Anchors aweigh for community seafood pilot program

Martha’s Vineyard Fishermen’s Preservation Trust brings scallops to those in need.

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The Martha Rose is one of the boats that will be supplying sea scallops to Islanders in need of food. — Rich Saltzberg

Scallops are coming to Vineyarders facing food insecurity. Fueled by a donation from the Fink Family Foundation, the Martha’s Vineyard Fishermen’s Preservation Trust (MVFPT) will distribute 200 pounds of sea scallops next week with the help of partners such as the Island Food Pantry, Island Grown Initiative, Good Shepherd Parish, First Congregational Church of West Tisbury, and the Emergency Food Program.

The program is designed to buy local catches that may otherwise overload the market due to industry impacts brought on by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“Although state and local regulations and federal guidelines have designated fishing operations as essential businesses, many large fish buyers have shut down or are offering prices too low for fishermen to recoup operating expenses and pay crews and other employees,” an MVFPT press release states. “Additionally, with restaurants and wholesale markets closed, many fishermen have [fewer] options to offload product. As a result, many commercial fishing boats have been unable to leave the dock. At the same time, widespread unemployment from lockdown orders have left many communities in greater need of food than in a generation. This project aims to help both the fishing businesses and the community food organizations who are assisting people experiencing food insecurity.” 

The initial participants in the program are Capt. Sam Hopkins of the FV Endurance and Capt. Wes Brighton of the FV Martha Rose. 

“The amount and frequency of seafood purchased will evolve through the information gathered in this pilot phase of the program,” the release states. “While some fishermen are already selling directly off their boats and to the local seafood markets, there is too much product to be absorbed by only these methods. This program has the benefit of creating another outlet for Island-based fishing businesses to land product locally and distribute it to Island people in need.” 

MVFPT president John Keene stressed that the sea scallops bought are overage and won’t impact local fish markets. 

“It’s a high-protein delicious seafood product getting to people who might not otherwise have had the opportunity to eat it,” Keene said.

Scallops are just the start, he noted; MVFPT aims to offer other types of seafood going forward. 

“We are very excited about this,”  Kayte Morris, executive director of the Island Food Pantry, said. 

She said she was amazed at the way the food equity community comes together. 

To keep the seafood program running, additional support will be needed. Anyone interested can contact the MVFPT at mvfishermen@gmail.com or call 508-687-0344.