NOAA Awards University of New England Grant to Boost Consumer Market for Spiny Dogfish

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Researchers believe there is a multimillion dollar consumer market potential for this "underappreciated species."


Netting a Spiny Dogfish in the Gulf of Maine

"We plan to develop sophisticated science-based information and change people’s perceptions to help create a vibrant market for this versatile fish." -- UNE Marine Science Director Barry Costa-Pierce, Ph.D.

The University of New England will soon be investigating ways to create a culinary market for the spiny dogfish, an abundant shark in Maine and northeastern U.S. waters, with the potential for a multimillion-dollar boost to the economy.

The NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service’s Saltonstall-Kennedy Grant Program has funded a $245,000 grant for UNE to study “Optimum Utilization of Spiny Dogfish, Squalus acanthias, through Industry Partnerships and Product Development and Marketing.”

Principal investigators on the project are Barry Costa-Pierce, Ph.D., chair of the UNE Department of Marine Sciences, and director of the Marine Science Center; Eric Brazer, Deputy Director, Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders' Alliance; and Nancy Civetta of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance.

Costa-Pierce says, “Maine’s marine economy presents outstanding opportunities for growth. Spiny dogfish populations have successfully rebounded, but it is still an underappreciated species and fisherman discard millions of pounds of these fish each year. Working collaboratively with scientists, fishermen, consumers, chefs and seafood processors, we plan to develop sophisticated science-based information and change people’s perceptions to help create a vibrant market for this versatile fish.”

The project has several goals – to increase domestic quota utilization for spiny dogfish, boost the consumer market for the fish, increase revenue and jobs for fisherman from North Carolina to Maine, and help restore an improved ecosystem balance.

The team projects that the domestic market for spiny dogfish could generate $12 million in economic benefit to fishermen and an additional $26 million in increased economic activity throughout the supply chain and create 470 new harvesting, processing, harvesting and wholesale jobs along the East Coast.

With existing concerns about PCB concentrations in some seafood, including spiny dogfish, the researchers also aim to analyze samples from a wide variety of locations in order to better understand dogfish health risks and benefits by collecting and analyzing data and testing for contaminants.

The goal of the project is to create several new consumer-friendly seafood products and to build U.S. market interest and demand through education and marketing outreach to thousands of chefs, consumers and buyers.

Says Costa-Pierce, “Maine waters have an abundance of spiny dogfish – a healthy, sustainable and, we think, tasty source of protein. We look forward to connecting research, education and business partners to optimize this opportunity and create a thriving new market, more jobs, and contribute to the rapid expansion of Maine’s seafood economy.”

About University of New England
UNE is an innovative health sciences university grounded in the liberal arts, with two distinctive coastal Maine campuses and unique study abroad opportunities, including a vibrant new campus in Tangier, Morocco. UNE has internationally recognized scholars in the sciences, health, medicine and humanities, and offers more than 40 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. The university educates the most health care professionals in Maine, and is one of just a handful of private universities with a comprehensive health education mission including medical, pharmaceutical and allied health programs.

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Kathleen Taggersell
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