Gloucester fisherman Giuseppe “Joe” Randazzo, captain of The Razzo, prepares his grey sole “the old Sicilian way”: dipped in eggs and bread crumbs and fried. The grey sole that’s on his plate is as fresh as fish can get, caught in local waters and brought back to the dock that afternoon. He promises that once people have tried fish that was caught and cooked on the same day, they’ll never be able to eat the frozen stuff again.
You’d think that fresh fish would be easy to come by in places like Gloucester, but most of what’s caught locally is frozen and shipped elsewhere. Enter Cape Ann Fresh Catch (CAFC), the community-supported fishery that’s working to get fresh fish back on people’s tables.
A program of the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association, CAFC began during the summer of 2009 as the second community-supported fishery in the country. Borrowing from the community-supported agriculture model, consumers buy weekly shares of whatever local fishermen catch. Shareholders receive two to six pounds of fillets, whole fish, or a mix of the two every week for a set price. They never know what kind of fish it is until they get it, allowing fishermen to sell whatever’s available for them to catch during CAFC’s four seasons. CAFC works with Ocean Crest Seafoods, which liaises with the boats, and Turner’s Seafood, which processes and delivers the fish to sites on the North Shore and in Boston.
“Local people have been removed from the fish that is available here,” says Heather Fraelick, a Gloucester resident who was a CAFC shareholder before becoming the organization’s marketing and communications specialist. “People want a very specific few fish: salmon, cod, halibut, swordfish. They don’t know what redfish is, and they probably haven’t had monkfish,” she says. “Part of our program is reintroducing the fish that’s local and that’s available for fisherman to catch on shorter trips.”
Mary Reilly, chef and co-owner of Enzo Restaurant & Bar in Newburyport, has already increased her standing weekly order by 100 percent since signing up for a restaurant share in mid-March. Her weekly Cape Ann Fresh Catch Special is incredibly popular with customers, who’ve sampled skate wing, hake, and other underutilized species. “It’s the right thing to do,” she says of participating in the program. “But it’s also the delicious thing to do.”
Randazzo agrees. “It shows people that we provide some nice quality day boat fish, which is the best around,” he says. “We go out in the morning and come home in the afternoon, and it’s the best you can get.” capeannfreshcatch.org.