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Fish of a Slimy Breed Nets Interest

April 03, 1993|Reuters

DOVER, N.H. — New England fishermen are hoping the hagfish, a creature as ugly as its name implies, may soon help them reel in some profits.

Also known as the slime eel, the fish averages 18 inches long and weighs about half a pound. It has whisker-like barbels, no bones or eyes and feeds by boring into prey and sucking out the insides with its slit-like mouth.

The fish's price is meager compared to cod, which sells at 85 cents to $1 a pound, and Korean-Americans have expressed interest in it.

The fish is a staple of Korean food specialty shops and is highly valued in Korea for its skins, which are used to make wallets, belts and similar goods.

Daerim Mulsan, a Korean firm, has told the New England Fisheries Development Assn. that it might buy up to 160,000 pounds of the fish a month. The firm may also set up a processing plant in Maine or New Hampshire.

Sales at an expected 25 to 30 cents a pound would mean a modest boon to Maine and New Hampshire fishermen. They are facing dwindling stocks of haddock and other more popular fish as well as imminent federal restrictions limiting fishing days.

"I wouldn't say they're desperate, but they're looking at alternatives," said a New England Fisheries Development Assn. official. "They're being realistic."

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