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Trash Fish Banquet (1996)

Trash Fish Banquet (1996)

©1996, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: This poem was published in the Fantasia Fair Gazette, most likely in 1997.





In 1978 The Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies had its first annual Trash Fish Banquet.

Designed as an educational tool, the banquet taught Cape Cod fisherman the “trash” fish they had been throwing away were good to eat and had a market. Diners were treated to then under-appreciated species such as skate, squid, whiting, hake and grouper.

This was important because  local cod and mackerel populations had been overfished and catches were down.

The fishermen took heed and began catching the new species. They were so successful that within 15 years the former trash fish populations were in crisis.

And so in 1996 the banquet featured the new trash fish– species that were still being discarded. I remember one menu item was sea urchin eggs. The menu sounded thoroughly unappetizing.

I was saddened because clearly the banquet was only delaying the inevitable. In the meantime– sea urchin eggs?


Trash Fish Banquet

 By Dallas Denny


We’ve come to celebrate the rape

Of all the fishes of the Cape

And mourn for fishes we’ve not caught

And for the dollars that were lost

And now the codfish all are gone

And still the fishermen fish on

And species once considered trash

Are looked upon as source of cash

So once a year there is a feast

And things not fit for men nor beast

Are cooked and all the natives come

And act as if it were not chum

And on our plates we find such things

As mystery fish and urchin eggs

And try to reassure ourselves

That they are good and that they’ll sell

But what poor godforsaken spawn

When these our trash fish too are gone

Will we serve up from ocean deep

But is not something fit to eat