The Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) recently held a Trawl to Tableforum at its headquarters in Portland, Maine, to build connections between local fishermen and chefs while also sharing the latest industry research on fishing gear technology.
"At one time I knew the fishermen who supplied my seafood, but I didn't know any of the farmers who provided our produce or meat," said Sam Hayward, owner and chef at Fore Street in Portland, who has been committed to local and sustainable sourcing for the past 30 years. "Today the opposite is true."
At Trawl to Table, Hayward had the chance to talk with local fishermen, gear researchers and fellow chefs from Five Fifty-Five, Bar Lola, Grace, The Salt Exchange, Browne Trading Co. and North Atlantic, Inc. While learning about gear displayed on GMRI's lawn, the group discussed fish behavior, fishing gear selectivity, fisheries management and habitat impacts of trawl gear used in the Gulf of Maine.
GMRI's sustainable seafood program manager, Jen Levin, and gear technologist Steve Eayrs hosted the forum, which concluded with a redfish lunch prepared by Port Clyde fisherman Justin Libby. Fisherman Vincent Balzano also participated in the event. Following the forum, the chefs reported that they felt better informed regarding the impacts of harvesting practices and planned to share information with staff and customers. The fishermen were glad to be able to share their knowledge and help address misconceptions about gear impacts.
The Trawl to Table forum was the beginning of GMRI's efforts to create connections between restaurants and harvesters. Funded by a federal grant aimed at creating markets for underutilized seafood products, GMRI is planning a two-year project to create a system that connects local seafood with niche markets that reward high quality and responsible harvesting.