Fishermen’s Trust secures $250,000 grant

Ian Andres hauls a basketed bag of sea scallops off the Martha Rose at Tisbury Wharf in January. — Lexi Pline

The Martha’s Vineyard Fishermen’s Preservation Trust was awarded a $250,000 grant to expand its Community Seafood Program.

The grant was awarded by Catch Together, a nonprofit organization that invests capital in support of fishermen, fishing communities, and ocean conservation throughout the country, according to a press release from the trust. The grant gives the trust the ability to purchase and process black sea bass and scup for fish chowder production, which will be donated to Island food organizations.

The program was established in April with the goal of linking fishermen to food support organizations. The program started with local sea scallops, and to date has donated 1,925 pounds of sea scallops to food organizations across the Island.

“It is exciting to see how the success from our pilot program with sea scallops has enabled us to expand to include black sea bass and scup — species that are abundant and caught in sustainable ways by our Island fishermen,” Trust Executive Director Shelley Edmundson said in the release.

To assist local fishermen during the pandemic, the program will pay fishermen 25 cents per pound above the market price for black sea bass and scup stocks. The goal is to purchase 20,000 pounds of black sea bass and 2,500 pounds of scup, to be made into 32,000 containers of fish chowder.

“Decreased restaurant demand for seafood has driven down prices for many fish species, with this trend especially apparent in the black sea bass market. Martha’s Vineyard black sea bass is usually sold to high-end restaurants in Boston and New York, but the lower demand and prices have stopped many fishermen from setting their gear. At the same time, the 2020 Massachusetts’ quota for black sea bass increased from 457,000 lbs last year to 725,400 lbs. Typically, the season begins in early July and ends in early September, when the quota is reached. This year as of mid-August, only 38 percent of the Massachusetts sea bass quota has been landed, so a large amount of harvestable seafood is left available for harvest,” the release reads.

In addition to the program, the trust will also be using grant funds to provide subsidized fuel cards for fishermen unable to participate in the scallop, black bass, and scup program.

“During this crisis it is great to be able to help multiple groups at the same time, local fishermen, fish dealers, food processors, and our community members who need to eat,” Trust President John Keene said in the release.

Fishermen can learn how they can participate by contacting Peter Lambos, program manager, at blackseabassmv@gmail.com or 774-310-1525.