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Putting Oyster Drills and Other Odd Creatures on Seafood Menus

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Even sold under the retro name of "Gulf oysters" and pawned off for rock-bottom prices that makes oystermen shudder, oysters are still awfully sexy. The same can't be said of oyster drills, one of the many trash fish and overlooked shellfish spotlighted in a Foodways Texas panel on by-catch.

In their pursuit of large predator fish, commercial fishermen are causing collateral damage to other species and ignoring potential revenue sources, Louisiana Foods' P.J. Stoops told symposium attendees. To sustain the state's fisheries, he counseled, chefs and consumers need to expand their definitions of what's worth eating.

As an example of what goes unnoticed in a net, Stoops offered up the oyster drill, a predatory snail. The bane of oystermen, oyster drills use tiny styli and sulfuric acid to bore holes in oyster shells so they can suck up the valuable oyster meat. Oystermen habitually collect drills and dispose of them on land, but Stoops thinks it would make more sense if the drills were sold as gourmet food.

So symposium goers dutifully jabbed the whelk-like creatures with slim nails, extracting curlicues of snail flesh, and popped off their bitter feet. The oyster drills couldn't compete with the oyster pies and gumbo prepared by Catalan's Chris Shepherd, but they were just a serving of garlic butter away from being a highly acceptable snack -- and a fairly tasty way to promote sustainability.

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