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

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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


Popovers are the iconic menu item at the Jordan Pond House on Mount Desert Island, but the restaurant is just as well known for its lobster stew and other seafood dishes.

Michael Daley, who manages the restaurant, says about 35 percent of its food budget goes to seafood. There's a laser focus on local species. All of the restaurant's scallops and shrimp, for example, are purchased and frozen during scallop and shrimp season so they'll be available year-round.

"We buy an awful lot of lobster meat, lots of scallops, Maine shrimp," he said. "We used to buy a lot of haddock when you could get haddock, and now we're substituting for that with under-utilized species like hake and redfish, monkfish, the kind of things that the Gulf of Maine Research Institute is promoting as an alternative to some of the overfished species."

The Jordan Pond House is already part of an environmental program through its association with the national park system. An outside firm comes in every year to audit the restaurant and make sure it is meeting its goals for recycling, waste reduction and composting. (Daley says they go through "cases and cases" of lemons to make fresh-squeezed lemonade, and all those spent lemons end up as compost in the restaurant's gardens.)

With such a good track record already, why does the restaurant want to join Culinary Partners?

Daley said the Jordan Pond House is "always working on extending that reach for local products."

"We've pretty much been 100 percent successful in seafood," Daley explained, "but we are very reliant, for example, on Port Clyde seafood, so we would like to develop some other sources.

"And I think that's going to be a moving target with seafood in the Gulf of Maine. Every year there are new limitations, there are new fishing methodologies and so forth, and that's something that, in the restaurant business, it's awfully hard to keep track of all that.

"So one of the attractions in being associated with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute is that's what they're doing all the time. They're experts on that. They know which fishing methods are being developed that make the most sense. They know which species make the most sense to be trying to utilize, and so we're kind of relying on them to provide that kind of information."


Daley said he's also hoping the program will grow beyond the handful participating now, because the more restaurants that participate and buy locally, the better it will be for struggling fishermen.

"The guys who are fishing along the Gulf of Maine, they're having an awfully hard time," he said.

At Five Fifty-Five, Michelle Corry estimates the restaurant sources 80 percent of its seafood from the Gulf of Maine.

The restaurant already recycles and sells all its cooking oil. So the Corrys have set a goal of starting a composting program, which they have wanted to do for a long time but have had trouble finding the space.

The Culinary Partners program, Corry said, "kind of gets you off your butt to do the right thing."

"They're very open-minded," she said. "They take into consideration all aspects of the sustainability chain -- the restaurant, the fisherman, the government. They're not just coming at you. They get that it's a business, and we have to make some money to survive."

Having said that, restaurants that participate are expected to follow the rules.

Restaurants have to submit quarterly reports of their progress during their first year in the program, then annually after that.

GMRI staff will visit regularly to make sure they are in compliance with the guidelines. If they get three violations in a row, they're kicked out of the program for a year and their fee is not refunded.

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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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