The waters off the coast of the Northeastern US are one of the richest fishing grounds in the world. The region’s fishers have a strong commitment to delivering sustainable and high quality products.
Let’s explore a variety of seafood from the Northeast, including: American lobster, Jonah Crab, and scallops.
An American Icon: Sustainable Lobster Fishing
U.S. wild-caught American lobsters are found in the cold Atlantic from Maine to North Carolina – from nearshore to the outer edge of the continental shelf. Sustainability is a crucial part of the lobster fishing heritage. It is about passing on environmentally conscious fisheries to future generations.
For 125 years, lobsters have been harvested by hand, one trap at a time, in order to protect their quality and marine habitat. Undersized lobsters and egg-bearing female lobsters are thrown back into the water. Additionally, female lobsters are marked so that lobstermen are always able to identify them as breeders, even if they are not carrying eggs. Measuring the size of a lobster matters as it prevents young lobsters from being caught and ensures that the natural circle of life stays intact. The same attention is given to oversized lobster, which typically range in age from 15 years or older. Protecting these lobsters from harvest ensures that larger and more productive females find their right mating partner. Size does matter in this case.
This sustainable approach pays off: populations of lobsters are continuously growing, with record catches recorded. Since the incomes of many people rely on the industry’s protection of lobsters, it is also about sustaining the community. Sustainability was a priority to the Northeast lobstermen long before it became a buzzword. It is actually the oldest continuously operated industry in North America.
Taste the Difference
It may seem hard to believe, but back in colonial times, lobsters were considered “the poor man’s food.” Today, eating a lobster is considered a delicacy for many, and it is prepared in a variety of ways. You may know how lobsters taste, but do you know the difference between hard-shell and new-shell?
Between summer and autumn, lobsters shed their shells to reveal new, larger ones underneath, leaving a gap between the meat and the shell that seawater fills. The trapped ocean water naturally marinates the meat within the shell. The result is a soft, malleable and noticeably sweet flavor and cooked orangey, red New Shell Lobster.
The thicker Hard Shell Lobsters are caught year-round, but are much more common in the winter and spring months. They are found farther offshore. When cooked, they turn a deeper shade of red and have denser meat. Since the meat of these lobsters fully fills the shell, there is hardly any room left for ocean water to impact the taste.
Jonah Crab – A New Star on the Horizon
Due to climate change, fisheries from Rhode Island and Massachusetts, that once harvested American lobster, are now focusing their business on a long overseen delicious catch: the Jonah Crab. This crab is a newbie in the market, but it is in no way behind its better known kindred in terms of quality.
Until recently Jonah Crab was not well known, and was considered a bycatch of lobster. Since its potential was recognized, it is an increasingly popular delicacy. Consumers are more and more concerned about sustainable consumption and overfished oceans, leading them to explore other edible seafoods, like the Jonah crab.
Jonah Crab has similar seasonality to lobster, and it is at its peak in the winter months right when the lobster catch begins to slow down. Due to the cold water, the natural sugar in its meat is more concentrated.
With a buttery taste, the Jonah Crab makes a great ingredient in any seafood dish. It’s a medium-sized sweet tasting crab, a little salty, and with a delicate flavor. It can be served as an appetizer, such as cocktail claws and dip, or as a main dish. Jonah Crab leg meat is a tasty addition to pastas. Either way, Jonah Crab is a must for seafood lovers.
Atlantic Sea Scallop – A Shellfish in High Demand
This U.S. wild-caught seafood is well-known for its delicate sweet meat and its generous size. North American sea scallops are available throughout the year and are caught in the deep, cold North Atlantic waters off the east coast of New England. Since the shellfish live on the seafloor, it is crucial to use dredges to prevent other animals from being caught. The nets are not allowed to touch the ground in order to reduce any lasting damage to the seafloor and the marine environment.
The scallop production process is controlled by the fishing industry – from when the scallops are caught and cleaned, to when they are frozen and packed. This process guarantees responsible harvesting and sustainable quality standards under U.S. regulations*. It also delivers the freshest fish, from one of the richest fishing grounds in the world, right to customers.
*found 50 CFR part 648 subpart D
Interested in importing any of these products? Food Export USA-Northeast connects U.S. exporters with prospective buyers. You can also visit the USA Pavilion at the annual Seafood Expo Global. This is the largest trade show within the seafood industry where customers can find new existing products, evaluate trends and discover what’s new in the industry.