Where are you from?
I’m from the Eastern Shore of Maryland but have spent the last five years in Rhode Island working in fisheries.
I have a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Public Policy from the University of Maryland, with a graduate certificate in Ecological Economics.
What’s been the most unexpected situation you’ve found yourself in for a job in sustainable seafood?
Okay, best and worst: Getting sick in my work glove in the middle of the night while working on the deck of a fishing boat. I don’t know why I was inclined to take off my glove and use it as a sick bag, rather than the usual over-the-rail solution. The weather was terrible, the Super Bowl kickoff was in 16 hours, and we were 17 hours from the dock. On a brighter note, there was the time I was backstage at a Farm Aid concert shucking oysters for Willie Nelson and Dave Matthews… that was pretty cool.
Do you have a favorite family tradition based around food?
When I was little, my dad would take me to this tiny local seafood market on the docks. I would walk up to the glass case and my dad would say, “Pick one.” From a very young age, I was being taught to learn about my seafood. I would heckle the sales guy and ask, “Is this from the Chesapeake Bay? When was it caught? Who caught it?” I’d also question my dad, “Is this the one we cook on the grill?” My dad would then buy whatever fish I chose. I didn’t realize until a couple of years ago that this was purposeful. My father was teaching me that I was allowed to have authority over the food I ate and ensuring my seafood values were being cultivated and respected.
Who would you want to bring as a guest to a Good Catch Dinner?
I’d want to bring the fisherman who caught the fish! You can’t talk about sustainable seafood without talking about values-based sourcing. If we are to respect our ocean and its resources, we must also respect those who are our eyes and ears on the water.
What’s your favorite seafood dish?
Sea scallops! Nothing fancy added to them, just sautéed three minutes on one side and one minute on the other. I lived with fishermen for most of my time in Rhode Island so I was spoiled when it came to fresh seafood.
What’s been the proudest moment of your career?
In fisheries, victories are small and incremental. Last year, it was really exciting to help a group of Cape Cod fishermen negotiate a profit-sharing agreement with their wholesaler and set a minimum floor price for their catch. Fishermen usually have no control over how much they get for their fish, so this contract gave these fishermen more reliable pricing and thus allowed for better business planning. I also really enjoyed presenting in Washington, D.C. to the acting director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) on the threats that offshore drilling pose to our domestic seafood supply, and helping the Rhode Island fishing community launch a young fishermen apprenticeship program designed to alleviate the need for trained crew members.
What advice would you give to someone trying to choose what seafood to eat?
STAY LOCAL – Sourcing seafood from the waters local to you is the most sustainable option. It reduces your carbon footprint, ensures a properly managed fishery and empowers smaller supply chains which help with seafood traceability.
BE FLEXIBLE – There is a wide diversity of species in our waters that are delicious. However, we keep demanding the same five or so species from the ocean, which can force some fishermen to look for something that isn’t always ecologically abundant. The more our oceans change, the more we need to be changing our palate to appreciate what is actually available. If you see a species on a menu that you’ve never heard of before, ask if it’s local and give it a try!
KNOW YOUR FISHERMAN – This more than just advice, it’s a movement! When we know the hands who caught our fish, we’re building trust in seafood. By adding this layer of granular specificity to our supply chain, down to the name of the fisherman or boat that caught the fish, we are ensuring ultimate traceability and reconnecting ourselves to the source of our food. Did you know that in Key West, Fla., February is Know Your Fisherman month? Shout out to Key West Mayor Craig Cates for that one!
What’s your favorite ocean creature?
If you’ve never heard of a Dumbo octopus, I highly recommend you Google it. They are ADORABLE.
What are you looking forward to the most about being in South Carolina?
As a dog mom and an avid SUP paddler, I’ve always envied people who can paddleboard with their pup on the front. Now that I’m living right off Shem Creek and in a place where the paddling season is much longer, I’m excited to give that a try. I’m sure there will be some wipeouts at first, but I think we’ll eventually get the hang of it. I’m also very excited to check out the delicious fare being dished up at Good Catch partner restaurants! I need to figure out if any of them are dog-friendly…
Anything else you’d like to share?
I am really excited to be on board with the Aquarium and begin embedding myself in the South Carolina fishing and seafood communities. That being said, one of the top items on my list is to get off land and track down a good shrimping spot. If you know of any, feel free to reach out!