by Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources
Posted: Friday, October 7, 2011 at 3:18PM EDT
BOSTON – State marine and agriculture officials have announced the first Massachusetts lobster fishermen to become certified under the Department of Agricultural Resources’ (DAR) Commonwealth Quality Program (CQP).
This state label program, which requires its participants to meet both geographic and sustainability requirements, was designed to help consumers identify Massachusetts agricultural and seafood products that are responsibly produced, harvested and processed locally.
Gathered beside Fort Point Channel at the second annual Boston Local Food Festival, officials from DAR and the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game (DFG) joined local lobster boat captains to explain how consumers and fishermen stand to benefit from the program. State marine fisheries officials also underscored the importance of supporting Massachusetts lobstermen.
“A healthy fishing community in Massachusetts depends largely on the ability of local fishermen to market their product locally and cost effectively,” said DFG Commissioner Mary Griffin. “This seal accomplishes this purpose by identifying those fishermen who sell direct while providing consumers access to the freshest products at the lowest prices.”
More than 60 local businesses, including agriculturalists, forest product manufacturers and commercial lobstermen, have achieved CQP certification since the program’s inception in September 2010.
“This program builds on the success of locally grown agriculture and helps keep small, family-run fishing operations viable,” said DAR Commissioner Scott J. Soares. “Consumers who purchase products from a Commonwealth Quality-certified lobsterman will know they are getting a high-quality product, fished from Massachusetts waters using approved practices for harvesting and handling.”
The Commonwealth Quality Program establishes a clearly defined set of standards for its participants. This highly structured program and the collaboration behind it represent a significant advancement over traditional state label programs.
Comprised a combination of federal and state commercial fishing regulations, as well as industry best management practices designed to promote a sustainable fishery, program standards serve as a prerequisite for certification. Lobsters must be harvested within Massachusetts waters in order to qualify for the label.
“People often ask why my lobster tastes so much better than what they purchase in the store and the answer is simple. As with an apple or tomato, the quicker we get the lobster from its natural environment to your table, the fresher it’s going to be,” said Steve Holler of Quincy, captain of the November Gale and CQP participant.
The DAR initiative has gained recognition among prominent trade organizations, including the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association.
“Lobster is harvested from Newfoundland to New Jersey,” said Dave Casoni, Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association Secretary. “This program provides consumers with an assurance that the lobster they purchase is truly local, while promoting practices that help us to maintain a healthy natural marine resource. We are proud to endorse the program.”
Consumers can look for the "Seal of Commonwealth Quality" on locally harvested lobster at fishing docks, farmers’ markets and other retail locations effective immediately. For more information and to locate certified lobster fishermen visit the CQP website: www.mass.gov/cqp.
So far, Commonwealth Quality-certified lobster fishermen include:
•David Casoni, Fishing vessel Margaret M, Plymouth
•William Doherty, Fishing vessel Ishmael, Weymouth
•Timothy Field, Revolution Lobster, Westport
•Steve Holler, Fishing vessel November Gale, Quincy
•Wes Penney, Fishing vessel Curmudgeon, North Billerica
•Fred Penney, Fishing vessel Roy C., North Billerica
•Richard Rowell, Fishing vessel Allison Gail, Danvers
•Arthur Sawyer, Fishing vessel Miss Carla, Gloucester
Also at the Boston Local Food Festival, Commissioner Griffin served as one the judges rating the seafood cooking skills of celebrity chefs during a “Seafood Throwdown.” The event highlighted the work by the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance and the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association to support the development of a seafood market that is locally based and supports local, small-scale fishermen and fishing communities.
DAR’s mission is to ensure the long-term viability of local agriculture in Massachusetts. Through its four divisions – Agricultural Development, Animal Health, Crop and Pest Services, and Technical Assistance – the DAR strives to support, regulate and enhance the Commonwealth’s agricultural community, working to promote economically and environmentally sound food safety and animal health measures, and fulfill agriculture’s role in energy conservation and production. For more information, visit DAR’s website at www.mass.gov/agr, and/or follow at twitter.com/agcommishsoares.
Source: Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources