[Alaska Sea Grant]

Turning a bycatch problem into a
new fishery

Date: March 1, 1996
Contact: Doug Schneider, 907-474-7449

Special for the Kodiak Daily Mirror ComFish '96 issue

KODIAK, Alaska--Deep water trawlers haul them aboard by the ton, and then dump them overboard. They are giant grenadier, and by some accounts they make up about half of the non-target catch in the deep water trawl fishery targeting flatfish and sablefish.

"There's been a lot of concern about bycatch," says Chuck Crapo, a seafood technologist at the Alaska Sea Grant Program. "You go out with some of these fishermen and you see upwards of 40 to 50 percent of the fish being landed are giant grenadier."

Giant grenadier thrive at depths greater than 200 fathoms. The species is also called rattail because they are long and slender, like a rat's tail. They weigh around 60 pounds, but unfortunately the fish is undesirable because it is mostly water. When cooked, it becomes so soft that people don't want to eat it, says Crapo.

"A typical fish has 75 percent to 80 percent moisture. The grenadier is like 90 percent water," says Crapo. "It has no firmness and so there's no market for it."

But there may be hope for the giant grenadier. Crapo has spent the last 18 months looking for ways to remove some of the water from the fish to make the fillets marketable. The work isn't rocket science but it has led to results.

"It's an interesting fish. We are trying to improve its texture, trying to add binders that would absorb water as well as give some firmness," said Crapo. "We've also tried gently pressing the water from the fish, and that seems to work the best."

When some of the water is removed from the grenadier, its flesh becomes firm, and the meat flaky, says Crapo. "It's really a delicate, flavorful, flaky white meat that would be very tasty on any restaurant plate."

Crapo is working with grants from the federal Saltonstall-Kennedy Program which provides money from taxes on imported seafood. Crapo hopes to demonstrate several processes that firms up the flesh so it can be marketed.

"We think there is a future for the grenadier," says Crapo. "It was once used for surimi, and we think it can be used again as fillets. Finding a use for it and then finding markets for it would help solve the bycatch problem and better utilize our fisheries."

Crapo says as much as 300,000 tons of grenadier could be caught each year if his research finds an economical way of turning this denizen of the deep into a household name.

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