Finding value for certain species of the New England groundfish fisheries

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is a non-profit organization with several offices around the US, including Boston. I started my internship a few weeks ago with the Oceans Department, exploring the possibilities for fishermen to generate more value out of undervalued and underutilized species in the groundfish* fishery.


Why look at this? Atlantic cod is the iconic groundfish species in New England, the primary target of many small boat fishermen from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to Port Clyde, Maine. Cod is very popular, and therefore in high demand. Fisherman get good prices for cod compared to other species. White and flaky, it doesn’t have a strong fishy taste that people dislike in other fish. Consumers are used to seeing it, buying it and ordering it off the menu in a restaurant. Unfortunately, the most recent cod stock assessment conducted in 2011 showed that cod populations aren’t doing as well as we would have hoped, which has led to reduced catch limits.


There is good news though! There are species in the fishery that are more abundant yet undervalued. I am thinking about how to help fishermen diversify their portfolio so that they can rely on multiple species, equivalent to diversifying a portfolio of assets to limit risk, with the aim of bringing more revenue to them, shifting fishing effort toward stronger stocks, and alleviating impacts on cod. Fishing some of these species faces technical issues. For example, dogfish require careful handling as they flesh degrade if not chilled and filleted quickly. Nevertheless, despite these challenges, there is tremendous potential to generate more value from these species. At current prices, costs of fuel might not even be covered … So let’s find ways to make them trendy! Check out the Out-of-the-Blue program from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (see link below).


Over this 10 week period, I will be looking at the organization and the economics of the value chain in the groundfish fisheries, opportunities for these undervalued species, and added value that can be derived from these species. I will also look at marketing efforts that exist, in New England but also around the globe, to get a feel for good practices already in place, and those that could be developed. Talking to fishermen, other stakeholders, decision-makers and other experts is helping me grasp the complexity of this global system in order to formulate pertinent recommendations and identify opportunities for increasing value.


So don’t hesitate to try redfish or pollock the next time you have the opportunity to do so!


Natacha Hardy
MBA, Class of 2013
Co-president of the MIT Food and Agriculture Collaborative



A few resources


*Groundfish species live on the bottom of the sea and include cod, haddock, pollock, flounder,…