Can I Eat Monkfish?


monkfish.jpg

The answer is still no but read below if you care to know why you cannot eat monkfish (maybe better known as anglerfish). 

In January, DSN praised the move by Wal-Mart owned ADSA to drop monkfish from their stores. Last week however several media outlets claimed Monkfish back on the menu & Monkfish no longer a fish to avoid! Fishupdate reports that ASDA is to lift is ban. What?

The problem is that several pieces of information have been confused. 

Two species in the genus Lophius are marketed as monkfish, the Northeast Atlantic (off Europe) L. piscatorius and the Northwest Atlantic (off the eastern U.S.)  L. americanus

Seafood Watch at the Monterey Bay Aquarium notes for L. americanus (with an avoid rating)

Unfortunately, high demand has encouraged heavy fishing pressure, and populations have become overfished off the U.S. Atlantic coast. Due to strengthened fishery management, monkfish are beginning to show signs of recovery but are still at low numbers. An additional concern for monkfish is the way they are caught. Monkfish are usually caught using bottom trawls, a method that can damage seafloor habitat and often results in high bycatch of unmarketable, illegal or undersized species. For these reasons, we recommend you avoid monkfish.

The current lift only deals with L. piscatorius which the Marine Conservation Society dropped the monkfish its Fish to Avoid list.  The next point, wholly avoided by the press, is that the shift in designation only refers to  “monkfish from the northern stock (which includes monkfish fished in Scottish waters)” as noted in the MCS press release.  MCS still recommends to avoid eating from the depleted southern stock.  So why the turn for the northern stock? 

Scientific evidence recently compiled by Dr Chevonne Laurenson from the NAFC Marine Centre suggests there has been a significant increase in abundance over the last 5 years and there are no biological indicators to suggest that monkfish is being exploited at unsustainable levels. “There has been widespread recruitment into the fishery since 2001 and all evidence indicates that the stock is continuing to increase in abundance at the present time” says Dr Laurenso.

However, this does not mean you can eat monkfish.  As MCS warns this is a removal from the Fish To Avoid list does not place it on the Fish To Eat list.  Apparently monkfish resides in a sort of fish limbo.  The other reason to avoid is the potential for bycatch and habitat damage by the trawling for monkfish.

Dr. M (1801 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (http://deepseanews.com/), a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.


2 Replies to “Can I Eat Monkfish?”

  1. I had no idea that “monkfish” is really angler fish! If I’d known, I would never have purchased it.

    Craig, didn’t you at one time have a list of commercial names compared to common names for fish? If so, I’d love to see it again and be able to brush up on what fish not to eat.

    Once again, Deep Sea News leads the way in helping us make informed choices at the supermarket.

  2. I had no idea that “monkfish” is really angler fish! If I’d known, I would never have purchased it.

    Craig, didn’t you at one time have a list of commercial names compared to common names for fish? If so, I’d love to see it again and be able to brush up on what fish not to eat.

    Once again, Deep Sea News leads the way in helping us make informed choices at the supermarket.

Comments are closed.