Who caught it?
Fresh yellowtail or frozen tilapia? Key West Pink or farm raised shrimp from China? It can be easier, and cheaper, for restaurants to bait and switch (forgive the pun) a seafood dinner. Menus up and down the Keys tout local cuisine with marketing words such as “local” or “fresh” next to their lobster tails and hogfish sandwiches, but how do consumers know if the fish was really caught in our waters? There is one sure fire way to find out. Just ask: Who caught it? This is the premise of the popular three-year-old “Know Your Fisherman” campaign in the Keys. Owners Paul Menta, Tony Osbourn and Chris Holland, owners of Three Hands Fish Market of Key West, created the campaign as the ultimate “ocean to plate” program to combat the common national problem of seafood fraud.
“Back in the ’70s in Key West, people went down to the docks, bought fish directly from the boat and took it home,” said Captain and Chef Menta, “We are just getting back to that idea. This isn’t about hurting Keys restaurant business, but we are trying to help the next generation of Keys commercial fishermen keep their family businesses.”
The Keys’ commercial fishing industry is indispensable to the community and local economy, but is not sustainable when competing with cheaper fish from around the world. Menta hopes the program will grow with more local fish retailers adopting this business model and more restaurants added to the campaign.
“We are a seafood destination, so let the consumer be the police, let them ask who caught it and let them make a choice where to eat,” he said.
Menta stresses that fish immediately begin to deteriorate once filleted and put on ice. In order to truly get the “freshest” fish, catch and delivery to restaurants is the way to go. Ultimately, Menta would like to see a “Fresh Fish from Florida” attached to every catch, similar to the “Black Angus Beef” label popular in supermarkets.
There are 41 popular Key West restaurants participating in the campaign. When a diner asks “Who Caught it?”, servers can offer proof in the form of a baseball card naming one of twelve local fishermen who caught the fish of the day.
Mayor Craig Cates has jumped at the idea, naming Feb. 22 as the official “Know Your Fisherman” Day.
“This is just the first of many steps Key West will take,” said Cates, “to ensure that our island proudly and confidently remains a world capital of fresh and sustainable seafood.”
Get to know more at Three Hands Fish Market
3101 N. Roosevelt Blvd, Key West, FL, 33040.
Open daily from 11am to 7pm.
“From fishermen to chefs to the consumer, let’s rejoice in seafood. ” — Paul Menta, of Three Hand Fish Market.