Discussing GMRI and responsible seafood at Colby

For students who live in coastal Maine, summertime means cracking into lobster and shellfish that was pulled from the sea that day. After a day of summer sailing in his hometown of Freeport, Evan Lamarre ’15 and his friends would dive into lobster a friend pulled from the trap that morning. Nellie LaValle ’18 feels privileged to live in Bar Harbor, saying that her “dad has a clamming license, so he brings fresh clams all the time,” raked from the sand flats near her home.

Mainers eagerly enjoy all types of seafood caught in cold coastal waters. The Gulf of Maine, which stretches from Nova Scotia to Cape Cod, teems with sea life, such as cod, mackerel, shellfish and lobster. Coastal New England relies on the sea for industry, which generated over ten billion dollars in sales in 2011.

If unmanaged, this huge annual harvest can endanger the health of the fisheries it draws from. Organizations like the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) trawl for better fishing methods and regulations to keep fishermen—and the fish—prosperous.

Recently, the institute introduced a certification program that labels seafood responsibly harvested and processed in the Gulf of Maine which has caught the attention of Colby Dining Services.

This label is an easily identifiable way to ensure a variety of seafood are fished at sustainable rates that contribute to the long-term health of the fishery. By ensuring that seafood is managed well throughout the supply chain, it also ensures a fresher meal for the consumer.

Many types of seafood can carry the label, from lobster to the little-known redfish, if its production meets the criteria. Buying these fish in Maine requires a trip down to Hannaford or Shaw’s, but the GMRI would love to partner with schools like Colby because “colleges have a fantastic opportunity to introduce students to some of these [underused] species…and raise the demand here in the region” said GMRI spokeswoman Kyle Foley.

The College has acknowledged interest in buying exclusively from GMRI certified sources. Director of Dining Services, Larry Llewelyn, says that one of Colby’s suppliers, Bristol Seafood, was a founding member of the GMRI. Llewelyn and Sodexo Operations Manager Joe Klaus are using their purchasing power to influence other suppliers to achieve the “Responsibly Harvested Seafood” certification.

This program has already surfaced at schools like Wellesley College and the University of New Hampshire, and Colby has the opportunity to be another early adopter.

While Colby adheres to a national Sodexo imposed standard for seafood defined by the Marine Stewardship Council, Klaus says that this standard “doesn’t get into species of New England, and [Colby] can build on [those standards] regionally.”

Increased cost emerges as a potential issue for Dining Services, but Foley assures that using species like redfish or dogfish “that are abundant, delicious, and just lesser known to consumers” will come at a reasonable price. The struggling markets and fishermen who harvest these species would also be bolstered by demand. Klaus agrees that Colby can and should make the change without losing money, especially because sourcing from Maine is a high priority.

With recent pushes from the Colby community about improved dining services, this program would be well received by students. According to Llewelyn, “more diversity in the menu and more fish mean better nutrition lines for students”.

LaValle says that “being a college close to the coast we should be a factor in encouraging that behavior. It would show how connected Colby is to Maine”. Students would certainly feel better about the fish they’re eating.

So for students like LaValle, who come from the freshest seafood possible to Sodexo Seafood it’s all too easy to say, “I really like seafood, fish a lot, I just don’t trust it [here]”. But if Colby carried the GMRI certification, she “would feel 100 percent better about eating seafood here.”

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