Our region has deep historical and cultural ties to the coast and the seafood harvested from the Gulf of Maine’s waters. We have a diverse range of abundant, responsibly harvested fish, shellfish, and sea greens coming from our own backyard. Yet today, local fishermen, sea farmers, and seafood businesses compete in a massive and global seafood marketplace.
Here in the US, it’s estimated that we import between 70–90% of the seafood sold in this country. Even in a fishing region like New England, we eat more seafood from other parts of the world than we realize. Choosing and asking for local seafood is one way to support coastal communities in our region and to ensure we have continued access to a healthy, abundant local protein.
Here are five simple steps you can take to support the people and businesses who work so hard to provide us with delicious local seafood.
Choosing to eat more seafood is the simplest, most powerful way to contribute to the strength of our waterfront economy. Buying local seafood supports fishermen and their families, and it keeps our coastal communities thriving. Americans eat about 19 pounds of seafood per year, in comparison to about 90 pounds of chicken. Each of us eating a little more seafood means restaurants and grocery stores can diversify the seafood they sell and offer more of it, benefitting those whose livelihoods depend on the ocean.
Over the years we’ve developed a number of resources intended to help you eat more seafood, as have other partners and friends of GMRI.
Here are some ways to get started:
- If you’re new to cooking fish at home (or maybe just a little out of practice), we’ve assembled some basic cooking methods to get you started.
- Explore a variety of recipes using local seafood from the state of Maine. Follow @seafoodfrommaine on Instagram for more!
- Find chef recipe contributions for local fish and shellfish in this Massachusetts seafood series.
- Seafood Nutrition Partnership, a national organization, offers great, healthy recipes, including some specifically designed to please kids. Follow @seafood4health on Twitter and Instagram for more!
- Pick a new recipe and give it a shot. Tag us on Instagram and let us know how it turned out!
- There are so many great seafood cookbooks out there. Pick your favorite and use it to cook something local! Here are some staff favorites:
- Simmering the Sea from Sarah Schumann, Kate Masury, and Marie-Joelle Rochet at Eating with the Ecosystem.
- The Joy of Seafood (or other seafood cookbooks) from Barton Seaver.
- How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman has a great section on cooking fish that includes many simple methods for local species from New England.
- Catch - A Maine Seafood Cookbook from the Maine Coast Fishermen's Association.
Fishermen and sea farmers are the backbone of our seafood economy and coastal communities.
During the pandemic, many fishermen and farmers began to sell their seafood directly to consumers. If you’re interested in seeking out these direct-to-consumer opportunities, here are a few to get you started:
- Fishermen and local seafood markets in Maine share information on public Facebook groups, including The Maine Seafood Connection and Maine Fish Direct.
- Some sea farmers add their farms to this list from UMaine Cooperative Extension.
- If you’re shopping in New Hampshire, look for activity from the Yankee Fishermen’s Cooperative and New England Fishmongers.
- You can follow the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen's Alliance for local seafood buying opportunities around Cape Cod.
- We also recommend following individual fishermen and sea farmers on social media to learn more about what it’s like to work on the water. For example, our friend Monique Coombs (@aragostamama) of Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association shares her fishing family perspective along with some simple ways to incorporate more seafood into your family’s meals.
Before the onset of the pandemic, around 70% of seafood was eaten in restaurants nationally, and the loss of restaurant orders had a significant impact on the seafood industry. As restaurants have worked to recover from the pandemic, they remain critical to our local seafood economy.
We urge you to seek out our Culinary Partners, which are restaurants in the region that have made commitments to purchase Gulf of Maine seafood.
We also encourage you to order seafood and to ask for local seafood wherever you dine out. We know it makes a difference when restaurants hear from customers that they are interested in seeing local seafood featured on menus.
Find a map and list of our Culinary Partners here.
Fish markets and grocery stores are important to our local seafood economy. Several of our Gulf of Maine Responsibly Harvested® partners have retail shops or websites where you can buy local seafood, including:
- Atlantic Sea Farms
- Docks Seafood
- Foley Fish
- Free Range Fish and Lobster
- Ipswich Shellfish Fish Market
- Lighthouse Wine and Seafood
- PJ Merrill Seafood
- Red’s Best
- SoPo Seafood
- True Fin
Of course, you can also choose local seafood when you go to larger supermarkets. We have partnered for many years with Hannaford on their sustainable seafood policy, as well as their efforts to highlight local seafood. We work with Hannaford to ensure that all the seafood entering their stores meets key criteria in their sustainable seafood policy, including local seafood. Hannaford consistently offers 20–25 local seafood items across the store — in their fresh seafood case, look for “local” or “Gulf of Maine” on the labels to make a local choice.
As you shop, remember that fresh seafood can be frozen to relieve the pressure of using it right away. Also, think about trying something new — many local fish, like redfish, hake, pollock, plaice, are easy substitutes in any white fish recipe. Maybe you usually eat shellfish only when you go out to eat; try cooking clams, mussels, oysters, or lobster at home.
The seafood economy is core to our coastal communities continuing to thrive. Every day, we have the opportunity to make purchasing decisions that support the people involved in harvesting and bringing seafood to our plates.
Food is best enjoyed with others, so we hope you’ll share these opportunities to buy local seafood with your friends and family.
Here are some ideas to get started:
- Host a dinner party or potluck! Encourage some friends and family to each prepare a dish with a different type of local seafood or invite loved ones over to show off your seafood cooking skills.
- Learn a new skill with friends! You could try buying whole fish and learn to fillet or learn how to shuck oysters together.
- Share this piece on social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), tag us, and let us know what other local seafood options you’re a fan of. We’ve highlighted several of our partners and friends for you to connect with, but this is by no means an exhaustive list.
Whatever you choose to do, we hope you’ll enjoy more local seafood in your everyday life. Stay in touch with us on social and let us know what questions you have about buying local seafood!
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