A Recipe for Fleet Diversity

By Executive Chef Teddy Diggs, guest blogger
Home Port Restaurant

Note: This letter was addressed to New England fisheries decision-makers 
regarding Amendment 18 to the groundfish plan. We encourage everyone to join Teddy 
by submitting your own comments in support of fleet diversity. Click here to learn how.

To the New England Fisheries Management Council,

Locally-caught seafood impacts my personal and professional life. I am writing to oppose the Council taking no action on Amendment 18 and encourage Council members to explore a variety of alternatives that can protect our regions diverse fleet as well as our marine ecology.

I am the executive chef at the Home Port restaurant in Menemsha on Martha’s Vineyard. Through care, ability and hard work we are lucky enough to run a business that we believe should be the standard for how to operate a restaurant. Sustainability has become a tired buzz word that pertains to too many schools of thought. It is my view that sustainability extends well beyond the number of fish removed from the ocean. It includes how the fish are removed, who removes it, how the fish gets to consumers, and how well it feeds people, which ultimately is the purpose of fishing. To my point, sustainable fishing includes the fishermen and their communities. Purchasing locally-caught fish not only sustains a way of life but also helps to support (read: sustain) a particular family or community.

We, as chefs, should look at our ocean the same way. Purchasing sustainable sea life should extend to the benefit of fishermen and our harbor communities. With that sense we should buy sustainably, but with a deeper thought in mind. Are we purchasing, serving and eating sea life that is restorative in nature? Meaning how and where was my fish caught? For the every day consumer this is difficult. That is why we choose to serve specific species on our menu at the Home Port. We encourage our customers to ask the questions, where and how was my food caught, and why did you choose this particular fish over another one.

It has become a passion of mine to study fish populations and their resources in hope that my daughters’ generation may see a resurgence of many fish species that are no longer available in the waters off Martha’s Vineyard and elsewhere in the world.

Trends begin to influence the public. If a restaurant can make it a standard in their operation to support the local community, both with food and finance, and also support the re-growth of our damaged ocean ecosystem, we all would benefit. The word movement can be defined as “a series of actions taking place over a period of time working to foster a new standard.” What we strive to do at the Home Port restaurant should be thought of as an effort that may enable growth and prosperity for the ocean and our community.

However, in order for us to achieve this standard we need regional policies that support a thriving diverse fleet where the people and method at which they harvest fish is factored into policy decisions and fleet diversity is protected.

Please do what you can to preserve fleet diversity. The Council should explore every option possible. This includes: supporting owner-operators, quota set-aside programs, limiting quota accumulation, preventing heavy concentration of fishing effort around inshore areas, considering new entrants, and leasing constraints that prevent smaller business operations from being forced out.

Thank you,
Teddy Diggs

Thank you Teddy for sharing your comments and thank you to the Home Port restaurant for supporting locally caught seafood and blazing a trail for others to follow. We encourage everyone who, like Teddy, cares about locally caught seafood to submit your own comments as part of a public comment period that ends March 1. Take a look at this page for guidelines. Every comment counts!