Photo: Good Catch Foods

Tuna melts are great and all, but they can lose some of their appeal when you hear about mercury in the fish, or how dolphins sometimes get killed by being caught in tuna fishing nets.

Pennsylvania-based company Good Catch Foods is developing vegetarian shredded tuna, crab cakes, and fish patties made of lentils, chickpeas, fava beans, and other legumes. Founded in 2017, the startup is trying to change the way we look at tuna by, according to their website, “disrupting the seafood category, not the ocean’s resources.” Last week they got a little closer to their goal when they raised $5.5 million in Series A funding from Stray Dog Capital.

Good Catch is one of many companies capitalizing on the recent consumer trend towards plant-based and flexitarian eating. Vegan burgers have been creating a lot of buzz as of late — think Beyond Meat and the Impossible burger — but there are surprisingly few players working to create seafood alternatives, especially considering the popularity of seafood and the fishing industry’s massive environmental and ethical costs.

According to Good Catch’s website, fish are the largest class of farmed animals and account for roughly 4 out of every 10 pounds of animal product consumed. 90% of global fish stocks are overfished and fully depleted, and those that are wild-caught can have high levels of mercury or other contaminants.

These sobering stats have led to the creation of startups like Aquabyte, which uses machine learning to optimize fish farming, and Hatch, an accelerator geared specifically at aquaculture companies.

But they’ve also prompted some companies to start looking at ways to replace seafood altogether. Wild Type, a cellular agriculture startup, recently raised $3.5 million to continue its development of lab-grown salmon. Finless Foods is working on culturing bluefin tuna, which they hope to have to market by 2019. And New Wave Foods recently created the world’s first plant-based shrimp alternative, while Ocean Hugger Food is making the first vegan alternative to raw tuna.

Good Catch’s is developing plant-based tuna in three flavors: original, Mediterranean, and olive oil & herbs. They’re made with their signature 6-Bean Non-GMO Plant Protein Blend, and has 13 grams of protein per serving. That’s roughly half the protein of canned tuna, which has 25g of protein per similar-sized serving.

Good Catch claims their fish-free tuna will be in the market by the end of 2018. It will be interesting to see if their product makes the same splash (sorry) as other recently-launched meat alternatives, like the Impossible burger. I guess I’ll have to wait and put it to the test myself — preferably in a tuna melt.