New Addition to Sustainability Menu: Cownose Ray

From by way of the National Review Online comes an innovative answer to invasive species.

Move over Asian carp, you’re not the only pesky species to be eyed by the seafood industry as a potential food source. Officials in Virginia have set their sights on the homely cownose ray, whose population has exploded, in part because of a sharp decline in their natural predator, the inland coastal shark. The population boom is bad news for valuable Chesapeake oysters, clams and scallops. Hungry rays have been known to wipe out entire shellfish beds with their powerful crushing jaws.

Mike Hutt, executive director for the Virginia Marine Products Board has been working to develop a market for the red-fleshed cownose ray (renamed a more appealing Chesapeake Ray), but don’t expect it to taste like its white-fleshed cousin, skate.

“It’s not flaky, and it has a texture and tastes closer to veal or beef,” says Hutt.

Ray Popson, seafood manager at Wegmans in Hunt Valley, Maryland introduced the Chesapeake Ray in his store this morning by handing out tasty samples and placing a whopping 30-pound whole ray on display.

“The reaction has been incredible,” says Popson. “Some people don’t even know it’s in the bay or what it can do.”

If consumer response continues to go well, Wegmans anticipates rolling the ray out to its Maryland and Virginia stores shortly, and they’re not alone in promoting the fish. Processor L.D. Amory & Company, Inc., has been breading and pre-frying strips of ray, calling the product Chesapeake Stingers; while Chef Tim Miller of restaurant Mie N Yu has been serving the ray to customers as a sushi hand roll for nearly a year.