Whether it’s haddock or crab from the Atlantic Coast, or a shrimp grown in Michigan (yes, really!), how much seafood do you consume at home every week? During a normal year, how many times did you order seafood at a restaurant? According to Chris Chase of SeafoodSource, “In 2019, foodservice and retail seafood sales both represented almost exactly 50 percent of sales overall.” Some statistics show that retail sales were higher, but others argue this doesn’t account for the fact that Americans spend more than half of their food budget eating out. Regardless of how you calculate that number, restaurants make up a significant portion of seafood sales. While I usually have some fish fillets in my freezer, I primarily consume most seafood outside of my home. Smoked whitefish dip, seafood pastas, Friday fish frys and yummy fish tacos are common staples I gravitate toward.
It’s easy to see, then, how the pandemic’s dramatic drop in restaurant sales hit Michigan fisherfolk and fish producers hard. There wasn’t always a simple solution to redirect that product either. Many businesses that depend on Great Lakes seafood are still struggling to remain viable as the pandemic has affected their operations. To help address these challenges, Michigan Sea Grant received a $100,000 COVID-19 rapid response grant from the National Sea Grant Office. A portion of these funds were allocated to connect Great Lakes fish producers directly with consumers, and breathing life to an exciting new partnership between Taste the Local Difference (TLD), Michigan State University Extension, and Michigan Sea Grant (MISG). This partnership facilitates Michiganders to be able to connect with local fish producers in their region through the addition of a fisheries search icon on the Find Food and Farms online directory.
The new fisheries directory will also create additional sales and relationship opportunities for fisheries looking to work with other TLD partners like restaurants and retailers. The goal of these new relationships is to help create a more sustainable Michigan seafood system that can be resilient as markets change; therefore, we can work together to support our local, small-business producers and secure local seafood in Michigan for years to come.
Find Fisheries Near You!
Visit localdifference.org/fisheries to get started. Enter your zip code, choose a mile radius to search, and click “filter results” to see the fish producer businesses in your area. Follow Taste the Local Difference on Facebook and Instagram all summer to learn more about fish and aquaculture in the state of Michigan.
Stay tuned on social media for more information about Michigan’s seafood industry and how to support local fisheries!
Credit for all photos: Michigan SeaGrant
Alex Palzewicz is the Upper Peninsula Local Food Coordinator for Taste the Local Difference. One of her favorite breakfast options is a slice of toast with Lake Michigan Whitefish spread, a soft boiled egg, topped with a little chili oil and arugula microgreens.