Jul. 25, 2011
BOSTON — Angela Sanfilippo knows her fish. She’s been the wife of a Gloucester fisherman for 41 years, and in her family there aren’t many nights when fish isn’t on the menu. But her dream of getting fresh, local fish out to the wider community seemed like a pipe dream until 2008.
That’s when she started the Cape Ann Fresh Catch initiative. It’s a “fish-share” program in which customers pay for a share of that week’s catch. It works similarly to farm shares.
“You join for a season and every week you would get your share, not knowing what kind of fish you would get – it could be haddock, it could be Cod, it could be Pollack,” Sanfilippo said.
On the morning of the delivery, shareholders get an email, telling them what fish to expect that night. Sanfilippo throws a recipe in there too, just in case.
To make it all happen, Sanfilippo partnered with day fishers at Ocean Crest Seafoods in Gloucester.
It’s mid-morning and the docks are buzzing with activity. Outside, boats are lining up to offload the morning catch. And upstairs, Ocean Crest Seafoods president Lenny Parco goes over the day’s orders. He says the program has given him a lot of new — and much needed — customers.
“I would say the program is probably using between 3 and 5 thousand pounds of fish a week, and that’s fairly significant,” Parco said.
Significant, especially in light of strict fishing regulations that were put in place last year, placing hard catch limits on how much groundfish a fisherman can catch. Under the old system, fishermen were allowed a certain number of days at sea.
Sanfilippo says the program pays day fishers up to 100 percent more than they would normally get.
“We pay the fisherman between $2 and $2.50 a pound, even if the fish sold for a dollar,” Sanfilippo said.
But Parco says it’s not all about the money. His favorite part is letting people in on the big secret to liking fish – fresh seafood.
“Once you get a good fresh product out there, people are excited by it. They always say, well, it smells,” Parco said. “Well, fresh fish does not smell. Fresh fish smells like the ocean. So if you walk by the seafood case and you smell fish, you wanna keep on walking.”
Once off the ship, the fish gets loaded into a truck and heads over to Turner Seafoods to be skinned, filleted and packaged into 2 pound bags. This morning’s catch: Cod.
“This fish is caught, landed, it’s processed here in the morning, and it’s on a truck on its way and it’s on someone’s plate tonight. And you can’t get any fresher than that,” said Turner Seafoods President James Turner.
He says the program, which now has over 680 customers, has become one of his biggest clients.
“And for that reason we’ve hired a couple more people in order to do – to get their business out the door.”
Once out the door, the fish is loaded into the delivery truck and, depending on the day, delivered to a handful of the program’s 18 pick up locations. Today, Harvard Square makes the list. And it’s here that David Wright makes his pick-up. Since joining, Wright says he has not been disappointed.
“It’s good – the first time they had Dabs and I’ve never had them before so I couldn’t compare to anything, but they were fantastic. You can taste the freshness,” Wright said.
Back in Gloucester, Angela Sanfilippo says her dream of making all fish local is finally being realized.
“We don’t need to eat imported farm fish from Chile where this seafood is available here and will be available with the help of God for many, many more generations,” Sanfilippo said.