Checking in with Port Clyde Fresh Catch: Bringing Maine Shrimp to Brooklyn

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Maine sweet shrimp
In December, we told you about Port Clyde Fresh Catch--the first community-supported fishery delivering to New York, offering once-a-month Maine shrimp drop-offs this winter and spring.

Today, we checked in with coordinator Jessica Libby about how the CSF is working out--and discovered that some restaurants are getting in on the action.

Port Clyde is a small fishing town on the wild Maine coast, about 90 miles north of Portland. In recent years, the fishermen there have struggled to stay in business, due to low prices and diminishing stock. So the 12-boat group decided to adapt a terrestrial idea to the water, and start a community-supported fishery. It works the same way as community-supported agriculture: You pay a set sum directly to the fishermen, in exchange for a portion of their catch all season long.

A CSF has the same advantages as a CSA: You know where your money is going and where your food is coming from. The fishermen collective bought a processing facility so that they control every part of the supply chain--fishing, processing, trucking it to you.

As Robert Sietsema reminded us, farmed shrimp can be devastating to the environment and local economies. Wild shrimp is a better choice--the Monterrey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch calls wild northern Atlantic shrimp a "good alternative," a category that would include the Maine shrimp. The problem is that wild shrimp are often caught with trawlers that harm the ocean floor.

Port Clyde Fresh Catch is working to mitigate that damage by building modified shrimping gear that lets by-catch and underage shrimp escape, and by using a different kind of rope that doesn't let the trawlers rest directly on the bottom. It's certainly not perfect, but it's a start.

Today, coordinator Jessica Libby said that the CSF started delivering in January, and although they've only got 20 individual subscribers in New York so far, the shrimp have gotten the attention of several local restaurants: Diner, Brooklyn Kitchen, and Northern Spy Food Co. are all buying shrimp from Port Clyde, and they've been requesting UPS shipments of the crustacean between the monthly drop-offs to keep up with demand.

"We're happy," said Libby, "but we're hoping to get more people."

It's not too late to join for the winter shrimp season. (We just signed up today.) For $180, you'll get five shipments of five-pound bags of Maine shrimp, which are smaller than the ones you often see at the market, but sweeter and more flavorful. The five drop-offs will happen monthly at Marlow and Daughters in Williamsburg; the next one is February 14th. The other dates and details can be found on the Port Clyde CSF website.

You can also buy the shrimp on a month-by-month basis, by calling or emailing Libby at least three days before the drop-off, and asking for a one-time shipment for $36. Either way, it's about $7 a pound, and the shrimp come to you raw, without their shells. (If you want the shells for their flavor or for making stock, just ask for your shipment to be shell-on.)

To sign up for the monthly CSF, arrange a one-time purchase, or just ask questions, call Jessica Libby at 207-975-2191, or email her.

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