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  • Writer's picturejames11001

I’ll Have an Order of Scorpion Fish, Please.

(Photo of a Pacific Lingcod, considered bycatch, taken by James O. Fraioli)

Have you ever dined at a seafood restaurant and ordered a plate of Sea Robin? Or Scorpion Fish? How about a Triggerfish? Most likely, you haven’t. These fish, among hundreds of other less-known species are unaffectionately considered ‘trash fish’ or “bycatch” and are rarely served in fine dining establishments. But recently, we’ve seen a trend in more environmentally-friendly chefs who are making an effort to change consumer trends by adding bycatch to their menus.

So, what exactly is bycatch? Bycatch is a term used by the fishing and restaurant industries to describe any fish unintentionally caught when fishing for consumer favorites such as salmon, tuna or shrimp.

Every year, 2 billion pounds of bycatch are wasted (thrown back, discarded, or killed), including our beloved dolphins, sea turtles and whales that get caught up in nets set to put the more popular species of fish on the menu. The average shrimp trawler’s haul, for instance, only contains about 16% shrimp. The rest is comprised of some 50 other species. On the west coast of the U.S., more than 90 species are caught accidentally when fishermen are targeting specific ground fish like flounder and halibut. Not only is bycatch a problem for our fishermen, and quite an expense, it’s also poses dangers to our oceans.

While bycatch is almost unavoidable due to the modern equipment, there’s one thing consumers can do: eat bycatch! In an attempt to flip consumer's palate for seafood, many chefs are keeping the bycatch in their daily delivery and adding it to their menus. The Chef’s Collaborative has even been hosting “Trash Fish Dinners” since 2013 in an attempt to bring attention to the bycatch issue. Their most recent event was in October of this year and featured 10 of Fort Myers’ best chefs.

Here’s a few stories of restaurants across America who have joined the bycatch movement: several Houston Restaurants, a Las Vegas Chef, and a New Orleans Cafe.

It’s not just about trying something new. It’s about reducing the amount of unnecessary waste of perfectly good fish. And chefs today are making a huge effort to bring the problem to the consumers since we’re the ones who drive the fishing industry.

So will you take a pass on the Salmon and try some Black Drum? We hear it’s pretty popular.

Stay tuned for our upcoming cookbook featuring more than 75 bycatch recipes, which will be available on store shelves and online next Summer 2017.

Here's a short summary of the book: Sea Robins & Trigger Fish: The Complete Guide to Preparing and Serving Overlooked Seafood & Bycatch.

Learn to cook some of the world’s most plentiful, yet underappreciated, fish and seafood.

Today, our oceans contain an abundance of delicious, underutilized, and lesser-known varieties of fish. Frequently, these unfamiliar species are pulled up when commercial fishermen are looking for something else. These non-targeted species—known as bycatch—are often dumped back into the ocean, dead or barely alive.

What if we didn’t discard those perfectly edible fish? What if we introduced them to consumers looking for a change on the menu who care about where their seafood comes from? That’s what Sea Robins & Trigger Fish is all about—taking the pressure off heavily targeted species like swordfish and tuna and introducing home cooks and professional chefs to many new species being unloaded on today’s docks.

Let’s celebrate these other fish in the sea by enjoying a bounty of mouthwatering recipes prepared by Chef Matthew Pietsch, owner of the celebrated Michigan restaurant Salt of the Earth. Pietsch’s vast culinary knowledge and skill demonstrated through his fun, straightforward approach, will guide seafood lovers every step of the way as he and James Beard award-winner James O. Fraioli encourage seafood consumers to support and promote those underutilized and under-appreciated fisheries while still enjoying quality seafood at an affordable price.

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