October 15, 2010

She's giving swordfish a good name – hers

Maine author and fishing boat skipper Linda Greenlaw is using her fame to spread the word that at least one Atlantic fish stock is doing OK.

Jonathan Hemmerdinger, Staff Writer

PORTLAND — There is swordfish, and then there is Linda Greenlaw swordfish.

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Nabil Sibouih, an assistant seafood manager at Hannaford, helps regular swordfish customer Carol McCracken of Portland pick a swordfish steak from Linda Greenlaw’s catch.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Nathaniel Sheedy cuts a swordfish steak from a 223-pound fish branded by Linda Greenlaw.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

The Hannaford Supermarkets chain and restaurants in Maine and beyond are now selling swordfish branded with the name of the famed sword boat skipper and best-selling author from Isle au Haut.

The purpose of the marketing effort is partly to sell swordfish and partly to tell the public that swordfish is a local and sustainable product, taken from healthy stocks.

Greenlaw is captain of the Hannah Boden, a boat that operates out of Portland. Jon Williams of Westport Island is the boat's majority owner and Angelo Ciocca of Portland's Nova Seafood is part-owner. 

Greenlaw became well known after being mentioned prominently in Sebastian Junger's 1997 book "The Perfect Storm," and later wrote her own books, including "The Hungry Ocean."

"We are opening the eyes of the public," Greenlaw said Wednesday via satellite phone from the Hannah Boden, while fishing on the Grand Banks, an area 1,000 miles east of Portland that's rich in marine life. "Look at the latest studies. Listen to the science. The stock is really healthy."

All of Hannaford's 176 supermarkets in New England are now selling Linda Greenlaw-branded swordfish. In the seafood department of Hannaford's store on Forest Avenue in Portland, customers see signs reading, "A fresh catch from Linda Greenlaw, captain of the Hannah Boden."

"This sounds like a great idea," said Sam Gorgone, 20, a University of Southern Maine student who was shopping at Hannaford. "If she is promoting sustainable food, I am cool with that."

Hannaford began selling Greenlaw's swordfish in September, shortly after the Hannah Boden off-loaded its first catch of the North Atlantic sword season.

The chain sold its first purchase, 34,000 pounds, in just a week, a rate that Hannaford spokesman Matt Paul called unusually brisk. "You've got to believe that Linda Greenlaw's name has something to do with it," he said.

"Customers know who she is. It makes a difference," said Nabil Sibouih, Hannaford's assistant seafood manager at the Forest Avenue store. "They call and ask, 'When will you have Linda's sword?' "

Although retail seafood prices typically vary, Hannaford locked the price for Greenlaw's fish at $9.99 a pound throughout the roughly three-month season, which will end in early November. The chain typically sells swordfish at prices as high as $12.99 a pound, said Sibouih.

Paul said the partnership with Greenlaw reflects Hannaford's effort to sell sustainable and local seafood, a program the company developed with help from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute.

Greenlaw called the venture "a chance to keep our money and our catch local."

Drew Masterman, 49, of Portland said he is more likely to buy swordfish from Hannaford if he knows the source. "It's a real consideration, because it is spending and buying locally," he said.

Paul said the arrangement is good for Hannaford, which is guaranteed a high-end product, and for the Hannah Boden's owners, who are guaranteed a buyer.

Rod Mitchell, owner of Browne Trading Company, showed off four 5-foot-long, silver-skinned swordfish -- headed, gutted and packed in ice -- in the cooler of his shop on Commercial Street in Portland.

Mitchell, who sells fish in his retail shop and to high-end restaurants nationwide, bought the swords last week in Newfoundland, where the Hannah Boden was off-loading. (Sword boats often unload in far northern Canadian ports, which are closest to the remote fishing grounds.)

Among the Portland restaurants that bought Greenlaw's fish from Mitchell are Hugo's, the Back Bay Grill and The Salt Exchange.

Jacob Jasinski, head chef at The Salt Exchange, said the restaurant on Commercial Street promotes Greenlaw on its website and its menu board. He said customers seek sustainable and local products and are excited to learn that the fish is from Greenlaw's boat.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Browne Trading Company sells Greenlaw Swordfish. Hannaford Supermarkets also carry the Maine author’s brand of swordfish.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Linda Greenlaw

Press Herald file photo


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