DEM announces new online feature for updates in seafood landings
The following announcement was forwarded to The Block Island Times from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management on Tuesday, Nov. 17:
The Rhode Island Seafood Marketing Collaborative, chaired by Department of Environmental Management (DEM) Director Janet Coit, announces the availability of a new feature on the SeafoodRI.com website that provides weekly updates of all seafood landings in Rhode Island. This is the first time this information is being provided to consumers in a readily accessible, online format.
“We’re excited to offer this new tool on the SeafoodRI.com website so that Rhode Islanders can more easily find what’s fresh and available, and where they can find it,” said Department of Environmental Management (DEM) Director Janet Coit. “There is a strong demand for local seafood and we’re fortunate that our commercial harvesters are able to meet that demand by harvesting and landing wide varieties and large quantities of fresh seafood every day at our ports. Rhode Islanders can take pride in knowing that when they purchase fresh local fish, shellfish, lobsters and crabs, they are not only getting delicious seafood, but also helping to keep a vital part of our economy – our commercial fishing and seafood industry – up and running.”
The SeafoodRI.com website was established several years ago by the Rhode Island Seafood Marketing Collaborative. The website provides consumers with information on Rhode Island seafood including what’s available, where it can be purchased, how it’s harvested, and how to cook and enjoy it. Until recently, information on the availability of RI seafood was provided via an annual harvest calendar, which projected the likely availability of top local species on a seasonal basis over the course of a given year. It provided general guidance, but was not linked to real-time landings data.
Now, under the “For Consumers” tab on the SeafoodRI.com website, DEM is providing cumulative weekly landings data for each species landed in Rhode Island. The information is accessible via the “About RI Seafood” sub-tab. The feature enables consumers to see the wide variety and amounts of fresh seafood currently being landed in Rhode Island. With this insight, consumers can then click on the companion tab, “Buy RI Seafood,” to access listings of local seafood retailers including markets and restaurants, as well as harvesters selling directly off their boats. Consumers can then contact local retailers to see if their favorite local seafood, just landed in the state by Rhode Island fishermen, or just harvested from Rhode Island waters by local shellfish farmers, is available to purchase. Not all Rhode Island seafood retailers sell all Rhode Island seafood products, but as local consumer awareness and demand increase, so too is local availability.
For example, the “About RI Seafood” tab on the SeafoodRI.com website reveals that over this past week, Rhode Island fishermen landed a total of 25 species, including:
●Over 100,000 quahogs
●Over 100,000 pounds of squid and skates
●Over 50,000 pounds each of scup and silver hake
●Over 25,000 pounds of lobster and butterfish
●Over 10,000 pounds each of monkfish, black sea bass, summer flounder (fluke), Jonah crab and whelk (conch)
● Over 5,000 pounds of red/white hake and bluefin tuna
● Up to 5,000 pounds each of bluefish, bonito, cod, rock crab, winter flounder, conger eel, kingfish, weakfish, tautog, cunner and John dory
Kate Masury, program director of Eating with the Ecosystem, partnered with DEM and the RI Seafood Marketing Collaborative to help develop the new RI seafood weekly landings webpage. “I am thrilled to see this exciting new initiative come to fruition,” said Masury. “Living in Rhode Island, we are incredibly lucky to live so close to very productive marine ecosystems, which produce a diversity of local seafood species and provide a healthy food source for local consumers, while supporting many commercial fisheries and businesses. Yet, despite this abundance of seafood produced in our local waters, as consumers, we typically eat very few local species. Our markets, menus and plates generally do not reflect the diversity of seafood produced by our local ecosystems and caught in our local fisheries. To keep up with traditional demand for our favorite species, such as shrimp, salmon, and tuna, we actually import more than 90% of the seafood we eat and then we export around 2/3rds of the seafood caught in our local waters. Fortunately, that dynamic is changing, as awareness increases regarding the availability of fresh local seafood, and local demand shifts from imported seafood to the delicious array of seafood products landed locally. I’m excited that the new weekly landings webpage will be a new tool that consumers can use to learn more about their local seafood and seek these species out in the marketplace.”
The new weekly landings webpage adds to an ever-growing series of initiatives undertaken by DEM, the RI Seafood Marketing Collaborative and partners throughout the industry to promote and market fresh RI seafood. To help foster the continued viability of the RI commercial seafood industry during the COVID-19 crisis, in April DEM enacted a new Direct Sale Dealer License. It authorizes commercial fishermen in Rhode Island to sell certain species of finfish, and to sell and transport for sale live lobsters and crabs, directly to consumers and licensed seafood retailers from the vessel on which they were harvested. In August, several partners, led by the Commercial Fisheries Center of Rhode Island, launched a new smartphone app, FishLine, that connects consumers with commercial fishermen who are selling direct. The app will soon be expanded to serve as a real-time central marketplace for all fresh RI seafood being sold by retailers and restaurants, as well as fishermen, throughout Rhode Island, complementing the listings provided on SeafoodRI.com.