The New England whiting fishery is an open-access part of the larger small-mesh multispecies fishery…for now. However that is about to change this January when the New England Fishery Management Council will decide upon one of three proposals to make whiting a limited-access fishery. This will affect the catch of two stocks of silver hake (Merluccius bilinearis) and one stock of offshore hake (Merluccius albidus), that are caught and sold as “whiting.”
As reported in the Gloucester Daily Times, there are three proposals on the table that will limit who can catch New England whiting and how much. According to NOAA, none of these stocks are overfished, but part of the up coming Amendment 22 to the fisheries management plan. The fear is that continuing an open-access fishery may lure more fishermen away from more restricted species to fish for whiting and hake. By limiting who can fish for whiting, the amendment is intended to proactively limit the risk of overfishing.
As mentioned in a previous post, I love fried “baby” whitings the way my grandmother does them. When I was little, whiting was a major processing fish locally and the family would go down to Cultivator Shoal on George’s Bank to fill the little dragger up beyond capacity. There was a lot of whiting, and the price was low. Instead of struggling to catch what was left of the cod and haddock, many of the smaller boats like ours, went for these lower value, but plentiful fish. It is hard to find fresh, unless you are near the source, but I highly recommend trying it. Whiting is a good tasting and versatile white fish that unfortunately goes underutilized.
For those fishermen who have been avoiding cod and targeting hake and whiting, they may get a reward in the form of a large share of the future quota. However, others may be left out of the game entirely, depending upon which of the three convoluted options the Council chooses. I just hope some of our family friends get a share of the quota, otherwise papa’s freezer is going to be empty.