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Let's Try Some Shark Meat

Sherri O'neal |

Let's Try Some Shark Meat

I am not exactly sure how I first heard about Jake Griffin. You would think that because I grew up on the Outer Banks that this Manteo girl had heard about this Wancheser via the traditional method of “so and so who knows a so and so and so forth” In this particular case, I think ran across a post on Instagram or something and it was an instant feeling of “this guy knows how to fish”. 

I reached out to Jake Griffin and he had no clue who I was. I explained I was a gal from the Outer Banks who was just trying to help the fisherfolk of the world and he kindly agreed to meet me. 

It was a local restaurant where we sat down to chat over a cold glass of iced tea and I could hear the Wanchese brogue in his voice. Sounded familiar to me-like a feeling of home. I’m not sure if Jake would consider himself a “High Tider” (hoi toider) but, to me, I think he would be fitting of the label and that label is one that carries pretty high regard to me. 

Jake loves to fish. Jake grew up fishing, his Dad is a fisherman and he also is a fisherman. Jake loves to fish via putting his boat in the water from the beach. This is not a very common method of fishing any longer in these parts of the world, so I had to look up a video or two to see him in action. Of course, that’s not to say that Jake doesn’t fish by other methods either but, the beach method is certainly entertaining to me. 

We chatted for a while about our old stomping grounds. I communicated how I missed the community feel of Manteo and Wanchese where everyone jumps in to take care of one another, talked about folks we both knew that still lived in the area, both now and long ago. We remembered places and people and I felt like I was having a reunion with someone from long ago, even though we had just met. I guess that’s the common bond with small fishing villages. A familiarity that is quickly falling to the wayside. 

What’s more interesting to me about Jake is the fact that he loves to fish for sharks. Now, sharks are not commonly sold in your local seafood market here in the states. Nor do the local restaurants typically serve shark. Jake states that there is a greater demand for the meat in Canada. For some reason, shark fishing gets a bad rap. Jake gets his critics and negative comments thrown at him but, he thinks it's just an awareness thing. People tend to gravitate toward several species of “popular” fish and are afraid to try other, sometimes nutritious and delicious fish that come from the sea. 

I mentioned a book that I had been reading by Paul Greenberg that addresses this very thing. Four Fish: The Future of The Last Wild Food addresses the fact that Americans eat basically a few “popular” things out of the ocean, causing a huge balancing struggle in the oceans. Eating different seafoods is, it seems, a mental block of sorts that started many years ago in America and continues today. When I talked to Jake about the book his comment was: I would like to encourage people to “Not be afraid to try something new”.

With increasing regulations and government control, most are afraid that the fishing industry will suffer to the point of being non existent in the United States in the not so distant future. Already, it has been cited that the United States imports over five billion pounds of seafood. That is a number that has doubled compared to twenty years earlier. What do we do about this problem? 

Jake and I continued our conversation about dock space and the lack of it for the commercial guys due to expense and continued expansion of communities that don’t want to allow the commercial boats to take up valuable waterfront. We also briefly discussed the dilemma of the younger generations not wanting to follow in the generational footsteps and continue to fish. Recruiting people who want to go into the industry is met with argument by some stating that if it’s “not in their veins, it won’t work”. 

When I left the restaurant, I felt like I hadn’t just done a brief meeting with someone that I’d never talk to again,but instead, I felt like I’d just met with a new friend. Keep on getting those sharks, Jake! And for anyone who reads this and is concerned, shark fishing is highly regulated and controlled, just like any other fishing, to control overfishing. 

I’m happy to report that in December of 2020, The passage by Congress of the Young Fisherman’s Development Act creates a $2 million annual grant fund to train and foster the next generation of US Commercial Fishermen. 

Let’s all give our fishermen a hand, buy and eat local seafood, make sure you read your labels in the grocery store and ask about it when dining out and, please don’t forget-be willing to try something new!