April 17, 2013

Soup to Nuts: Sounding the SOS (Save our seafood)

Restaurants join a partnership that helps to protect the long-term health of sea life in the Gulf of Maine.

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

The owners of Five Fifty-Five in Portland have worked with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute for a couple of years now.

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Mitchell Kaldrovich, right, chef at the Sea Glass Restaurant at Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, picks out his allotment of lobsters from Jodie Jordan, owner with his wife Patricia of Alewive’s Brook Farm, also in Cape Elizabeth. Kaldrovich was an early supporter of the Sustainable Seafood Culinary Partners effort.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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The Gulf of Maine Research Institute has printed rack cards like this one that have an overview of the Sustainable Seafood Culinary Partners program and a list of all species that are harvested locally. The cards are being distributed to restaurants and posted at tourist centers.

Courtesy photo

Additional Photos Below

Steve and Michelle Corry participated in GMRI's Out of the Blue program last year, making it a point to place under-used fish from the Gulf of Maine on their menu to give overfished species a break.

And they always have a drink on their menu dedicated to the organization; every month, a portion of the sales of that drink are donated to GMRI.

Now, Five Fifty-Five has gone a step further by joining a new program GMRI has developed called Sustainable Seafood Culinary Partners.

Culinary Partners, which began in February, has a list of requirements that restaurants have to meet to join, and members must commit not only to seafood-centric goals but also goals that focus more broadly on sustainability. Think more energy-efficient refrigeration and composting and less water consumption.

"For me that's great, because as a business owner you want to do such things," Michelle Corry said, "but you're often mired down with day-to-day stuff that you're not necessarily thinking, 'OK, what can I do now to be more sustainable?' They're actually throwing down the gauntlet and saying you have to think of something."

Samuel Grimley, sustainable seafood project manager at GMRI, said the institute has been planning Culinary Partners for a little over a year now, and held a couple of feedback meetings with restaurateurs to get their input as the program was developed.

Since February, five Maine restaurants have joined up and set goals for themselves for the coming year. In addition to Five Fifty-Five, the other members are Sonny's and Local 188 in Portland, Sea Glass at Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth and the Jordan Pond House restaurant on Mount Desert Island.

"We really would love to see the program grow and be expanded to other restaurants, even if the restaurants are down in Massachusetts or other areas," Grimley said. "We don't have to limit it to just Maine. We'd love to see these restaurants kind of work collectively to raise awareness of Gulf of Maine seafood."


Restaurants that join Culinary Partners must agree to:

• Commit to sourcing at least 20 percent of the seafood items on their menus from the Gulf of Maine.

n Include a minimum of one species of local seafood on their menu that has been verified as responsibly harvested.

• Meet annual requirements around improving sustainability of their business operations. The restaurateurs themselves set these goals, with help from GMRI staff.

• Send up to three staff members to a four-hour sustainable seafood education seminar each year.

• Pay a $500 annual fee, an amount that was set with input from local restaurants.

• Explain to their customers what they are doing and why.

GMRI prints rack cards that have an overview of the program and a list of all species that are harvested locally. The cards will be given to the restaurants and posted at tourist centers. The restaurants also get "species cards" they can give to customers that show what a particular fish looks like and explain how the species is faring and how it is managed.

The bluefish card, for example, explains that bluefish are not considered overfished and they are typically available from spring to late fall.

"The meat does not freeze well and is often smoked or sold fresh within a short time of harvest," the card reads.

Restaurants also receive a monthly newsletter covering both research news and culinary trends in seafood.

The latest edition contains information on federal legislation that would address the mislabeling of seafood, notes about the scallop and shrimp seasons, and links to seafood-related events and news stories.

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Additional Photos

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The restaurants also get “species cards” like the bluefish card pictured. Species cards will be given to customers to show what a particular fish looks like and explain how it is faring and how it is managed.

Courtesy photo


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