Out of the Blue
Boston University Dining Services is diversifying its seafood offerings in order to lessen its reliance on one species or fishery. By serving what may be new fish for many, they also hope to diversify the palettes of our students, so that they become more accustomed to other species and take those preferences to the marketplace.
BU recently shook up its menu by participating in Out of the Blue, an effort to raise consumer awareness of lesser-known and under-valued Gulf of Maine seafood, spearheaded by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) in conjunction with fishermen and chefs in New England. The project aims to improve the market for a greater diversity of Gulf of Maine seafood products, while achieving an ecologically and economically sustainable seafood industry.
Out of the Blue works to promote a specific under-valued species during a week-long period each season. This fall the project aimed to increase recognition of Atlantic Pollock. As a participant, BU Dining featured Atlantic Pollock fish ‘n chips at Rhett’s for the week of October 26th-November 4th. Residential dining halls featured Atlantic Pollock fish cakes at lunch during Make a Difference Monday on November 12th.
At all locations serving Atlantic Pollock during this promotion, an educational brochure is posted, to learn more about the species.
According to the GMRI, Atlantic pollock, a member of the cod family is a groundfish species is harvested throughout the Gulf of Maine region. It is often confused with Pacific pollock, which is a separate species and considerably more abundant in the market than Atlantic pollock. In the Gulf of Maine, Atlantic pollock, also referred to as saithe, is considered abundant and harvesters rely on it as an important source of income. It is harvested year-round in the region but tends to be most prevalent in the fall and early winter. Because it is not as well known to consumers as other groundfish species, such as cod or flounder, pollock typically fetches a lower price. In 2010, fishermen were paid an average of $0.80/lb, but the value of the fishery has slowly increased in recent years.
Pollock was considered overfished in the 1980’s, but has since recovered after catch limits were implemented. The most recent assessment of pollock indicated that the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank sock is 115% above the sustainable biomass level. In the Gulf of Maine region, pollock are harvested with a variety of fishing techniques that include tawls, gillnets, and longlines. Because pollock is often harvested alongside other less abundant groundfish species, fishermen and researchers explore ways to improve the selectivity of gear types. One project’s preliminary results indicate that elevating gillnets in the water column can reduce the catch of other species, without impacting the pollock catch.
BU’s participation in the Out of the Blue program is part of our efforts to diversify our offerings and promote local, well-managed fisheries and give homage to the New England maritime tradition.
To learn more about Out of the Blue and under-utilized seafood, visit the Gulf of Maine Research Institute’s website or see the resources they have provided below.