The Golden Goose-fish of the Northeast

By: Kristin Gerbino

In the Spring of 2022, applicants for the coveted Saltonstall-Kennedy Grant, administered through NOAA Fisheries, were awaiting news if their grant proposal was accepted. This is the calm before the storm. After compiling hundreds of pages of an application, waiting months, responding to questions, and waiting some more; for some, this is only the beginning.


The Fisheries Department of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Marine Program (CCE Suffolk) was one of those recipients. After months of preparation, they were awarded almost $200,000 to begin marketing monkfish; an undervalued, and underappreciated species of fish that is caught close to Northeast shores. This project aims to rejuvenate the monkfish fishery by increasing public awareness and encouraging consumption of this delicious yet obscure fish.


Monkfish (Lophius americanus), is a species of bottom-dwelling fish that inhabits the waters of the Greater Atlantic Region. Also known as the “poor-mans’ lobster,” its flavor, texture, and considerably cheaper price tag have made monkfish a popular substitute for traditional lobster dishes, such as bisques and rolls.

Due to its widespread range throughout the Northeast, monkfish can be caught close to home eliminating the need for fishermen to travel up and down the coastline in pursuit of catch significantly decreasing their fuel consumption. The monkfish population is thriving, making it a sustainable and environmentally conscious seafood choice.

Despite all of these benefits, monkfish has underperformed in local markets. With weak foreign markets and a lack of domestic demand, monkfish is a largely underutilized fishery, and the number of harvesters landing monkfish has declined in recent years.


Here’s where CCE Suffolk comes in. The Saltonstall Kennedy grant allows them to work closely with commercial fishermen, seafood dealers, food processors, non-profits, and marketing professionals to develop an effective means of promoting and marketing monkfish for the next two years. CCE Suffolk will engage in workshops, public outreach events, such as information booths, and local seafood tastings, to both educate and encourage people to become more familiar with eating monkfish.



By the end of this project, CCE and its partners hope to make monkfish a popular and desirable staple of any seafood market or dinner table. Regionwide success in this regard will not only breathe life into a once-lucrative fishery but support local fishermen and businesses, reduce the carbon footprint created by importing other seafood options, and redirect commercial fishing pressure from more heavily fished species. With so many potential benefits from monkfish, this may very well be the golden goose that the Northeast’s commercial fishery needs.

Cornell University Monkfish Marketing Program


In 2022, Cornell University, in partnership with the Suffolk County Marine Fisheries team, and Food Export USA, received a NOAA Fisheries Saltonstall-Kennedy Grant to marketing monkfish.


Learn more about SK Grants

METHODS TO HARVEST

The species tend to be in deeper water where trawling and gillnet catch species like monkfish that reside near the bottom of the ocean.


Trawling. Trawling is a method of fishing that involves pulling a fishing net through the water behind one or more boats. The nets that are used for trawling are called trawls.

Gill net fishing: A gill net is a wall of netting that hangs in the water column vertically. Gillnet mesh sizes are designed to allow fish to get only their heads through catching their gills. Smaller fish or bycatch species can swim through the nets.



Places to Find Monkfish: Tony's Seafood, Fearless Fish, and many others that can be found using the RI Seafood Finder


Local Seafood Finder

Know your harvester

Greg Mataronas

F/V Cailyn and Maren

Greg is a third generation fishermen from Sakonnet, RI. He fishes year round for a variety of species that includes crab, lobster, skates, and monkfish. Greg started fishing with his dad when he was 8 years old and has enjoyed the work for over 20 years. After getting a degree in Marine Biology from South Hampton University, he made the easy transition into commercial fishing. Greg says his favorite way to use monkfish is in chowder, but that the tender white fish can be enjoyed in various ways.

Cook A Fish, Give A Fish

Online Seafood Cooking Class

Learn to prepare pan roasted striped bass with sweet and sour heirloom tomatoes and whipped pumpkin! Join Chef Tom Rutyna, Eating with the Ecosystem, CCE Fisheries, and Fresh From the Start Produce for a night of supporting local!


100% of the ticket price goes to the purchase of local fish for communities in need.


Learn more here

What to expect



JORDYN KASTLUNGER

Fisheries Marketing Specialist

C: (619) 278-8275

Jordyn.Kastlunger.ctr@dem.ri.gov

RI Seafood Marketing Collaborative Website

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