BOSTON — Cod has been king for centuries in New England. And for generations, it sustained a vibrant fishing industry here. But in recent years, federal regulators have imposed strict catch limits on cod and other groundfish, and fisherman say they can’t even meet those quotas because it’s getting harder to find cod in local waters.
So with a shortage of local cod, there is an effort underway to lure diners away from the revered species and steer them towards new types of fish that are abundant. But it’s not easy to increase consumer demand for what’s long been considered “trash fish.”
At a fundraising dinner at the Cambridge restaurant Area Four, diners were not eating the usual fare. Redfish, surf clam, and dogfish — sometimes known as “trash fish” — were on the menu.
Michael Leviton, chef and owner at Area Four, said the species are hardly household names. The point of the dinner was to highlight overlooked fish that are abundant in local waters. One of the offerings was lionfish ceviche with ruby grapefruit and a candied lemon zest.
“We’re hosting a dinner tonight that brings together nine chefs, each who are cooking a different fish to show our customers so many of these fish that are available in New England really are tasty,” Leviton said. “And we’re trying to get them to look beyond the traditional cod and haddock.”
That’s because cod and haddock, which have been New England’s money-makers for generations, are in short supply.
“I’ve never seen cod fishing this bad,” said Greg Walinski, who has worked as a fisherman in Chatham for 30 years. “It looks to me like it’s over.”