When Sea to Table was invited to join the conversation on sustainable food, we couldn't have expected this post to come at such a critical time. As Hurricane Sandy bore down on the East Coast, the fishermen we work with in the Northeast saw their livelihood take a beating. In traditional fishing communities from Montauk to Cape Cod, boats and docks were severely damaged, lobster traps were washed out to sea, and fish caught before the storm sat abandoned with nowhere to go. While Sandy may already be old news for much of the country, our fishermen in the Northeast join an overwhelming number of small businesses and food producers trudging forward on the long road to recovery.
The most significant thing we can do for these fishermen is to buy and eat their fish. As fisherman and dock owner Jared Auerbach explains, "If [chefs] could change their tastes, even for one weekend, and put local or domestic fish on their menu instead of the imported fish they're serving, it would really go a long way." But it doesn't take a weekend to rebuild our domestic fisheries, and it's not just when storms strike that American seafood should have a place on our plates. If anything, Sandy just brought to the forefront that small-scale fishermen are begging for access to better markets.
Thanks to the farm-to-table movement, small farmers finally have a voice in the food system that they deserve. But what about fishermen? Did you know that 91 percent of all seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported? It's time to shift our eating habits and put our money back in communities that need it most. Our hope is that buying fish direct from small-scale sustainable wild fisheries will not just be a trend on the menus of hipster chefs, but a lifestyle choice for anyone who cares about the future of our traditional working waterfronts.
And besides, food just tastes better when you know the story behind it. Behind each wild fish fillet you eat, there's a person who worked hard to bring it to you. Mind if we introduce you to a few of them?