Mistakenly, not all “trash fish” belong in the trash. Instead, they’ve gotten that moniker because that’s where they end up, not where they need to go. Also known as “bycatch” fish or, more positive, “underutilized species,” these fish typically go to waste because the commercial market is weak and it’s not worth fishermen’s efforts to try to sell them. But a program in California is trying to create a win-win for schools and commercial fishers by creating a market for these perfectly edible “trash fish” in school lunches.
The San Francisco Chronicle recently reported on these new efforts, specifically focusing on the sale of grenadier. Sometimes referred to as the “underwater squirrel” or “rattail,” these bycatches of California’s seafood industry are only worth about 25 cents a pound for whole fish, causing fishermen to throw away 240 tons of grenadier in 2013. But seafood supplier Real Good Fish, as part of its Bay2Tray program, is paying 45 cents a pound to bring these “ugly” but tasty catches to schoolchildren—a price that’s enough to convince fishermen to actually get them off the boat so they can be used as fresh local fish in school lunches.
The grenadier, which is described as “mild, flaky” and even “delightful,” will be used for meals like fish tacos and rice bowls. Monterey Peninsula Unified School District has been working with Bay2Tray since last year. “Monterey was founded on fishing,” Jenn Gerard, the district’s director of nutrition services, told the Chronicle. “The irony is that the children were looking at the Monterey Bay from their classroom and then going to the cafe to get frozen pollock fish sticks [made with fish imported from Asia].”
The program is another example of America’s renewed efforts to reduce food waste. And it reinforces an important lesson for kids about not judging anyone, not even a fish, by its looks.