Our Definition of Sustainable Seafood

We consider a species sustainable if its population is robust and healthy and if it is fished according to strict management techniques that are codified in place. We look to the Marine Stewardship Council and the Gulf of Maine Research Institute for research-backed approval of these fisheries’ sustainability. We support a sustainable livelihood for all who touch our seafood and pay a fair price for our catch that respects the labor of our fishermen and the quality shellfish they provide.


Skimming the Surface: A Guide to Our Sustainable Seafood Practices

A Deep Dive: Our Sustainable Seafood Practices

Lobster Sustainability (Maine)

Region of Origin: MSC Certified Maine Harbors

As a result of the following practices, Maine lobster landings have tripled over the last twenty years, and Maine lobster is certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.

· Maine has both minimum and maximum size restrictions for lobsters that can be caught. The size is determined by measuring the length of the carapace, the shell that covers the main body. Shorter than 3.5 inches and the lobster is too small; longer than 5 inches and the lobster is too big.

· Undersized lobsters are thrown back because they haven’t had a chance to reproduce yet; oversized lobster are thrown back because they can produce exponentially more eggs than smaller lobsters, meaning they contribute more to the population.

· Lobstermen throw back female lobsters bearing eggs, and put a v-notch in the lobsters’ tails. Then, if that lobster is ever caught again without eggs, it still cannot be kept, as it is marked as a fertile breeder.

· Lobster traps are required to have juvenile vents, so small lobsters can escape and not risk being killed by larger lobsters in the trap.

· Lobstermen are limited to a maximum of 800 lobster traps per commercial fisherman.

· Licenses for the Maine lobster fishery are closed, so no new lobstermen may start lobstering until others retire.

· Lobster licenses are tied to one individual and one boat, so the lobsterman must be on board at all times, keeping corporations from owning lobster fleets and ensuring that industry money stays in the coastal communities where lobstermen live and work.

Lobster Sustainability (Canada)

Region of Origin: MSC Certified Canadian Harbors

In contrast to Maine, each Canadian province is regulated slightly differently, but all fisheries we source from abide by the following rules. As a result of these practices, Canadian lobster is certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council in the three provinces where we buy: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Quebec.

· Both minimum and maximum size restrictions for lobsters that can be caught. (In Canada the size restrictions vary by province).

· Undersized lobsters are thrown back because they haven’t had a chance to reproduce yet; oversized lobster are thrown back because they can produce exponentially more eggs than smaller lobsters, meaning they contribute more to the population.

· Lobstermen must throw back female lobsters bearing eggs, and may voluntarily put a v-notch in the lobsters’ tail. Then, if that lobster is ever caught again without eggs, it still cannot be kept, as it is marked as a fertile breeder.

· Lobster traps are required to have juvenile vents, so small lobsters can escape and not risk being killed by larger lobsters in the trap.

· Lobstermen are limited to a maximum number of lobster traps per commercial fisherman (varies by province).

· Licenses for Canadian lobster fisheres are closed, so no new lobstermen may start lobstering until others retire.

· The Canadian lobster fishery works on open and closed seasons, so there are many times of year when lobster cannot be caught, reducing fishing pressure on the population.

Jonah Crab Sustainability

Region of Origin: Massachusetts

Bryan Holden and Cape Seafood’s General Manager, Ben McKinney, served on the board of a Fishery Improvement Project in 2015 that codified the following practices, most of which were already informally in place. As a result, fishery landings have increased six fold in the last 15 years and the population is deemed to be at a sustainable level.

· Jonah crab may only be caught by fishermen who already hold lobster licenses or were already fishing for Jonah prior to 2015; no new licensees may start fishing.

· No crabs under a shell width of 4.75” may be caught and kept, ensuring that juvenile crabs have a chance to reproduce before being caught.

· Fishermen must throw back all egg-bearing females, ensuring that fertile crabs are kept in the population.

· Crab traps are required to have juvenile vents, so small crabs can escape and not risk being eaten by larger crabs or lobsters in the trap.

· Only whole crabs may be caught and kept, fishermen cannot pull of claws and throw the remainder back.

· No more than 200 crabs per day or 500 crabs per multi-day trip can be caught incidentally through other fishing methods.

Shrimp Sustainability Facts

Region of Origin: MSC Certified Canadian Harbor, Gaspe, Quebec

As a result of the following practices, total shrimp landings tripled and quota (based on population measures) quadrupled between 1990 and 2009, and the Quebec fishery from which we source is certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.

· The Eastern Canadian fishery has a quota for a total annual catch that cannot be exceeded, so the shrimp population remaining in the water is guaranteed to be at a sustainable number.

· Each individual fishing area also has its own total allowable catch quota for the same purpose.

· Trawling nets used to catch shrimp have a minimum mesh size of 40 mm, which prevents juvenile shrimp from being caught, giving them time to mature and reproduce.

· Shrimp fishermen must use a sorting grate to ensure that they are not catching other species unintentionally, a.k.a. preventing bycatch, which preserves populations of fish and sea turtles.

· Certain areas of the coastline are closed to fishing to protect sensitive areas of ocean bottom such as corals.

· Fishery observers ride aboard every large fishing boat and a percentage of rotating small fishing boats to ensure compliance.

· Dockside fishery monitors check the landings of all small fishing boats to ensure compliance.

Sea Clam Sustainability Facts

Region of Origin: Rhode Island, Massachussets

As a result of the following practices, the clam population, which is measured every three years, is currently deemed to be 9% higher than the target population level, so it's super abundant.

  • Sea clams were one of the first fisheries to be managed under a fishery management plan starting with the passage of the Magnuson-Stevens Act of 1976.
  • Clammers are bound by a shareable quota system--only licensed clammers can catch sea clams, and each one has an annual quota that they may not exceed.
  • If a clammer isn't going to fish for a year, they can lease their quota to another, helping sustain the industry economically.
  • Clams are harvested by hydraulic dredging--essentially large, heavy sleds pulled along the sea floor. High-pressure jets blast water into the sediment which temporarily liquefies it and allows a steel blade to pass through the first few inches of the sea floor and scoop the clams onto the dredge, where they are captured in a cage. The cage bars are spaced to allow smaller clams to fall out. Hydraulic dredging has little to no effect on the physical or chemical makeup of the ocean floor, which settles back to normal within minutes of dredging
  • Like lobster, sea clams have a minimum size--4.75 inches wide. This minimum is only suspended when populations are measured to be over-abundant.