We are a master processor and distributor which means we do not catch fish, we buy it off auctions or direct from fishermen. We process it into filets or some other final version, sell it out fresh or frozen and ship it from Portland, Maine around the country. We also have a division of our company located in Bali, Indonesia – this is an exciting project where we are working towards a fisheries improvement project which is helping make a more sustainable fishery in that area.
As we move forward, all the new projects we work on have some component of sustainable fisheries in them, not just because the customers request them (which they are) not just because it's the right thing to do (which is true) but also back to the business standpoint, it make sense to develop a business around a sustainable model. We've laid the groundwork for the responsibly harvested program, I think it's a successful idea. Responsible harvested species, like pollock, we recognize as a resource that hasn't been tapped, as is redfish. When I'm out prospecting customers and working with new customers, I'm working with old customers and suggesting things. I've been heavily promoting the underutilized species that GMRI has recognized and the opportunities that present themselves in the Gulf of Maine.
When having GMRI as an independent, non-advocacy group is the key ingredient. They're [GMRI] underappreciated at this point – the work the scientists are doing here is fantastic and deserves more recognition, industry wide, particularly fisheries aren't that large of community and other groups that are like them around the country should be using some of their ideas as a model. They can get fishermen, scientists and advocacy driven agenda groups all in the same room and still remain a friendly, productive conversation. The sustainable fisheries forum they had was a fantastic opportunity for people and industry to get together in a non-agenda driven, non-advocacy environment – no one was there to pitch one thing or another, it was just talk and I thought that was really successful.
Talking to important buyers, no one knows the real story, no ones ever seen a New England style drag net laid out and explain how the rock-hoppers work and how gear work at GMRI is really reducing bycatch species in a dramatic way. And when people hear about what your scientists speak about what they are doing, they are always amazed and say "wow this is really cool, we didn't know this was going on. We can use that species because it's caught with a special kind of net." There's a lot of story that still needs to be told.
It's not just, for lack of a better word, about saving the fish, its more of saving the community and working with the community and developing it as a resource that can be utilized for commercial and recreational purposes and then still maintaining a sustainable healthy fishery.