Scungilli! – Whelk, Once Ignored by Fishermen, Now a Prized Catch

whelkThe sea snails known by Italian-Americans as scungilli used to be such a niche market that fishermen ignored them when they turned up in lobster traps or oyster dredges. Now they’re a prized commodity. Because of growing demand in Asia and the collapse of other industries, such as lobster, fishermen searching for something else to catch are keeping and selling the big marine snails. A voracious predator, it crawls along the bottom of Atlantic coastal inlets from Nantucket Sound to North Carolina’s Outer Banks, piercing its razor-edged proboscis into clams and other prey. It’s an increasingly lucrative hunk of meat: A large whelk can be sold for as much as $7 in a live market. The annual dockside value of the whelk catch now tops $1 million in Virginia and Rhode Island, $1.4 million in New Jersey and $5.7 million in Massachusetts, according to marine fishery agencies in those states. In Delaware, knobbed and channeled whelks are now the third most valuable fishery behind blue crabs and striped bass. Read the story here 08:35

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