Living in New England we are incredibly lucky to live close to three very productive marine ecosystems, which produce a diversity of local seafood species and provide a healthy food source for us consumers, while supporting many commercial fisheries and businesses. Despite the abundance of seafood produced in our local waters, as consumers, we typically eat very few local species. Our markets, menus and plates generally do not reflect the diversity of seafood produced by our local ecosystems and they also do not reflect the diversity of seafood caught in our local fisheries. In the US to keep up with the demand for our “favorite species” (Shrimp, salmon, and tuna) we actually import more than 90% of the seafood seafood we eat and then we export over 80% of the seafood caught in our local waters.
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?
Eat like a fish! In other words, eat a wide variety of local species in proportion to their natural abundances and adapt your diet as the ecosystem changes. Many seafood species are seasonal and thus may not be available all year round. Just in the way you wouldn't expect to be able to eat local strawberries in January here in New England, you may not be able to find your favorite fish at certain times of year. Instead, enjoy those fish when they are in season and find another favorite (or better yet, multiple favorites) when they aren't.
An ecosystem balanced diet begins with how we harvest our seafood. By harvesting the widest variety of species possible from our local ecosystems and harvesting them in proportion to their natural production, we can minimize our human impacts on overexploited populations and our ecosystems while maintaining the natural balance of our marine food webs. This approach allows fishermen to catch what is available to them. However, it is not enough to just have our fishermen harvest in balance with our ecosystems. Fishermen and related seafood businesses still need to be able to make a living off what they catch and sell. That means, as consumers we must adapt our diets to eat in balance with our local ecosystems and fisheries.
WHERE CAN I BUY LOCAL SEAFOOD?
For most of us, when we walk into our local markets we typically see very little diversity. You will most likely find shrimp, salmon, tuna, and some kind of flakey white fish (some of which might be local). These species are ones that consumers have consistently shown demand for and thus markets are willing to sell because there is very little financial risk in doing so. If your market does happen to carry a diversity of local species, support that decision by purchasing a diversity of local seafood. If your market doesn't carry a species you are looking for or does not carry local seafood at all, then show them that their is demand by asking for it. While this may be frustrating and you may not see changes immediately, if enough consumers are asking for local species or even if you alone are persistent and continue to ask for local species, more markets will start to carry them. The market's ultimate goal is to sell seafood and they sell seafood by providing customers with what they want.
SO, WHAT IS LOCAL?
Below is a list of some of our local New England seafood species (this is not an all inclusive list as there are hundreds of species available in our New England ecosystems). Some of these species are more abundant than others and we will updating this list with more information about those abundances with data from our Ecosystem Market Symmetry Research Project with the University of Rhode Island. In the meantime use this list as a guide to learn more about some of our local seafood species and inspiration for your next seafood meal. They are all edible, local seafood species but may not all be in season.
Local Edible New England Species
Scienctific Name: Sebastes fasciatus
Other Common Names: Ocean Perch
Description: Acadian redfish are found in deep waters from the Gulf of Maine northward. Their lives consist of swimming near the seabed on rocky and dining on crustaceans, mollusks, and smaller fish. Their predators include halibut, codfish, and seals. Redfish can live for 50 years or more. Their slow growth rate made them vulnerable to fishing pressure in the past, but they are now thriving again.
Black Sea bass
Scientific Name: Centropristes striatus
Other Common Names: Sea Bass, Blackfish, Black Bass
Description: Black sea bass are found from Cape Cod to the Gulf of Mexico. They summer inshore off southern New England and winter offshore off the Carolinas. They are bottom fish, and love the nooks and crannies around wrecks and pilings, where they munch on crabs, lobsters, and shellfish. Black sea bass begin life as females, but when the dominant male in a group dies, a female turns into a male and takes his place.
Scientific Name: Callinectes sapidus
Other Common Names: Chesapeake crab
Description: Blue crabs are a swimming estuarine crab common in the Mid Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. In some years, it is plentiful in Southern New England estuaries, while in other years, it is scarce. Warming waters associated with climate change are expected to bring more blue crabs to New England. Blue crabs are omnivores that eat both plants and animals. They are prey for many fish and sharks.
Scientific Name: Pomatomus saltatrix
Other Common Names:
Description: Bluefish are a migratory species found from Maine to Florida. They move north in summer and south in winter. They generally school by size, and their schools can cover tens of square miles of ocean. They are fast growers and opportunistic predators, feeding voraciously on anything they capture. Sharks, tunas, and billfishes are the only fish predators large and fast enough to prey on adult bluefish.
Scientific Name: Sarda sarda
Other Common Names: Atlantic bonito, common bonito, horse mackerel
Description: Bonito is a member of the scombroid family, along with mackerel and tuna. They grow to 3 feet and resemble small tunas. Bonitos swim fast and far, and travel in schools. These schools visit New England waters in summer and fall, where they snack on mackerel, menhaden, and squid. Bonito can be spotted leaping from the water as they chase their prey near the surface.
Scientific Name: Poronotus triacanthus
Other Common Names: American butterfish, Atlantic butterfish, Dollarfish
Description: Butterfish are common between North Carolina and the Gulf of Maine. These small schooling fish are short-lived and fast growing. They shift their distribution with temperature, moving northward and inshore in summer to feed and spawn, and southward and offshore in winter to avoid the cold. They eat small invertebrates and are prey for fish, mammals, and seabirds.
Scientific Name: Gadus morhua
Other Common Names: Atlantic cod, codling
Description: are cold- water predators once found in vast quantities on Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine. They prefer gravel and sand bottoms between 50-300 ft., where they feed on almost anything smaller than themselves: shellfish, lobsters, squid, other fish. Their numbers have declined in recent generations, replaced by ecologically analogous fish such as dogfish and skates.
Scientific Name: Busycon carica & Busycotypus canaliculatus
Other Common Names: Knobby Whelk and Channeled Whelk
Description: Knobby (Busycon carica) and Channeled (Busycotypus canaliculatus) Conchs (or Whelks) are inshore species that move between deep and shallow water, depending on the time of year. They roam in sub-tidal sandy areas, eating clams, mussels, and other bivalves. They wedge a bivalve open using the edge of their shell, and insert their long proboscis to eat the flesh of their victim.
Scientific Name: Micropogonias undulatus
Other Common Names: Atlantic croaker
Description: Croaker are found in sandy and muddy parts of sounds and estuaries of the Mid-Atlantic and South-Atlantic. They feed on worms, crustaceans, and small fish, and are eaten by bluefish, weakfish and striped bass. Croaker populations vary greatly from year to year based on environmental conditions. This species is moving north into New England waters with climate change.
Scientific Name: Tautogolabrus adspersus
Other Common Names: Choggies, Chogset, Sea perch, Blue perch, Bergall
Description: Cunner are a close relative of the better-known tautog. They are year round residents that primarily stick close to shore, swarming among eelgrass beds and pilings. Their principal foods are barnacles, mussels, and other invertebrates. The cunner was a favorite food fish in the 19th century, but today the market for this species is very limited.
Scientific Name: Hippoglossoides platessoides
Other Common Names: American Plaice, American Dab
Description: Dabs are right-handed, large mouthed flounder found in cold waters from Georges Bank northward. Dabs are sedentary fish that make small movements for spawning and feeding. Their favorite foods are sand dollars, sea urchins, and brittle stars, but they are flexible eaters, content with whatever's on offer. They are eaten by dogfish, monkfish, cod, and sharks.
Scientific Name: Glyptocephalus cynoglossus
Other Common Names: Witch Flounder
Description: Grey sole is a right- handed flatfish that reaches up to two feet in length. It frequents areas of muddy sand and avoids shallow waters. It is a stationary (non migrating) fish that prefers water under 50 degrees F. In New England, it is found primarily in the Gulf of Maine. Its small mouth is built to eat small crustaceans, starfish, small mollusks, and worms.
Scientific Name: Melanogrammus aeglefinus
Other Common Names: Atlantic haddock
Description: Haddock live near the bottom on habitats of gravel, clay, and sand. Haddock are fast-growing fish that feed on a variety of bottom- dwelling animals, including mollusks, worms, crustaceans, sea urchins, and occasional small fish and fish eggs. Spiny dogfish, skates, and many other groundfish species prey on juvenile haddock. Gray seals also prey on adult haddock.
Scientific Name: Hippoglossus hippoglossus
Other Common Names: Atlantic halibut
Description: Halibut are the largest of the flatfishes, weighing into the hundreds of pounds. They prefer cold waters and are usually found on sand, gravel, or clay bottoms. Halibut dwelling in deeper water are larger than those in shallower water, suggesting that they move deeper with age. Halibut have a healthy appetite, feasting on all kinds of fish, crabs, lobsters, shellfish - even sea birds and bits of wood.
Scientific Name: Clupea harengus
Other Common Names: Sea herring, Atlantic herring, Sardines
Description: Herring are found from the Gulf of Maine to the Mid-Atlantic. They migrate in schools of thousands of fish to areas where they feed, spawn, and spend the winter. They feed on zooplankton and larvae, and are preyed upon by virtually everything larger than them in the ecosystem. The smallest harvestable herring are known as sardines.
Scientific Name: Zenopsis ocellata
Other Common Names: St. Peter's fish
Description: John Dory is a solitary deepwater fish with a vertically flattened body shape and upturned mouth. Its shimmery, scaleless silver skin bears a "St. Peter's thumbprint" just behind its gills, a trait it shares with spot and haddock. John Dory are found along the outer continental shelf from the Chesapeake Bay to Nova Scotia and are landed as an incidental catch by boats pursuing other targets. They eat fish, squid, and crustaceans.
Scientific Name: Cancer borealis
Other Common Names: Atlantic rock crab
Description: Jonah crab is a common subtidal crab that ranges from Newfoundland to Florida. Its habitat preferences range from rocky to silty bottoms. Jonah crabs move offshore in fall and winter, and inshore in summer. They eat mussels, snails, and crustaceans. Formerly a bycatch species for lobstermen, Jonah crabs have emerged as a major commercial fishery in their own right.
Scientific Name: Homarus americanus
Other Common Names: American lobster, Maine lobster, Boston lobster
Description: Lobster are found in all New England ecosystems, but are most famous and abundant in the Gulf of Maine. The lobster can weigh 10 pounds or more. They are scavengers and eat both live and dead prey, including mussels, clam, worms, fish and crabs. Predators include cod, flounder, seals, and crabs. Lobsters are showing a dramatic northward shift with climate change.
Scientific Name: Scomber scombrus
Other Common Names: Atlantic mackerel, Boston mackerel
Description: Mackerel are found from Labrador to North Carolina. They swim in schools near the surface, traveling to and from spawning and summering grounds. A southern group spawns in the Mid-Atlantic Bight while a northern group spawns in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Mackerel eat plankton, krill, shrimp, and squid, and are prey for a wide range of fish and mammals.
Scientific Name: Coryphaena hippurus
Other Common Names: Dolphin, Dolphinfish
Description: Mahi-mahi are a warm-water fish caught from Massachusetts to Texas. Juveniles swim in schools, while older fish are found alone in open ocean habitat. They grow up to seven feet in length. Mahi, as they are known for short, are top predators, eating many other fish. They spawn under patches of floating seaweed called Sargassum.
Scientific Name: Arctica islandica
Other Common Names: Ocean Quahogs, Black Quahogs
Description: Mahogany clams are found in open-ocean waters of the North Atlantic from 25 to 1,300 feet deep. Living just below the surface of the sand, they extend their siphons to filter-feed plankton from the water column. Mahogany clams are some of the longest living animals on the planet, surviving up to 400 years if undisturbed.
Scientific Name: Lophius americanus
Other Common Names: Goosefish, American anglerfish, bellows-fish, devil-fish, headfish, molligut, satchel-mouth, wide-gape.
Description: Monkfish are found in deep water from North Carolina to the Gulf of Maine. They perform seasonal inshore-offshore migrations. Monkfish can grow over three feet in length and can weigh upwards of 30 lbs. Their huge mouths help them eat tremendous quantities of everything they come across: fish (including other monkfish), lobsters, crabs, shellfish, and even seabirds.
Scientific Name: Mytilus edulis
Other Common Names: Blue mussels, common mussels
Description: Mussels are cold- and temperate water bivalves that live in dense beds in intertidal and subtidal areas, where they attach to rocks using strong and elastic thread-like structures called byssal threads. They filter-feed plankton and particles from the water column and act as prey for starfish, snails, tautog, and cunner. Like clams, mussels have growth rings that show their age.
Scientific Name: Cancer irroratus
Other Common Names: Sand crab, sometimes also called Rock crab
Description: Peekytoe crabs are found on rocky bottoms from the low tide line down to 2000 ft. They are similar in appearance to Jonah crabs, and the two overlap in habitat, although the sand crab is generally found in shallower water than the Jonah. Sand crabs are now to enjoy a meal of worms, clams, mussels, and other crabs. They are eaten by fish, gulls, and crabs.
Scientific Name: Littorina littorea
Other Common Names: Winkle
Description: are intertidal snails living on rocky shores of the North Atlantic (though they can be found down to 180 feet). Native to European coastlines, the periwinkle was introduced to the East Coast in themid-19th century, probably through rock ballast. They are now a dominant intertidal omnivore, scraping microalgae off rocks and snacking on barnacle larvae. Larger snails, sea stars, and fish eat them.
Scientific Name: Pollachius virens
Other Common Names: Atlantic pollock
Description: Pollock are a cod-like fish found chiefly in the Gulf of Maine and Scotian Shelf. They grow fast, reaching over three feet in length. Juveniles live inshore, congregating at low tide and scattering at high tide to hide among seaweed beds. Adults live offshore, schooling in large numbers and moving up and down in the water column in pursuit of fish and crustaceans. Pollock are eaten by dogfish and monkfish.
Scientific Name: Mercenaria mercenaria
Other Common Names: Bay quahogs, hard-shell clams, cherrystones, littlenecks, chowder clams
Description: Quahogs live partially buried in the sand in estuarine waters with medium salinity levels such as bays and coastal salt ponds. They feed on plankton and particles by filtering water using a siphon that they extend from within their shell. Well protected by their thick, hard shell, they are nonetheless prey for sea gulls and other animals. They are well adapted to many conditions.
Scientific Name: Ensis directus
Other Common Names: American jackknife clam, Atlantic razor clam
Description: Razor clams live buried in the sand in shallow, protected waters. They extend siphons out of the sand to filter edible particles from the water. When disturbed, they can burrow up to three feet down with astonishing speed. This ability comes from the streamlined shape of their body and their long “feet”. They use their feet to swim, burrow, and jump. Crabs, fish, and seagulls are fond of eating razor clams.
Scientific Name: Urophycis chuss
Other Common Names: Squirrel Hake, Ling, Mud Hake
Description: Red hakes are members of the cod family that are widely distributed on muddy bottoms throughout New England. As juveniles, they take refuge from predators inside shells of live sea scallops. As adults, they chase crabs, haddock, silver hake, and other fish. They are eaten by cod, dogfish, and monkfish. Red hake move to deeper water with age.
Scientific Name: Myoxocephalus octodecimspinosus and Myoxocephalus scorpius
Other Common Names: Longhorn (Myoxocephalus octodecimspinosus) and shorthorn (Myoxocephalus scorpius) sculpin
Description: Sculpin are cold-water fish. With little preference for depth or bottom type, they are ubiquitous in the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank. Despite being sluggish swimmers, they are voracious feeders, enjoying meals of fish fry, crustaceans, sea urchins, and worms.
Scientific Name: Stenotomus chrysops
Other Common Names: Porgy, Sea Bream, Silver Snapper, Panfish
Description: Scup is a plentiful Mid-Atlantic fish, they browse on invertebrates, crushing their shells with their strong molars. Scup migrate north and inshore to spawn in the spring, then migrate south and offshore in autumn as the water cools.
Scientific Name: Prionotus carolinus
Other Common Names: Gurnard
Description: Sea robin are common coastal bottom fish in Southern New England. They migrate inshore in summer and offshore in winter to avoid the cold. Sea robins are voracious, hunting shrimps, crabs, worms, and small fish. Although sea robins are common and edible (closely resembling the commercialized European gurnard), they are treated as a bycatch, and there is little market for this species.
Scientific Name: Placopecten magellanicus
Other Common Names: Deep sea scallops, giant scallops
Description: Sea scallops are found in offshore habitats of firm sand, gravel, shells, and rock. They occur in congregations called beds, located where temperatures, food availability, and substrate are favorable, and where physical oceanographic fronts and gyres keep larval stages in the vicinity of the spawning population. Scallops feed by filtering algae and particles from the water.
Scientific Name: Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis
Other Common Names: Green sea urchin, Uni
Description: Sea urchins are found on rocky coasts from tidal pools down to 80 ft. Their principal food is kelp, although they can also eat coralline algae, diatoms, and small barnacles. In kelp beds, urchins form a dense "front" or concentration of urchins that can quickly decimate the bed and change the habitat. Crabs, lobsters, and groundfish keep urchin populations in check.
Scientific Name: Raja ocellata
Other Common Names: Winter skate, Raja
Description: There are seven species of skate in New England waters, but Winter Skate (Raja ocellata), also called Raja, is most common on dinner tables. Skate feed on crustaceans, clams, squid and small fishes, and are eaten by monkfish, sharks, and mammals. They reproduce by releasing egg pouches - the familiar "mermaid's purses" found on the beach. Skate numbers exploded in the 1980s and 1990s when groundfish like cod declined.
Scientific Name: Mustelus canis
Other Common Names: Dusky smooth-hound, Dog shark, (the majority of dogfish you see in markets labeled "dogfish" is spiny dogfish not smooth dogfish. Smooth dogfish is often sold at a higher price point).
Description: Smooth dogfish are highly abundant small sharks found from shallow to deep waters. They mature slowly and give birth to live young. They feast on fish, crustaceans, and plankton. Dogfish were one of the species that "replaced" cod and other groundfish on Georges Bank in the 1980s, and they continue to dominate today.
Soft Shell Clams
Scientific Name: Mya arenaria
Other Common Names: Steamer clams
Description: Softshell clams are an estuarine bivalve that burrows in soft sands and gravel in the intertidal and shallow subtidal zone. Steamers are an intermittent species in Southern New England, making sudden appearances in specific spots, but are more consistently present in the Gulf of Maine. However, predation by the invasive green crab has taken a toll on softshell clam populations in recent years.
Scientific Name: Squalus acanthias
Other Common Names: Cape shark, dogfish (most dogfish you see in markets is spiny dogfish not smooth dogfish. Smooth dogfish is often sold at a higher price point).
Description: Spiny dogfish are highly abundant small sharks found from shallow to deep waters. They mature slowly and give birth to live young. They feast on fish, crustaceans, and plankton. Dogfish were one of the species that "replaced" cod and other groundfish on Georges Bank in the 1980s, and they continue to dominate today.
Scientific Name: Leiostomus xanthurus
Other Common Names: Spot croaker, Norfolk spot
Description: Spot live in shallow waters from Texas to Massachusetts, often near pilings and jetties. They form schools just below the surface and prey on worms, mollusks, crustaceans, and detritus. They are eaten in turn by bluefish, weakfish, striped bass, and sharks. Spot are related to the drum, weakfish, and croaker. All four can make a drumming sound by vibrating their swim bladder.
Scientific Name: Doryteuthis pealeii
Other Common Names: Loligo squid, Longfin squid
Description: Squid, more specifically Loligo or Longfin Squid, live for only nine months and die immediately after spawning. They migrate offshore during late autumn, overwinter in warmer waters along the continental slope, and return inshore in spring. They are aggressive hunters, and eat worms, small fish, and small crustaceans. They are important prey for many marine mammals, diving birds, and finfish.
Scientific Name: Morone saxatilis
Other Common Names: Stripers, Rockfish
Description: Striped bass are a premier sport and commercial fish up and down the East Coast. They are an anadromous fish, living in saltwater but returning to freshwater in the southern part of their range to spawn. They live up to 30 years and attain lengths of five feet by gorging on all kinds of fish, crabs, and squid. They are found in New England waters in summertime.
Scientific Name: Paralichthys dentatus
Other Common Names: Fluke
Description: Summer flounder are large-mouthed, left-handed flounders common from Cape Cod to North Carolina. Juveniles spend time in marsh creeks and seagrass beds of southern estuaries. Adults make annual migrations offshore in winter and inshore in summer. They are active and opportunistic predators, eating squid, crabs, shrimps, mollusks, and sand dollars.
Scientific Name: Spisula solidissima
Other Common Names: Hen Clams, Skimmers
Description: Surf clams burrow in the sand, from the beach to the offshore ocean. They are a saltwater (not estuarine) clam. Like all clams, they filter-feed for a living, sucking in plankton and organic particles from the water column. Harvested by offshore dredge boats, these are the clams you'll typically find as fried clam strips at your local clam shack.
Scientific Name: Xiphias gladius
Other Common Names: Broadbills
Description: Swordfish are wide-roaming oceanic fish that stay off the bottom and away from the coast. They like warm water, and are found from Georges Bank to the Gulf of Mexico. They do not school, although they sometimes congregate together. They eat fish - herring, mackerel, whiting, and butterfish - and squid. The heaviest swordfish landed in New England was over 1,000 pounds.
Scientific Name: Tautoga onitis
Other Common Names: Blackfish
Description: Tautogs are a coastal fish, rarely ranging more than a few miles from land. They haunt rocky shores, ledges, wrecks, and mussel beds, where they alternate between munching on mussels and barnacles and lying inert, hidden in crevices. They spend the winter in a restful state nestled in eelgrass, and become active again in April.
Scientific Names: Lopholatilus chamaeleonticeps and Caulolatilus microps
Other Common Names: Golden Tilefish and Blueline Tilefish
Description: Golden (Lopholatilus chamaeleonticeps) and Blueline (Caulolatilus microps) Tilefish live in burrows or "pueblos" in deep canyons on the edge of the continental shelf, from Southern New England to the Gulf of Mexico. They are slow growers and can live over 40 years. Tilefish eat shrimp, crabs, clams, snails, worms, anemones, and sea cucumbers. They are eaten by monkfish, dogfish, conger eels, and sharks.
Scientific Names: Thunnus thynnus, Thunnus albacares, Thunnus obesus, Thunnus alalunga, Katsuwonu pelamis
Other Common Names: Bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna, bigeye tuna, albacore tuna, and skipjack tuna
Description: luefin tunas (Thunnus thynnus), yellowfin tunas (Thunnus albacares), bigeye tunas (Thunnus obesus), albacore tunas (Thunnus alalunga), and skipjacks (Katsuwonus pelamis) all visit New England waters in the summer and fall. Tuna are warm-blooded fish whose bodies are highly specialized for fast swimming over long distances. They are top predators in the oceanic food web, eating many other types of fish.
Scientific Name: Cynoscion regali
Other Common Names: Squeteague, Sea Trout
Description: Weakfish are a warm-water fish that resides year-round off the Carolinas, with part of its population migrating into Southern New England waters in summer. Their favorite habitats include open sandy shores and in larger bays and estuaries, including salt marsh creeks. They dine on crabs, mollusks, and small fish.
Scientific Name: Urophycis tenuis
Other Common Names: Boston Hake
Description: White hakes are bottom dwellers that prefer sandy and muddy bottoms. White hake are larger than both Red and Silver hake. They are members of the cod family and can be found from Newfoundland to Virginia. White hakes are slow swimmers which use their threadlike pelvic fins to help feel for food such as small crustaceans, squid and small finfish. They are preyed upon by diving seabirds and other groundfish including larger hakes.
Scientific Name: Merluccius bilinearis
Other Common Names: Silver Hake
Description:Whiting are the smallest member of the cod family in New England. They move up in the water column to feed at night and return to the ocean bottom during the day to rest. They are voracious predators on fish, crustaceans, and squid, and are prey for a variety of larger species. They move offshore in fall and inshore in spring.
Scientific Name: Pseudopleuronectes americans
Other Common Names: Blackback Flounder, Lemon Sole
Description: Winter flounder are a small-mouthed, right-handed flounder found from the Mid-Atlantic to the Gulf of Maine. They reproduce in estuaries, returning to the location of their birth to spawn. This makes them highly vulnerable to nearshore habitat degradation and climate change. Winter flounder eat shrimp, clams, and worms, and are eaten by larger fish.
Scientific Name: Limanda ferruginea
Other Common Names: Rusty Flounder
Description: Yellowtail flounder are right-handed and small-mouthed flounders that reach up to 22 inches in length. They like waters neither too deep nor too shallow, have a broad temperature tolerance, and do not make migrations. They are found primarily in Southern New England, Stellwagan Bank, and Georges Bank. Yellowtail eat small crustaceans and shellfish and are eaten by dogfish, skates, cod, hakes, flounders, and monkfish.