Crawfish from Louisiana

Of the hundreds of different species of crawfish worldwide, over 300 kinds can be found in North America, primarily in the southeastern United States. What looks like a small lobster in a variety of sizes and colors, crawfish are a delicious food source, and are a staple in southern and Cajun cuisine.

Though there are multiple species of crawfish intended for human consumption, the Red Swamp Crawfish is the most popular. As a species that was once introduced outside of its native habitat for the intention of sport fishing bait, the red swamp crawfish is now considered an invasive species in many areas outside it's original southern grounds. As their name suggests, these crawfish prefer a swamp habitat in freshwater, void of any strong currents, allowing them to burrow for food, shelter, and moisture.

Crawfish are traditionally prepared for a crawfish boil, where they are combined with potatoes, sausage, and corn on the cob, all seasoned heavily with salt, Cayenne pepper, lemon, garlic, and bay leaves. They are boiled and eaten on a large picnic table with friends and family joining in for the feast. Most red swamp crawfish are between 2 and 5 inches in length, with a vibrant, dark red shell, which turns an even brighter red when cooked. Sometimes crawfish are also referred to as Louisiana crayfish, paying tribute to their southern roots, but also playfully called mud bugs. Now coming into their most abundant season, eat as many as you can since there are more than enough to go around! As you can see, we've cooked up a few here at Pierless to try, ready and waiting with drawn butter and our sleeves rolled up.

 

Summer Flounder

The summer flounder -- commonly known as fluke -- is a prized recreational and commercial catch, popular because of its delicate, light flavor and lean, white, firm fillets. Despite low populations for decades and help managing the stock throughout the 1980’s, it wasn’t until the late 1990’s that fluke started to respond to fishery management action. Finally finding a balance for recreational and commercial fishermen, the summer flounder population started coming back and was declared rebuilt to target levels in 2010. The fishing quota for this species is strategically divided between commercial and recreational anglers, being one of the most popular recreational fisheries on the Atlantic coast.

Fluke are able to change their coloring to match their surroundings when burrowing in the sandy or muddy ocean floor. They are a left-eyed flatfish, meaning that their right eye migrates to the left side of their head as they mature, with both of their eyes ending up on the same side.

Migratory patterns for fluke throughout the Atlantic are determined by water temperature. In the winter, they are offshore along the continental shelf, while in the warmer summer months, they come inshore along the coast in shallow waters and estuaries. These easily foreseeable migratory patterns are one of the reasons that the fluke population was able to be rebuilt. Because of the knowledge we have of the species and where they are at certain times, it is easy to predict where they are, allowing them to spawn and grow into juveniles without fishing pressure, as well as determine catch seasons for them and for specific areas. Availability for this item depends on state season openings and closures, though at this time of year our summer flounder supply is coming from Narraganset, RI. Fried, broiled, sautéed, or even eaten raw, this fish is perfect for a variety of culinary applications.

April 08, 2015 by Sonja Panacek

Madai from Japan

Madai is easily distinguished by its beautiful, coppery-red color. It is in the sea bream family, with fish like porgy and European daurade. This highly iconic Japanese fish is prized for it sushi-grade flesh and the ability to compliment all kinds of cuisine, especially in raw applications. Many times it is prepared for important events and holidays in Japan like weddings and New Years celebrations, being that it is referred to as a “celebration” or “luxury” fish. There are many types of these sea bream, or “tai,” in waters off the coast of Japan, but madai is a favorite, and is usually referred to as “genuine tai.” Madai is one of the most iconic and celebrated tai in Japanese cuisine, dating back thousands of years.

With a strong and historic popularity, aquaculture has made this species available around the world without the threat of overfishing the wild population. Our madai are farmed in southern Japan in open-water pens, generally about 2 to 8 pounds in size. They are never frozen, always arriving fresh here in New York, offering a taste of authentic, celebrated, Japanese cuisine.

 

March 26, 2015 by Sonja Panacek

Golden Snapper from New Zealand

Caught off the coast of New Zealand and Australia, golden snapper are harvested by small fishing vessels using longlines, out only for a day at a time, sometimes as little as six hours. Short trips ensure the best quality and ultimate freshness for these fish. Upon being brought aboard, they are killed instantly and painlessly with a quick spike through their brain, a simple process known as “iki-jime.” With this technique, the meat of the fillets is preserved because the muscles stop moving immediately, and the blood is drawn to the gut. This makes for a clean fillet that is preserved for a “just caught” taste when eaten raw or cooked. Packed in special boxes known as “iki-bins,” golden snapper are well preserved from start to finish, ensuring a high-quality fish every time. Golden snappers range in size from three to eight pounds, and many of them come from Lee Fisheries out of Leigh, New Zealand on the North Island. This tight-knit, industry-conscious community has perfected these processes over generations of skill and knowledge development.


The F/V Coral V, is one of the dayboat longliners that catch golden snapper off the coast of New Zealand. This boat fishes north of Auckland, generally from the Hauraki Gulf up through the warmer waters and rocky coastlines of Northland. This boat is owned by Dave Moore, a well-known fisherman from Leigh. As a strong industry advocate, Moore has a prominent voice in the regional economy and fisheries management. With a clear and focused outlook on future management of species like golden snapper, he has cultivated the ability to combine science and real industry experience from other fishermen to gain common ground and a substantial voice in fisheries management for the area. Down-to-earth, honest conversation that includes as many angles of the trade as possible combines to form a group of informed experts that can effectively manage and defend their livelihoods for future generations, or as Moore calls it, “100 year thinking."

 

Ōra King Salmon: A Best Choice Rating from Monteray Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch

Monday, February 16, Monteray Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program labeled marine-farmed Chinook Salmon from New Zealand a Best Choice for consumers. This is the first and only ocean-farmed salmon to be given a Best Choice, or Green, rating, which is the highest possible.

Pierless Fish is happy to announce that encompassed in this source is Ōra King Salmon, one of our products that is a premium, high-quality salmon raised by the New Zealand King Salmon Company in the South Island’s Marlborough Sounds. The species of Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) accounts for only half a percent of the world’s salmon population, being one that truly is king – a larger size, a richer flavor, and a higher fat content than other salmon species. The caretakers of Ōra King selectively breed the salmon for these traits, but also color, nutritional content, and overall quality, hand-selecting it to be the best culinary product possible.

In the wild, five kilograms of whole fish are needed to produce one kilogram of salmon. On the contrary, the salmon produced by the New Zealand King Salmon Company yields 1.4 kilograms of salmon to every 1 kilogram of fish protein used in the fish’s diet, all of which comes from sustainable fisheries that are scientifically managed. With a promise of sustainability and a business model to support it, Ōra King is a net producer of marine protein.

Ōra King Salmon is raised free of any chemicals or antibiotics at a site managed with stringent biosecurity measures both on a local and national level – the Marlborough Sounds. After initial development in spring-fed hatcheries, the smolt are carefully transferred to marine net pens in the Sounds. Only 2% of the pen space is fish biomass – the remaining 98% is flowing water, which ensures their health, taste, and quality as they mature to adults.

Seafood Watch has acknowledged the precision and devotion to the quality of these fish – a truly sustainable, traceable, and premium product without any negative effects to the environment, such as disrupting wild salmon populations or polluting local water. Meticulously designed to be a premium, year-round product, Ōra King Salmon now has the support of a globally renowned recommendation as a choice consumers can feel confident about purchasing and eating – not only a choice that is conscious of health, but also of the environment.

 

 

Viking Village Monkfish

Before the 1980's, fishermen using trawls and scallop dredges who brought up monkfish weren't sure what to make of them. The modest beginning of monkfish as a bycatch, or an unintentional harvest, in the United States in no way foretold its present-day success. Upon discovering a muscular tail, meaty cheek pockets, and an enormous liver, the American monkfish, Lophius americanus, slowly made its way onto domestic tables here in the United States, as well as international ones. By the 1990's, it was the highest valued finfish in the Northeastern US, a place it has upheld since then. Through its course of discovery, depletion, rebuilding, and now stability and study, here’s a glimpse of the industry, from where it starts, to where it ends.


WHAT IS A MONKFISH? As what seems to be an enormous set of jaws covered in brown and olive-speckled skin, the monkfish lurks on the ocean floor, camouflaging itself, at depths reaching up to 3,000 feet. It dangles a small, lure-like appendage on what is a delicately thin, extended spine hanging in front of the monk's head. This “fishing pole and lure” setup is a distinguishing physical trait of the biological order of "anglerfish" worldwide. Its inward-facing teeth are designed to trap prey after an enveloping gulp.

The term anglerfish also doubles as a common name for monkfish in both America and Europe, though European monkfish are a different species, Lophius piscatorius. Other common names include goosefish, frog-fish, or sea-devil, among even stranger ones. With jaws and a stomach capable of eating prey longer than they are, the enormous monkfish head tapers back to a tail that seems to be a second thought. Though they're mostly hoping for crustaceans, mollusks, fish, diving ducks, and birds - cannibalism does occur within the species.

The monkfish's popularity, of course, did not catch on because of its good looks. Long ago another nickname, "poor-man's lobster," started, since the tail fillets and meaty pockets from its cheeks resemble the taste and appearance of lobster when cooked – dense, and clean, opaque white. The tail is mostly sold skinned, also stripped of the translucent purple-blue membrane that surrounds it. Monkfish meat it so dense that it is easily cubed and grilled without falling apart, though it is commonly braised or broiled.

And what about that huge liver? Generally over half a foot long and weighing more than a pound, ankimo, as it is referred to in Japan, is a celebrated delicacy. It is generally steamed and sliced, topped with scallions, ponzu, daikon, and momiji-oroshi, a spicy red pepper sauce. Soy is rarely used since the taste of the liver is so delicate. Monkfish liver is also used in soups and has multiple applications in sushi as well. Culinary purposes such as these are practiced most notably in Japan, though also widely in Korea.

BRIDGING GAPS

After their rise in the 1990’s, it became apparent that monkfish stocks in the Northeast were under exploitation, similar to the neighboring European species already depleted. Since the early 2000’s, however, the fishery has been highly successful in rebuilding then-declined monkfish populations in the US, now over target limits since 2008. Though monkfish as a fishery started as a bycatch itself (caught accidentally while fishing for something else), the actual term “bycatch” is generally something most professionals in the fishing industry want to avoid. What a lot of fishery legislation combats now is steering clear of vulnerable species enveloped by this term, including endangered species, populations under regrowth programs, and mammals. As the design of fishing gear becomes more and more specific to catching only one species, bycatch can be limited and fishermen can harvest just what they are targeting.

Little is known about anglers as a targeted species relating to their behavior, migration, and spawning patterns, making it difficult to design gear specific to them. Being primarily benthic, all anglers live in the deepest water on the ocean floor, making it difficult to find and study them.

In short – there’s plenty of monkfish, but how can we avoid catching all the other species that surround them?

Members of the monkfish industry collaborate with both the Cooperative Monkfish Research Program and the Monkfish Research Set-Aside Program (RSA). RSAs use no federal funding, but instead run on revenue generated from industry sales. This is made possible because of the collaboration and cooperation between industry fishing professionals and researchers – those studying species population, growth, movement, and so on. The New England and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils manage these allocations, along with guidance from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Some other fisheries using an RSA system include Atlantic sea scallops, herring, and black sea bass, among others. 

Not only are these scientific research-programs necessary in order to understand current conditions in US waters, they are one of the most critical aspects of future management and understanding, both for monkfish and also unwanted bycatch in the same waters. With this collaborative engagement between fisheries science and business, healthy, balanced fish stocks will be around for many years, with fishing practices further evolving to exclude vulnerable bycatch species as much as possible.

FROM THE OCEAN TO PIERLESS

Most monkfish carried by Pierless Fish comes from Viking Village, a seafood producer located in Barnegat Light, New Jersey, the northern-most town on Long Beach Island. With a rich cultural history and multiple generations of deeply involved, experienced fishermen, monkfish are one of many of the high-quality species landed.


Captain Chris Rainone bought the Annice Marie, a forty-foot gillnet boat, in 2006, and has called Viking Village his home port since then. Typically throwing off the lines at around 2am, him and his small crew steam over fifty miles east off the coast of New Jersey for about four hours; quite the commute. Gear is hauled out and in for most of the day, about eight hours, gutting, cleaning, and separating the livers of the monkfish as they are brought up. Chris' gillnets allow as much bycatch through the nets as possible. The nets are incorporated with specific types of links that reduce bycatch entanglement and entrapment, while also letting monkfish too small to harvest pass though. Most adult monkfish brought up are around two to three feet in length, though it's possible for them to be up to five feet.

Like most fishermen, Captain Rainone is under "days at sea" pressure, meaning he has a certain number of days his monkfish permit allows him to harvest. Additionally, there is a quota allocation, allowing him to only catch a certain poundage as well. As another detail that evokes industry strategy, monkfish livers are typically largest in the fall and early winter, which pushes boats to brave the winter weather settling in and use their days at sea to harvest fish with more liver weight to export.

When fishing quotas are established, harvesting an accepted poundage may be agreed upon, but within that tight boundary captains like Chris must make those trips out there count, since they only have a limited number of days to catch a certain number of fish. Allocating quotas to specific boats and areas that have unread or misread populations is one of many issues to consider. This is where the importance of the fishery's research and science comes into play, so as to correctly allocate quotas to certain coastal states and fishing vessels with concern also for where populations are.


Other targeted species Captain Rainone is after include bluefish, menhaden, and croakers, most of which depend on seasonality and migration through New Jersey waters. As quality is of upmost priority for the management at Viking Village and the vessels that dock there, this concept goes far beyond the attention to detail of each individual product. Quality seafood is about responsibility - of care and planning for the future fishery - as much as it is about an experienced crew and getting enough ice on a fresh catch.

Of course, this all directly translates to any fishery, but for monkfish, the quality and care from people like Chris and his crew is what upholds not only the value of the product in US and international markets, but also its longevity, which is of highest importance. Industry awareness and participation with those who are catching, selling, trading, and eating in restaurants or at home are what ensures a positive impact for years to come. With involvement from start to finish in fisheries management to consumers, the success of monkfish and its quality will continue to be an example of responsibly harvested seafood here in the US - the true meaning of sustainable fish.

Maine Diver Scallops

Inescapable winter weather settles in just as SCUBA divers adventure up to sixty feet below the ocean’s surface, with water temperatures close to freezing and air temperatures close to zero. On December 1, they began their search for sea scallops on the coastal ocean floor of Maine, with the season open only until April.

Over 99% of the entire Atlantic Sea Scallop harvest is collected by offshore dredging, making those scallops caught by divers less that one percent of the annual catch. Due to the geography of Maine’s coastline, many scallop-rich areas are too rocky for dredging, but the water is shallow enough for divers to go down and harvest the product by hand. Of those gathered and sold, most go to residents of the state of Maine, with only a small percentage reserved for out-of-state sale. Buyer beware of many who offer “Maine diver scallops” year round – many are mislabeled, especially if they are whole and live, since only the adductor muscle, or scallop “meat,” is legal to sell in Maine.

Divers only look for large, mature scallops, often by eyeing pale rings of sand that mark the outward motion of the mollusk's two shells. A strategic technique, this leaves both ocean floor environment and still-developing scallop populations unharmed. Because of zero stress, jostling, or friction involved in harvesting, scallops collected by these professional divers are known to have an even more velvety texture than normal, of course also maintaining their rich, sweet quality.

 

December 12, 2014 by Sonja Panacek

Sustainably Farm Raised Dover Sole

Sole, a fish prized for it's delicate, sweet taste and versatility in cooking, originally came from the Northeastern Atlantic. The term "Dover sole" originated because so many of the fish came from the port of Dover in Great Britain in the 19th century, more than any other area in Europe. With this booming popularity, the wild sole around Western Europe quickly diminished to a level that put the population at serious risk.
Bottom and top fillets of Dover sole, next to whole fish
New technologies and state of the art facilities have made farmed Dover sole return as an industry staple, and this time it is a sustainable option internationally. Stolt Sea farm, our supplier in Lira, Spain, is at the forefront of industry technology, processes, and experience. They are also highly involved with the replenishment effort of wild populations in the North, Baltic, and Mediterranean seas. 
With firm, boneless fillets, this delicious fish has redefined itself as a sustainable favorite because of its farming success. Our Dover sole are never frozen, and because of being a farmed product, the quality, size, and availability are all highly reliable for any application. The size, between 22 and 24 ounces, is especially great served as an entree for two people to share. 
December 03, 2014 by Sonja Panacek

Local Peconic Bay Scallops

About eighty miles east of New York City lies the quaint and historical haven of the Peconic Bay. Situated between the North and South forks on the end of Long Island, this ecosystem is mainly fed by the Peconic River, forging an estuary that is now greatly profiting from diligent management practices that have saved it from dissolution.

Historically speaking, the Peconic area provided over eighty percent of New York State's bay scallops. Eutrophication, raised nitrogen levels, and poor management brought on a brown algal bloom in 1985, bringing many species, the bay scallop among them, close to failure.

Not anymore. The locals came together here on Long Island to redefine what it meant to protect and redevelop their resources, putting scallops from Nantucket Bay, off the coast of Massachusetts, on the same level as the now-booming Peconics.

Obviously, we recommend the locally managed and supported fishery about an hour away.

Remarkably sweet, delicate, and popularly consumed raw, Peconic Bay scallops are shucked live and guarded carefully before, during, and after their short trip across Long Island. This local delicacy isn't something you can miss out on.

Fresh Farm Raised Cobia

We here at Pierless are proud to offer fresh Open Blue Cobia, farm raised in the deep, blue Caribbean waters off Panama. If you're not familiar with cobia, it is a fish delicate in flavor and complex in texture, with exceptional fat content and the ability to be used in both raw and cooked preparation...
April 03, 2014 by Charles Trimarco