New England Catch Share Fishermen Serving Up Fresh, Traceable Fish Directly to Restaurants

Stuffed Flounder © 2010 Eliza Adam

A group of fishermen in Rhode Island who helped establish the groundfish and fluke catch share fishery management programs are now able to go back to the days when fishermen sold their fish directly to restaurants versus solely through wholesalers.  Selling directly increases the prices fishermen can get for their catch and also means customers are eating the freshest fish.

Chef John Vestal from New Rivers in Providence, Rhode Island who is a customer of the new fishermen’s distribution company Wild Rhody told The New York Times, “I have been buying all the seafood for the restaurant for over a decade, and what I saw amazed me. The fish was the absolutely most beautiful, fresh, cleanest seafood I had ever seen.”

In a recent article in The Providence Journal, fisherman Chris Brown described why it was difficult to sell directly under the old fishing derby system before the switch to catch shares: “’Used to be, years ago, they would say, ‘the season is open, go,' Brown said. ‘There was a race to fish. We wouldn't have been able to do something like this. Now we can fish to the prompts of the market.’”

Catch shares give fishermen control over when they fish and are proven to end overfishing. This gives  buyers more confidence  that fishermen will be able to supply the fish they’ve promised so buyers are more willing to enter into contracts with individual fishermen.

The fishermen in Rhode Island are part of an increasing trend to make seafood traceable by telling customers exactly who caught the fish, where and when.  This innovation helps differentiate seafood and opens up new marketing opportunities. Many consumers are willing to pay a premium for the freshest locally-caught fish and are concerned about reports of seafood fraud.  The fishermen in Rhode Island and others elsewhere make details available about each fish available to chefs and consumers on the Trace and Trust website.

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