West Tisbury School students learn about sustainable seafood

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From left, Laina Dubin, Elizabeth Thompson, River Maxner and Linden MacLeod enjoy the hands on portion of the day's activities. —Stacey Rupolo

West Tisbury School students enjoyed clam chowder and a lobster boil for lunch on a recent Friday, part of their “local catch of the day” program, and learned from local experts how choosing sustainable seafood supports New England fishermen.

The event on May 19 at the West Tisbury School gave students the opportunity to learn firsthand what the ocean has to offer. It was part of a celebration of Island Grown Schools’ “harvest of the month.” The organization brings garden-based learning and locally sourced food to Island schoolchildren, and seafood was the local harvest for the month of May.

Jared Auerbach, the founder of Boston-based regional seafood purveyor Red’s Best, which supplies seafood to the school, shared with students the importance of eating locally-sourced and sustainably-harvested fish.

“Let mother nature dictate what you’re going to eat,” Mr. Auerbach said.

Up-Island schools in Chilmark and West Tisbury are the first elementary schools in the country to offer a “local catch of the day” program at school lunch, where students learn how the fish actually got to their plate. The program is spearheaded by Jenny Devivo, West Tisbury School cafeteria director, and Noli Taylor, program leader of Island Grown Schools.
“Just be ready to realize that the oceans that we live next to are pretty impressive, and you guys are doing a great job by supporting what we do,” Ms. Devivo told students on Friday.
The most exciting part of the day for students was getting to hold some of the fish from Red’s Best — fluke, dogfish, scut, monkfish, and squid — prompting high-pitched screams and laughter.
Alec Gale helped pass the different fish along to eager hands. Mr. Gale owns the Menemsha Fish House, right next to Larsen’s, and is also a part-owner of Red’s Best, which supports a network of fishermen, with about 350 local fishermen and a total of 1,000 regionally.
Students also explored oyster cages with representatives from Cottage City Oysters, an oyster farm in Oak Bluffs. They learned about shellfish life cycles with the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group. Lobstermen Wes Brighton showed students live lobsters and conch and explained how they are trapped, and representatives from Island Grown Farms explained to students how rainbow trout is raised through a hydroponic program on Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod.
New England waters have a bounty of resources, Mr. Auerbach told students. “Everyone in the world wants what you have,” he said.