Conch Is On The Menu As CCCFA Hosts Meet The Fleet
The Cape Cod Chronicle
April 24, 2014
Conch is on the menu as CCCFA hosts Meet the Fleet
By Jennifer Sexton
Honk if you like conch! If you aren’t sure, Wednesday, April 30 at 5:30 p.m. will be a great time to find out as the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance hosts a Meet the Fleet event starring the channeled whelk, commonly known as the conch.
Cape fisherman John Nawoichik and others will share their stories and discuss conservation efforts for this important fishery. WOMR DJ and Terra Luna chef Tony “Scungilli” Pasquale from Truro will then share tips on how to prepare this local delicacy. Scungilli means conch in Italian, and Tony’s nickname honors his love of the tasty marine creature.
Conch is the common name given to a family of sea snails prized in Asia and Mediterranean countries for its meat, which is eaten raw in salads, squirted with lime juice in a spicy ceviche, or sliced and cooked in fritters, chowders, and many other dishes.
Cape Cod small boat fisherman John Nawoichik has harvested the conch in pots from local waters since the mid 1980s, along with lobsters, black sea bass and scup. With rod and reel he fishes for bluefish, striped bass, scup and sea bass. At different times of the year he may set his sights on eels, horseshoe crabs, quahogs, steamers, blue mussels, bay scallops and razor clams. He varies his quarry throughout the year according to prices and availability, going with what is abundant and profitable.
“For a small boat fisherman, it makes a lot of sense to take a little of many things instead of a lot of just one thing, which might not be possible to sustain. That is my philosophy,” Nawoichik explains. “I go to different places and I move my conch pots, not taking all the conch out of any specific place.”
The conch are caught in box-style traps with an opening in the top and bait, usually crab, inside. The conch are able to climb up the sides and tumble down into the trap, but cannot escape because they are unable to support themselves upside down on the inner surface to access the opening.
“A good percentage of conch goes to Toronto and Asian markets elsewhere in Canada, New York and San Francisco,” Nawoichik says. “A percentage is processed and shipped to South Korea. Not a lot remains here locally.”
Nowoichik says that he joined the CCCFA for one reason.
“A lot of people don’t understand where the fish and shellfish come from locally,” he says. “I educate my neighbors and other people all the time. I joined the Alliance to maintain a certain connection with the community and to gain political clout so someone will listen to the challenges and concerns of the fishermen. The organization doesn’t get snowed in the issues like an individual might. They really understand the fisheries.”
The CCCFA’s new development director Antonella Fernandes is excited about the event and her new position with the Alliance.
“I started at the Alliance just a couple of months ago, and it has been an amazing experience,” Fernandes says. “I work with amazing people. I was hired as an outreach to connect fishermen to the community and local businesses through events like Meet the Fleet. This is our way to connect. The fishermen bring delicious seafood to our shores and to our tables. This is a chance for people to interact with them in a meaningful way and to learn about a day in their lives, the challenges they face, and how and why they do the things they do. We bring the fishermen’s lives to the community and make that connection real. We give folks in the community a way to realize the importance of buying locally and supporting sustainable fisheries on the Cape. We are preserving small boat fishing, the local waters and also the local economy.”
Meet the Fleet — and the conch — at the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance, 1566 Main St. in Chatham on Wednesday, April 30 at 5:30 p.m.
Members may attend for free; non-members for $10. For more information about the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance, visit www.capecodfishermen.org.
Fisherman John Nawoichik. TIM WOOD PHOTO CAPE COD CHRONICLE