Expert Conversations: Jen Levin & Sam Grimley from Gulf of Maine Research Institute

Jen Levin and Sam Grimley from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute

Jen Levin and Sam Grimley from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) in Portland recently began collaborating with local fishermen and some of the areas best chefs to develop a campaign that will help to build the market for several tasty and abundant, yet under appreciated Gulf of Maine species.

The collaborative program is called “Out of the Blue,” and it highlights five different species that will each be featured throughout the area for ten days between now and November.

SRG: What is the mission and focus of “Out of the Blue?”
J&S: Out of the Blue seeks to increase consumer awareness of underutilized or underappreciated local, sustainable seafood by spotlighting these species at local restaurants and food service outlets. The mission is to increase consumer demand of these species in order to help build a greater diversity of marketable products for our local seafood industry.

SRG: Who is on the “Out of the Blue” team, and how did this project come to be?
J&S: The two of us work for the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and have been working with fishermen and chefs (the full list of Steering Team members can be found at www.gmri.org/outoftheblue) over the past year to identify species to focus on and strategies to promote them.

SRG: How did you determine which seafood species would be promoted through this program?
J&S: The Steering Team met several times to select a suite of Gulf of Maine seafood items that meet certain criteria, such as low ex-vessel price, only a small percent of allowable catch harvested, variance in foreign market values, strong management, and positive culinary attributes. The team ultimately decided to focus on five species. The first is redfish, and the others will be revealed as their promotion weeks approach.

SRG: In what ways are local restaurants and food service outlets participating in the program and promoting these species?
J&S: Out of the Blue participants commit to serving the featured species during the promotion week. The first promotion is focused on Acadian redfish, June 1-10. Participating locations have informational resources about redfish and Out of the Blue, which are also available on the Out of the Blue web site at www.gmri.org/outoftheblue.  Some participants have silhouettes of redfish painted on their walls or windows, and others are tweeting or blogging about the promotion (check out @gmriseafood on Twitter for examples).

SRG: In what ways can consumers participate in this program?
J&S: Consumers can get involved by visiting participating restaurants and trying the featured seafood dish (even better if they let the restaurant know they’re there because of Out of the Blue) and then asking for the product from their grocer to cook at home. Also, consumers can continue to show their support even after the Out of the Blue promotional weeks have ended by asking for the featured seafood at restaurants and seafood markets.

SRG: Where can we find the featured seafood and learn how to prepare it at home?
J&S: All participating restaurants can be found listed on the web at www.gmri.org/outoftheblue along with a fabulous recipe. Also, Chef David Ross is featured on a May 30 Fox segment (http://www.myfoxmaine.com/story/18655866/new-fish-in-maine-restaurants#.T8dwpnoL-io.twitter) talking about how to cook redfish.

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