landing in Cape Cod at the dock in Chatham MA

Another underloved species is the Atlantic spiny dogfish. New England fishermen tell us that you can’t drop a line into George’s Bank without finding a dogfish on the hook.

According to NOAA catch and landing figures, spiny dogfish remain abundant and healthy. In Massachusetts, the Division of Marine Fisheries considers the dogfish stock near an all-time high in abundance and health, and the Marine Stewardship Council has certified the fishery sustainable. With Atlantic cod populations dwindling, east coast fishermen need to find other species to support their communities.

Up until now there has been virtually no domestic market for dogfish, with almost the entire catch being sent to Europe. In fact, the Europeans fiend for dogfish so much, they depleted their native populations years ago. In the UK, it’s known as “rock salmon,” and is used widely for fish and chips. Germans call it “sea eel,” while the French gobble it up as saumonette, or little salmon.

“The flavor of really fresh dogfish that’s been properly butchered and packaged is tremendously delicious” reports our friend Evan Mallett, chef and owner of Black Trumpet in Portsmouth, NH.

We think telling these stories and utilizing these abundant, delicious, healthy, and inexpensive fish is a great way to serve fishermen, fishing communities, chefs, and diners alike.

All the best,
from the Dimins and the Sea to Table team


Let your fish make you famous

October 5, 2014

Travelling the country last week, the thing that most stood out to Michael was the growing desire for diners to experience a greater diversity of seafood from all around the country.

Michael was in Boston for the ‘Let's Talk About Food’ festival where he and our friends Barton Seaver and Jeremy Sewell did a presentation on the beauty of Bristol Bay Sockeye, and how good properly frozen seafood can be. He then flew out to Boulder, Colorado for the Chefs Collaborative Sustainable Food Summit.  From the heartland of the terrestrial protein world, we did a workshop on Eating Invasives, with chef Bun Lai of Miya's Sushi preparing some delicious Lionfish sashimi.

Chefs everywhere are talking about the trend of guests enjoying healthier proteins, and becoming more adventurous in their seafood selections. 

From Greg Martin at The Ironbound at Renaissance Newark Airport Hotel: “Sea to Table has allowed us to really have more fun with the guest. We engage them by explaining the sustainability and transparency of our/your beautiful fish. I will go out to tables, parties and site visits now and explain that I know the dock, boat and even the tackle that the Captain has used to land this fish. This is huge with us and for our guest as many are becoming more savvy regarding food. One time we actually had a guest take a picture of the whole fist that we broke down and prepared for him. He then posted it to various social media outlets explaining where and how that fish was caught and how wonderfully it was prepared. Obviously most restaurants cannot do this especially ones that do not use Sea to Table. As an airport property we have many guests that come here often, especially flight crews. They want something different so it is easy to go out and greet them with the new Sea to Table special. Being a Renaissance micro locality is imperative. I always brag about the local docks that you pull from and make that an integral part of our fish special speech.”

Montauk Golden Tilefish, Rice Pilaf, Japanese Eggplant from the Ironbound Garden, NJ Raspberry Beurre Blanc at Renaissance Newark
Black Sesame encrusted Montauk tuna, chanterelles, wasabi whipped potatoes, herb Salad, Truffle Vinaigrette at Yono's in Albany, NY

New York expatriate  and ex-Blue Hill chef Trevor Kunk, now at Press in Saint Helena, CA, reports that people have been going crazy for our great big Alaskan Simpson Bay oysters- regular guests but also fellow Napa Valley chefs. No one else in the area has that variety, they are mostly using much smaller West Coast oysters.

From Tarver King at Virginia’s Patowmack Farm: “We've definitely been using some seafood here that isn't very "main stream" so to speak. I've heard many times that it was the first time trying something. Fish like cusk, dogfish, periwinkles, Jack knife clams to name a few. I certainly think that it makes a great experience for someone to try something new and enjoy it. The massive scope of fish in the ocean is amazing. It's such a pleasure as chefs to get to work with new things and finding good ways to serve them what's makes this work seem like nothing but pure joy.”

Dominick Purnomo & Chef Steve Kerzner at Yono's in Albany, NY have a guy from Ireland who lives on Cape Cod but comes to Albany for business. Sometimes he orders the tuna sashimi 3 times in one night! He says their oysters are the best, too.

Differentiating your restaurant by becoming known for your fish is a good business strategy. Happier and healthier guests mean fuller tables and healthier profits

All the best,
from the Dimins and the Sea to Table team

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