Fun Facts About Fish (and CSFs)

Noted artist/quilt maker Clara Wainwright worked with the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association in 1998 to create this quilt depicting the history, strength, and struggles of the fishing community.

On Thursday night, March 24, Cape Ann Fresh Catch, the community supported fishery (CSF) that I belong to, held their first ever “Meet & Greet” event in a stately, enormous room at MIT.  Since I’ve written about my CSF in “Is There Such a Thing as Guilt-Free Shrimp?” and “Cooking Up a CSF Feast with a Jody Adams Bluefish Recipe,” I was excited to have a chance to meet the people involved.

Happily, I was not disappointed.  In addition to watching whole fish get filleted, chowing down on some delicious pollock dip (it had the chewiness of tuna fish, but was much lighter and sweeter), and tasting their Sweet & Sour Fried Fish, I learned some fun facts about fish and the CSF.

GFWA President Angela Sanfilippo serves Sweet and Sour Fried Fish.

The Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association–the group that runs the Cape Ann Fresh Catch CSF–formed in 1969 to fight foreign factory trawlers that were wiping out New England fish stocks.  Long-time GFWA president, Angela Sanfilipo, says, “It took seven years, but the GFWA won. All the foreign factory trawlers left.”

Since then, the group has advocated on many other issues, including their successful fight to prevent oil drilling on Georges Bank and the enactment and reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act, which gave the US jurisdiction over 200 miles out from the US coastline.

The GWFA, whose founders were from Sicily, encourage people to try all the lesser-known species. There is good precedent for this effort. Monkfish used to be considered a “trash fish” in the US, until chefs started promoting it; now it is dubbed “the poor man’s lobster” and sells for $10-$25 pound.

“Italians eat anything that comes out of the ocean,” Sanfilipo said.  “Fish were getting thrown away here because people didn’t know how to use them. So the GFWA and the League of Women Voters copublished The Taste of Gloucester cookbook to encourage people to cook more kinds of fish.” The cookbook has sold more than 100,000 copies.

Jim Turner of Turner Seafood demonstrates how to sharpen a knife before fileting a fish.

Hake is a white fish that is not as well known as some of its counterparts in the US. “Hake  is a gem of a fish,” wholesale fisherman and restauranteur Jim Turner told us.  “It’s underutilized.”

After his company, Turner’s Seafood, started fileting the fish for CSF members who don’t want to purchase whole fish, Turner began serving hake in his restaurant, Turner’s Seafood Grill & Market in Melrose, Mass.  “Now it’s very popular!” Turner said.

“Hake is a flaky white fish, similar to cod or haddock, with a natural buttery flavor, but half the price. It has a natural fat [Omega 3] in it, so hake cakes are not as dry as cod or haddock cakes,” he added.

According to MIT Sea Grant social scientist Madeleine Hall-Arber, MIT supports Cape Ann Fresh Catch because it’s better for the fishermen, better for the ocean, and better for the consumer.

MIT Marine Social Scientist, Madeleine Hall-Arber

The fishermen who are part of Cape Ann Fresh Catch  stay closer to shore, so they use less fuel, cut down on by-catch (the marine creatures that gets caught unintentionally when fishing for other species), take less risk, and have less impact on the ocean. Over the course of a 12-week season, the fishermen get a fair price for a variety of fish–including fish that might otherwise not be caught–which helps reduce  overfishing of the most profitable species.

Unlike the majority of fish and seafood in this country, the fish from the CSF is caught, processed, and distributed locally. In the 1 1/2 years of its existence, CAFC has added $1.2 million into the Gloucester fish economy.

Because the fish is fresh, there’s no fishy smell. “You couldn’t get fresher fish unless you caught it yourself,” Hall-Arber told me.

Now that’s what I call a fun fact!





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