For over 400 years, New England has been a key contributor to the regional, national, and global seafood market. Advances in technology, continued population growth, and rapid globalization, however, have made it increasingly challenging to balance demand with ecological sustainability.
As a consumer, sometimes the options presented to us are overwhelming and laced with misinformation. Amanda Davis, the founder and director of Our Wicked Fish, Inc., is here to change the way that we think about seafood. With the goal of educating the public on where the fish that we buy and eat come from, the Deerfield, MA-based nonprofit “encourages consumers and restaurants to reconnect with New England's local seafood through research, outreach, and social media,” as Davis explains.
While working at 30 Boltwood, Davis was introduced to new varieties of locally-caught fish, including redfish, tautog, and striped bass. “These fish were beautiful, delicious, and completely unknown to me!” Davis says. “I quickly became fascinated by local fish as well as customers' reaction to local fish on the menu. Most people, including myself, have never been properly introduced to most of New England's fish. I wanted to know why.”
Davis’s goal is to get more people to experience the same “scrumptious, locally-caught fish” that led her to start Our Wicked Fish in 2015. According to Davis, one of the biggest factors preventing the widespread consumption of sustainable seafood is a lack of familiarity with available products. Species such as monkfish, hake, cusk, skate, and dogfish are found in abundance in New England waters, but these are not commonly-recognized names; as a result, they are rarely found in grocery stores or on restaurant menus.
“It seems like most of New England, especially we younger generations, have never been properly introduced to their local fish, therefore we do not know how to demand it,” says Davis, explaining that “weak demand leads to weak prices for fishermen,” and “fishermen just can't afford to sell lesser known fish species, even if they make up most of their catch.” Low prices could drive fishermen to seek out varieties that are in high demand and yield higher market prices, which are recovering from historical periods of overfishing. “If you want to support New England's fishery,” Davis suggests, “then eat local and in-season fish, especially the underloved species.”
Just like fruits and vegetables, fish are defined by their seasonality and locality. A wide range of species can be caught off the coast of New England at different times of the year, ensuring tasty local options during every season. By supporting the region’s fisheries, we as consumers are supporting sustainable practices as well as a local economy – and getting to eat a delicious array of seafood at the same time.
“Our seafood system will be more economically sustainable and environmentally sustainable when we diversify our consumption and create a stronger and more stable demand for lesser known species,” says Davis. “I know we can do it. I know we can sustain fishermen, fish populations, and our love for seafood all at the same time.”
Thank you so much to Amanda Davis for being a leader in the movement to support local,
seasonal, and sustainable seafood from New England's fisheries!
Entries are submitted by project staff and UMass students.