At the beginning of this month, I asked the question “Can Dogfish Actually Be Considered a Good Choice?” in a blog entry about some of the follow-up to my recent dogfish story in Discover Magazine. A few days ago, I spent some time exploring that question in the kitchen at The Landings Restaurant in Rockland, Maine with chef Max Miller…and several dogfish.
When I’ve told some people familiar with my Discover Magazine piece about spending time with chefs talking dogfish and innovative dogfish preparations, I sometimes get a confused look. “But I thought you were against eating dogfish because of its mercury content,” they might say.
While, as my Discover piece shows, I think school lunchrooms are absolutely the wrong place for dogfish given what the best available science tells us about mercury levels in the small shark species, I think restaurants are another story altogether. As long as we continue to put other high-mercury species like tuna and swordfish on a culinary pedestal, it’s my firm belief that dogfish deserves our love and attention as a featured entree at restaurants.
While dogfish is relatively high in mercury, the U.S. Atlantic dogfish fishery is far more sustainable than many tuna and swordfish fisheries. Dogfish also has the added advantage of being able to provide real socio-economic benefit to New England fishers and fisher communities because it is currently so abundant at the same time that quotas for iconic species like cod are being slashed due to decades of overfishing.
Yes, dogfish is high in mercury, but an informed, sustainably-minded restaurant-goer who decides to forgo the bluefin tuna steak or the longline swordfish in favor of dogfish is okay in my book. The Gulf of Maine Research Institute thinks so too, as they are set to feature dogfish through their Out of the Blue program starting this Friday and running throughout the month of August.
Unfortunately, dogfish still gets a bad rap solely on gastronomic grounds, especially when compared to fish like tuna and swordfish, but chefs tell me this needn’t be the case. Stay tuned for more adventures in dogfish, as I travel the New England coast talking with chefs about what they’re doing to make dogfish a hot menu item.