Hagfish: More than just a slimy mess on the road

Hagfish are a delicacy in some Asian countries

A truck overturned on Hwy 101 in Lincoln County, damaging a car and spilling a truckload of eels all over the road, July 13, 2017 (KOIN)


PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregonians won’t soon forget the flood of slimey eels that spilled onto Highway 101 Thursday afternoon. The mess coated cars and the road — but what were thousands of pounds of hagfish doing in that truck?

A truck overturned on Hwy 101 in Lincoln County, damaging a car and spilling a truckload of eels all over the road, July 13, 2017 (OSP)
A truck overturned on Hwy 101 in Lincoln County, damaging a car and spilling a truckload of eels all over the road, July 13, 2017 (OSP)

Those hagfish — aka slime eels — were on their way to Asia to be eaten. They’re not part of the typical American diet, but dried hagfish are considered a delicacy in South Korea, China and Japan.

Frank Button, an Oregon fisherman who makes his living catching hagfish in Newport said there aren’t many people fishing for them.

“It’s not that lucrative but I can make a living doing it,” Button said.

They are primarily caught in the Pacific Northwest, but because there’s really no American market for them they are exported to Asia.

Button said he feels bad for the company that lost 7,500 pounds of product worth between 80 and 90 cents a pound.

Fun facts about hagfish

According to ODFW, hagfish has been part of the industry in Oregon for a while.

“We do see about, in the neighborhood of 1.2 to 2 million pounds of it land into Oregon each year,” Troy Buell with the state Fisheries Management Program said.

Button said it’s used for food, but “it’s one of those things where they utilize the whole thing.” Buell said the skin can also be used for wallets and other things.

So while the slimey mess on the highway didn’t look very appealing, it was a big loss for the company hauling it.