SAFA News   |    The South Atlantic Fishermen's Association

Pilot Program lets diners track seafood's path

April 18, 2011




Restaurateur Libby Eaton says the value of knowing where your food comes from has never been more important and the challenges faced by the commercial fishing industry here have never been greater.


That's why her Arendell Street business, Bistro by the Sea, is participating in Trace and Trust, a pilot program recently launched by the Carteret Catch alliance of area fishermen that allows consumers to trace the seafood they purchase directly to the fisherman who caught it.


Bistro by the Sea diners can use their smartphones, iPads or laptop computers and the restaurant's free wireless Internet service to follow the history of the seafood they are about to eat directly "from the boat to the plate," according to organizers.


They hope the Ms. Eaton's efforts will help make the program a success that will spread to other restaurants serving locally caught seafood and enhance the visibility of the Carteret Catch brand.


"We're trying to work out all the kinks before we get other restaurants involved," Ms. Eaton said on Monday.

Here's how it works: Each fish served is assigned an I.D. number, which is made available to diners who may then visit and enter that number for a detailed report.


The report includes the species name, the name of the fisherman who caught it and his vessel, the date and location the fish was caught, where it was landed and other details including shipping date and destination.


By moving the cursor over underlined words in the initial description, additional information is available, such as the fisherman's biography and details about the species, the vessel and the locale.


"It's really a neat way to put a face to the people who catch seafood so other people will know where their  food is coming from," Ms. Eaton said. "I got into this because I'm a farm girl from Indiana and I believe the commercial fisherman is much the same as the farmer in terms of the issues they face. We have to protect our food sources."


That's a big part of the mission of Carteret Catch, which seeks to sustain the livelihood and heritage of the Carteret County fishing industry through public marketing and education.


Carteret Catch is a joint venture between the county's fishing industry and area restaurants to advertise seasonal seafood caught by Carteret County fishermen.


The Carteret County Economic Development Council has also thrown its support behind Carteret Catch and the Trace and Trust program in hopes of keeping the commercial fishing industry viable.


"It's going to add awareness," said Shirley Powell, assistant director of the EDC. "More people are more interested in where their fish are caught and how fresh it is. We really hope that it's going to be a great way to advertise Carteret Catch and bring about awareness of the brand and inspire more to become a part of Carteret Catch.


"The commercial fisherman is being driven out of business by legislation and this could help sustain the  industry."


Carteret Catch organizers say the county has relied on the fishing industry and it has been a significant part of the culture here for 400 years. But in recent years, the influx of low-cost, imported seafood has displaced domestic seafood in many commercial markets.


"The prevalence of imported seafood now threatens to put an end to the rich tradition and high quality of Carteret County seafood," according to the group.


And despite the trend – 80 percent of the seafood we eat in this country is imported – many consumers prefer to purchase local seafood.


And with recent concerns such as those associated with the recent disaster resulting from the earthquake in Japan, consumers desire more information about their food sources.


Since consumers now have Internet service nearly everywhere they go, the Trace and Trust program is a logical step toward providing that information, Ms. Eaton said.


"People are on their cell phones all the time an this can educate the public. It really legitimizes Carteret Catch," she said.


To try it out, visit and enter the fish I.D. No. HS040101 in the appropriate field.


The results page also includes links where consumers may comment on the fish on Facebook or sign up for Twitter "tweets" about other seafood being shipped by fishermen in the area.


Organizers are still getting the program together and more information on the catch will be available soon.


"We're trying to get background information from all the captains," Ms. Eaton said. A barcode system for scanning catches is also in the works.

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