March 13, 2017 — Two engineers showed up at the Chatham Fish Pier a few winters ago and struck up a conversation with some fishermen who were unloading their catch.
Steve Daly and Bill Hannabach asked for some of the fish because they were doing research for a new business venture. The fishermen obliged and the men took home totes with a variety of species.
“You have two rubes from out of town. They could have easily said get out of here,” said Daly with a grin. “They didn’t know what we were doing. We could have been making fertilizer, we could have been making pottery.”
This week Daly and Hannabach were once again at a Cape Cod dock, this time at Saquatucket Harbor in Harwich, with some of the same fishermen they had met when they first began experimenting with everything from monkfish to dogfish. But now they had with them the results of their foray into the fishing industry, their first product, MassOMEGA: New England’s Wild Fish Oil, set to be launched today and almost totally made from winter skate brought in by local fishermen.
“We have taken some of Nick’s skates, basically pulled the oil out and purified it,” said Daly, standing beside Nick Muto and his 40-foot boat the Dawn T.
Muto had just come in with his crew after close to 30 hours at sea with a hold full of skate.
“It is truly an amazing fish oil. It’s better than cod liver oil. Skates have such a high level of omega-3s. Tuna is a close second, but after that it drops off significantly,” Daly said.
Muto, as many fishermen do, keeps the wings of the skate to sell, but usually throws the bodies, or racks, overboard. But after fellow fisherman Doug Feeney introduced him to Daly and Hannabach, Muto carved up the skate bodies and gave the businessmen a big bag of livers.
The fishermen knew that capitalizing on an under-utilized fish in a sustainable way was important to the small boat fishery as well as the economic health of the wider community. They also knew that fishermen were busy fishing and running a business and lacked outside investment to launch new products.