Catalina Offshore Products receives grant to grow demand for opah

Published on
November 1, 2018

San Diego, California, U.S.A.-based seafood processing company Catalina Offshore Products has received a Saltonstall-Kennedy Grant of USD 139,700 (EUR 122,500) to grow demand for opah and other underutilized and undervalued fish species.

Opah, also known as moonfish, is a pelagic fish caught seasonally off the coasts of California and Mexico. Opah can grow to be about the size of a car tire and can weigh up to 200 pounds, “yet a considerable portion is typically discarded,” according to Catalina Offshore Products fishmonger Tommy Gomes.

“People tend to eat what they’re familiar with,” Gomes said. “We’re trying to get them to look beyond the standard fillet. You wouldn’t harvest a pig just to make bacon. Fish should be approached the same way.” 

The company will partner with local chefs, fishermen, and scientists from NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center on the project. The primary objective of the project is to broaden the appeal of opah, with a special focus on ensuring that all edible portions of the fish are utilized. A secondary aim of the initiative is to develop new culinary markets for species being discarded by U.S. Pacific highly migratory species fisheries landing their catch in southern California.

Catalina Offshore will lead efforts on data collection, hosting roundtable discussions with fishermen and consumers, kitchen workshops, recipe development, and culinary demonstrations, according to the company. The year-long project will culminate with an “Ocean to Table” event open to the public where dishes highlighting different culinary applications for opah and other underutilized species will be presented.

The company said in its work with opah, it has identified seven distinct types of meat, each with a unique color, flavor and texture profile, allowing for a wider range of culinary applications.

“This differs from most other species, in which flavor, texture and color tend to be the same throughout the fish,” Gomes said.

The project will be scalable to the national level and has the additional goal of helping to increase revenue to local fleets and providing consumers with a greater range of locally sourced seafood, according to Catalina Offshore Owner Dave Rudie.

“We’re fortunate to have such passionate and esteemed individuals lending their expertise to our culinary engineering project,” Catalina Offshore owner, Dave Rudie said. “This collaboration will allow us to build on our experience working with opah, and further develop market demand for undervalued and underutilized species. We hope our efforts will benefit our local fisheries, increase the viability of our working waterfronts, and illustrate the value of not only fishing sustainably, but eating sustainably.”

Photo courtesy of Sam Wells/Catalina Offshore Products

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