Having fished on over 14 commercial fishing vessels at the peak of Dogfish Shark Season throughout the past month and a half, it’s become clear that there seems to be a serious fishue with regards to one of the most dreaded creatures by New Hampshire fishermen. Having been previously on the endangered species list, dogfish shark was overprotected by management throughout the past decade, mainly due to the fact that we know so little about the species as a whole. It’s unclear at what age dogfish sexually mature, or how long they live, where they spawn, and where they migrate to and from. So over time, though we were able to remove the species from the endangered species list, we have contributed to an infestation of dogs throughout our coastal waters, and for NH fishermen it has become a bit of a headache to say the least. As of lately, studies on dogfish behavior and biology has become a priority, for example, this study being done by UNH Researchers:
Dogfish shark season opened May 1st this year, and will be coming to a close in the next couple of weeks. Though just recently the amount of dogfish being hauled in has been decreasing, for weeks on end there were an unbearable amount to sort through. Fishermen have typically been filling their daily 3,000 pound limit after pulling in just one or two strings of nets, with an additional one to three strings yet in the water to be pulled in. That means, that though their quota for the day was already fulfilled, they would still need to go and pull in the remaining strings, meaning additional time and work, overall resulting in great amounts of bycatch because they had already fulfilled their quota. By the end of the work day, dogfish were being thrown overboard left and right, dead or alive, because they weren’t allowed to land any additional quota, which all said and done meant more work for no additional pay for the day, unless they were able to pick out a fish of value here and there amidst the chaos of dogs.
In some instances, if one fishermen still needed some dogfish to fulfill his quota for the day, another fishermen would radio him with the coordinates for his remaining string, loaning him his gear for the day, so that fishermen could go and pull in his last string, pick out the dogfish and then reset it for the next day. But the fishermen aren’t always so lucky; it’s not everyday that there’s a fishermen on the water looking for extra dogs, seeing as there’s so many.
And worst of all, dogfish are worth very little in comparison to the more popular species of fish such as cod, haddock, monkfish, and pollock. With market prices for cod averaging around $4, dogfish prices hardly compare at around $0.50 a pound. And to make matters worst, dogfish are known for eating the more valuable fish, likely having a direct effect on the local fish stocks.
So if so many dogfish are being harvested within our local waters, why are we not buying dogfish in local markets or at local restaurants? I know I’ve dished the dogfish dirt before, but really, why aren’t we as citizens of the east coast not eating one of the most abundant species of shark during the summertime when it is most plentiful? It just doesn’t makes sense. England and Germany seem to love it, seeing as the majority of our seacoast’s catch is being shipped across the Atlantic Ocean. So why don’t we?
At the beginning of July, when I first began participating in the local commercial fisheries, I decided there was no excuse not to try some dogfish and I brought it to the Black Trumpet Bistro where I bus tables on the weekends. I showed up with a few filets and asked them if they could find a tasty way to utilize them. The result, a Fried Dogfish Po-Boy which has now been on the menu as an entree for over a month with great success. I have had it myself and it tastes delicious, and those that I’ve talked to who have tried it have agreed. If it can be served at a high-end restaurant, there’s no reason it does not qualify for the average New Englanders’ dinner table. In fact I grilled some the other night; dogfish kebab skewers. You can find the recipe below.
Try something new. Ask for dogfish, and tell others about what’s going on in our local waters. Sometimes word of mouth can be the most powerful of tools in making a change. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be eating one of the most abundant species in our waters here on the seacoast. Don’t be afraid, I promise you will be pleasantly surprised, as were my friends when I served up these kebabs last thursday night…
DOGFISH SHARK KEBABS
2 lbs. Dogfish
1/4 C. olive oil
3 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
1 Tsp. Fresh Dill
1 Summer Squash
Cut dogfish shark into 1 inch cubes, rinse with water and pat dry. Prepare marinade by mixing olive oil, white wine, lemon juice, dill and chervil in a dish large enough to hold the fish. Place fish into marinade and place into refrigerator for 1/2 hour to 1 hour. Thread fish cubes onto skewers alternating fish with summer squash and peppers. Sprinkle kebabs with paprika and grill or broil for 10 minutes. Baste frequently with marinade. Serve with lemon wedges and rice or pasta.