Monkfish are ferocious-looking creatures sometimes nicknamed “the poor man’s lobster” thanks to their muscular, firm-when-cooked tails.  But in spite of their relatively recent rise in popularity on Americans’ dinner plates, their biology and behavior are poorly understood.

Despite their appearance monkfish are highly regarded as a table fish, although it is only the tail, central body section and cheeks that provide any edible flesh.  In Japan monkfish livers are rubbed with salt, soaked in saki (rice wine), steamed and then served with vegetables, herbs and citrus-based sauce to create the delicacy of Ankimo.

The East Atlantic species is found along the coasts of Europe, but becomes scarce beyond 60°N latitude; it occurs also on the coasts of the Cape of Good Hope.  The species caught on the North American side of the Atlantic is usually Lophius americanus.  A third species (Lophius budegassa), inhabits the Mediterranean, and a fourth (L. setigerus) the coasts of China and Japan.

Commercial vessels do not specifically target monkfish, but they are a welcome bonus when they turn up in demersal trawls for cod, haddock and flatfish.  The monkfish is not endangered and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature class it as a species of Least Concern with a stable population, but Greenpeace has added monkfish to its Redlist due to the destructive bottom trawling methods that are used to catch this species.

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