Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Outer Banks Catch.

Mr. Hawthorne, Glowria, and I went to another cooking class at the North Carolina Aquarium today. Sorry you couldn't make it, Xmaskatie. That post is forthcoming, but I thought I'd talk about "Outer Banks Catch" first. One of the important issues discussed this season at our classes is the importance of buying locally harvested seafood. The seafood industry works with researchers and governmental agencies to adapt their gear to reduce bycatch, protect endangered species, and maintain sustainable habitats. Sustainable harvests mean we will enjoy seafood now and in the future, since the harvests are managed for long-term viability. We received little cards for seasonal choices of fish, listing North Carolina seafood availability by season. Each card highlights the species in seafood markets and restaurants available for each season. Most importantly, we want to know whether the seafood is "Local Catch." The "Local Catch" project started several years ago with a mission to create awareness about sustainable fisheries and remind the consumer that fisheries are seasonal. Please read HERE about the Local Catch project. You're able to download, if you like, the little seasonal cards about N.C. seafood availability. At least read them. They're interesting. To find out about the stock status of important local fisheries, click HERE. For information on sustainable fisheries efforts, click HERE. Dare County is now launching a branding program, "Outer Banks Catch," to promote locally caught seafood and to inform consumers about what species are available when. With the tourism industry being what it is here, many vacationers just assume the seafood is local and they're just as likely to order lobster that came from Maine or shrimp harvested in Vietnam instead of what was loaded onto the docks in Wanchese that morning. The Outer Banks Catch (OBC) is going to help the fishermen educate the general public, which in turn will ultimately help the commercial fishermen. The vast majority of seafood eaten nationally, including the Outer Banks, is caught overseas. In 2008, commercial fishermen caught 22.7 million pounds of seafood in Dare County alone, valued at more than $23 million. Statewide, watermen caught 71 million pounds, with a value of about $87 million. Considering this, Dare County's catch is extraordinary. Much of the fish caught off our coast is shipped to New York and other ports. One of the goals of the branding program is to create more demand locally for the catch before it is shipped off. It is hoped that the consumer will ask for "Local Catch" and gain appreciation for our local bounty and the watermen's role in delivering it to our tables. Hopefully, once people understand that there are seasons for fish, just as there are seasons for produce, they won't ask for soft shells in the winter or oysters in the summer. The Local Catch program plans to use a logo, to identify local catch. Participating restaurants would agree to serve at least one fresh-caught fish at any given time throughout the year. The logo, or icon, would be on the menu next to the item. Our supermarkets would also be encouraged to stock local seasonal catch. Beth, NC Aquarium Special Activities Coordinator, does a wonderful job at these events. We all love Beth. She's the teacher and hostess of all our cooking classes. (There's always a chef there too, but we need Beth to explain the seafood and greet us and make us feel all warm and fuzzy.) She's knowledgeable. She's informative. She's interesting. She's intelligent. Beth, Mr. Hawthorne just had an idea about The Logo. I think I read somewhere that there was a potential logo - a tuna, perhaps? Mr. Hawthorne suggested the NC Aquarium perhaps with the WWC and/or the OBRA sponsor a contest for school children to come up with the logo/icon. This way, you would increase knowledge and raise awareness of the importance of "Local Catch." You start with the children. This extends to the parents, then the community. By making children aware of this issue, emphasizing the future viability of our seafood, you create urgency. And children are our greatest resource. Back to Local Catch: Once you taste a fish just unloaded from a boat in Wanchese and some imported, frozen fish with questionable, mysterious origins you will see there is NO comparison. An article in one of our local papers, the Coastland Times, recently announced that "Outer Banks Catch" will be able to get their initiative rolling after receiving a $150,000 grant from the Golden Leaf Foundation. "Outer Banks Catch" is intended to be used as a brand name for seafood caught in Dare, Hyde, Tyrrell, and Currituck counties. An executive committee with representatives from the five counties, as well as industry stake holders, is steering the effort and is under the auspice of the Dare County Commission of Working Watermen (WWC). The WWC also has an agenda in this besides simply offering a fresh product. By raising consumer awareness to buy local, that gives a boost to our local seafood economy. The initial $150,000 funding will pay for marketing efforts to get Outer Banks Catch off the ground. That being said, we left our cooking class at the aquarium and headed back home. Armed with this information and giddy with the knowledge that Billy's Seafood on Colington Road will be re-opening tomorrow since closing for the season after Thanksgiving, I'm feeling quite empowered.
That is, until I got to "French Fry Ally" in downtown Kill Devil Hills.
Oh... the irony.
Taco Hell is serving PACIFIC Shrimp Tacos! I never eat at Taco Bell. Tried it once, under duress from Mr. Hawthorne. We were on one of our road trips. Hated it. But for crying out loud! This is the EAST COAST. This is the ATLANTIC Ocean. Taco Bell, don't you think you could support our local economy? Our locals support you. This is offensive and a slap in the face. SHAME on you, Taco Bell! Hours later, I just realized something. Even if I didn't know all about this Local Catch program, Taco Bell's marketing would still offend me. This is the East Coast. This is Dare County. This is where $23 million in fish is caught annually. Why import frozen instead of contributing locally? Damn corporate degradation and prostitution. I think I may write a letter to Taco Hell Headquarters, complaining. I'll be the gadfly on their ass.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info Rosie. I saw an "Outer Banks Catch/Seafood" billboard on Hwy 64E before Columbia, looks like they're trying to spend their ad budget before someone takes it away!
Although local restaurants may want to sell locally caught product, it may end of costing them more than buying from other international sources.
Are NC Watermen prepared to embrace this concept as well? Are they willing to accept less money to sell locally, and would you do the same if you were in their position?

Rosie Hawthorne said...


The Dare County Commission of Working Watermen (WWC) is overlooking the executive committee which is steering the effort to brand name "Outer Banks Catch."

The WWC wants to serve a fresh product and they hope that by raising consumer awareness to buy local, they can give a boost to the fishing economy.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post RH. Having worked in marketing for another fast food giant, I can tell you that they most likely would never let a franchisee, or a region of restaurants, source locally. Several reasons: quality control (and safety/health standards), costs, and consistency in customer experience. We had very strict quality and safety standards and picked suppliers that could and would follow them. Just can't trust that Joe's Crabbery down the street is going to have the same standards. A customer gets sick, then bam. Also, costs for food materials are often negotiated a year in advance and the more you buy, the less it costs. Couldn't have regions or franchisees out buying their own stuff at whatever price. Finally, if you get an awesome fish taco made from Atlantic fish down in NC but up in Virginia you get the standard corporate fare, doesn't do much for the customer experience and expectations. At any rate, those are some reasons, but by all means write to Taco Bell! I'm all for local sourcing. Kelley

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Valid points, Kelley. But I just hated seeing that Taco Bell sign promoting PACIFIC shrimp.