About the Wide Net Project
What is WNP’s mission?
The Wide Net Project takes an environmental issue, an overpopulation of wild blue catfish, and uses it to bolster Chesapeake Bay communities in a full-circle solution. By strategically connecting the food access and environmental movements, the Wide Net Project:
- supports hunger relief,
- grows demand for an underutilized food source,
- promotes environmental stewardship,
- conducts conservation education,
- and inspires related research.
These actions, in turn, fuel economic development and resilience in the Bay watershed region.
How do I get the fish?
How is purchasing through WNP’s distributor different than ordering from another company?
Purchasers participate in the Wide Net Project only if purchasing through our partner distributor. The WNP difference means being a part of our hunger relief work, conservation education, and more.
Which hunger-relief organizations do you support?
You're a non-profit organization, but you sell fish?
WNP works because of key partnerships and the strategic decision to leverage existing wholesale distribution systems rather than recreate the wheel. Our focus on outreach and education enables us to form connections with new potential buyers of blue catfish. WNP answers questions about the fish, the organization, the Bay, and hunger in our area. We then connect the potential purchaser to J.J. McDonnell, WNP's distributor partner, which expertly manages getting the fish from Bay to table. J.J. McDonnell donates proceeds from the customers' blue catfish purchases to the Wide Net Project; those proceeds, in part, fund our work. We also rely on foundation support, private donations, and government funding.
Does WNP's work with invasive species focus only on the blue catfish?
While there are other invasive species in the Bay and in other watersheds, at this time WNP is focused on the Chesapeake Bay blue catfish. It is is easier to catch than the snakehead (also invasive to the Bay), helping to ensure a lower price point and enabling higher volume purchasing and a financial model that allows for fish to be donated to hunger-relief agencies.
Ordering the fish
Is fish available fresh, frozen, or both?
Fish is available fresh, frozen (IQF), and also frozen/individually packaged (typically used for retail purposes).
How much does it cost?
It is competitively priced. Please be in touch for details.
Does it make a difference if I order the fish through WNP’s distributor or through another distributor?
It is a critical to the Wide Net Project mission to get as much blue catfish out of the Bay as possible, and WNP can't do it alone. Choosing to buy fish through WNP's wholesale distributor partner provides additional specific benefits, as WNP donates one portion of fish for hunger relief for every pound sold, and also conducts conservation education, contributes to the scientific study of invasive species, and more.
Is the fish available wholesale only, or is it sold directly to consumers or individual households?
While there is a wholesale focus, individual households can also purchase fish; there is a 25 pound minimum, plus shipping and handling. Additionally, Wide Net wild blue catfish is carried at MOMs grocery stores.
Where can the fish be delivered?
Pretty much anywhere in the continental U.S.
About the blue catfish (ictalurus furcatus)
How did the fish get in the Bay?
The species was introduced to several Virginia tributaries in the 1970s and '80s for recreational fishing purposes, as they grow to be so large.
What do they eat?
The blue catfish are fierce predators and are contributing to changes in the Chesapeake Bay food web to the detriment of native fish. Their varied diet in this ecosystem includes plant matter, insects, crustaceans, worms, and other fish, like blue crab, rockfish, menhaden, shad, and river herring — all which play an important role in the Bay’s ecosystem and the region’s economy.
Where is it found in the Bay?
Populations of this catfish have increased dramatically since their introduction, and they are now present in every major Chesapeake Bay tributary, with reports of the fish in the Bay itself, as well.
How is it caught?
It depends on the fisher, but it could be caught via purse seine net, gill net, pots/trap, pound net, or fyke net.
Is it a considered sustainable fish or seafood?
How do you recommend I cook the fish?
The blue catfish can be grilled, baked, pan-fried, or deep-fried with great success. It has a delicate, sweet flavor, but can hold up to a variety of cooking choices, unlike other white fish. The fish can also be chopped, marinated, and served as a ceviche. Those who love other species of catfish also love the blue catfish; and those who don't think they enjoy catfish are typically converted to blue catfish fans after their first bite.
When is blue catfish season?
Supply is pretty steady throughout the year, as the fish is overpopulated in the Bay. Also there are no quotas on how much can be fished since we are not at risk of overfishing this specie. There are a few weeks during the summer and during the winter when temperatures are extreme, and supply is harder to come by then, but it is a limited time that this comes up as an issue.
When do they spawn, and what behaviors are typical around spawning?
Blue catfish spawn in early summer, are the most migratory of all catfish species, and can move large distances in search of preferred spawning habitats. Both parent fish assist in rearing the young.
What about toxins or pollutants in the Bay?
The Wide Net Project aims to increase the distribution of an underutilized, healthy, lean protein to consumers and to community organizations that distribute food to those in need. Essential to that mission is for the fish to be young and small, as that means accumulation of pollutants is minimized. It is advised to not eat large fish as they, like many other large fish in other waters, are higher on the food chain and typically contain higher levels of toxins. WNP’s distributor partner aims to sell fillets from fish that are between 3 and 8 pounds, and they have committed to WNP to not distribute fillets from fish that are more than 10 pounds.
Where are the fish native?
Blue catfish are freshwater fish native to the Ohio and Mississippi River basins. In these ecosystems, the catfish have evolved alongside other organisms and are not invasive, are a healthy part of the ecosystem.
Where else can I read about the blue catfish?
Much of the above information and more is available at the following sites: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Safina Center at Stony Brook University , and Virginia Institute of Marine Science.
Please use our search function at the very bottom of the page, or contact us.