True Fin, including our harvester partners, chefs, friends at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, and staff, is made up of experts who obsessively think about, study, and improve Gulf of Maine seafood. We've compiled the truth about:
The Gulf of Maine is host to a wide variety of finfish species, including cod, haddock, flounder, pollock, hake, monkfish, mackerel, and more. All are managed by state and federal agencies that set strict regulations to ensure long-term sustainability of fish stocks. These regulations include catch limits, size restrictions, and closed areas to protect spawning stocks and critical habitats.
While the United States imports over 90% of the seafood we consume, most Gulf of Maine fish stocks remain grossly under-harvested, meaning fishermen catch just a fraction of what fisheries scientists say can be sustainably caught. Even if we harvested all of the sustainable quotas, our fisheries would not be able to compete with massive volume fisheries and farms around the world. This creates a vicious cycle in which domestic markets become more dependent on these imports and local, less abundant and consistently available local seafood gets cut out of major supply chains.
The economic hit to fishermen is real. While they abide by some of the most stringent regulations in the world, the value for their catch has decreased over the years, making it more difficult to make a living on the water. In fact, over the past 30 years, the Gulf of Maine has seen a dramatic decline in its fishing fleet.
At True Fin, our goal is to realize more value for local fisheries, keeping fishermen fishing and creating access to domestically local seafood for consumers across the country. We exclusively offer Gulf of Maine species that are landed in Maine, New Hampshire, or Massachusetts. While this means we'll never have sardines or octopus, it also ensures that you can trust that our product will always be domestic.
For quality, community, and the environment, nothing beats our super frozen fish.
For Quality: At True Fin, we buy directly from Gulf of Maine harvesters as soon as the fish hits the dock. This means it is never sitting at an auction or other warehouse for days before being processed. We then process and super freeze the fish at the height of freshness. Our super freezing technology ensures that the integrity of the quality is maintained for perfect preservation.
For the Community: Fishing is a fickle thing. One week, our boats are catching reams of fish and the next they’re practically skunked. The ability to take their catch when harvest is bountiful and freeze it for a later date serves the fishermen well. We can buy more, and we don’t have to depress prices because we have to dump extra fresh fish on the market as quickly as possible.
For the Environment: Freezing fish reduces food waste from perishable fresh fish. And, it allows our home and professional chefs to purchase more at once - reducing packaging and shipping - and conveniently store it in the freezer until it's time to cook. When you order our frozen fish, you can buy more at one time and put it in the freezer until you're ready to cook it up.
Of course, freezing is just one part of the equation. For best results, it’s also important to thaw our fish properly…in a cold environment (the refrigerator), slowly. Like all good things, the thaw is not to be rushed.
All food production has environmental impact, and seafood is no different. The good news is that True Fin seafood is one of the best choices for the environment.
Our seafood doesn't require the freshwater, soil, and greenhouse gas emission requirements that land-based food production, particularly large-scale animal protein production, requires. We could cite a plethora of data that supports this claim. Instead, we found this great resource thanks to the University of Washington that sums it up pretty well.
Of course, there are always ways to improve sustainability of food production, and our partners at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute do a lot of research, often in partnership with fishermen, to better understand and mitigate these impacts. This research includes studying and designing gears that are more selective and tagging studies to map fish behavior.
There is a lot of information out there about fisheries that deplete precious corals, have massive volumes of bycatch and discards, engage in slavery at sea, and more. These are sad realities in various parts of the world. But, Gulf of Maine fisheries are strictly regulated to prevent these unsustainable practices.
Fishermen in the Gulf of Maine are allowed a certain quota, or number of pounds of fish they may harvest for each species they catch. To go fishing, they must possess quota for anything they might catch. And, they must land all legal-sized fish they catch. Undersized fish must be re-released back into the water. To understand how much fish is discarded, fishery managers send observers on fishing trips to document discards. In lieu of physical observers, some fishermen choose to be monitored by cameras that record the duration of the trip and are audited. Based on the data collected by observers and cameras, managers calculate an assumed discard rate, which is subtracted from the fisherman's quota. Because assumed discards are subtracted from what a fisherman may land and sell, fishermen are motivated to catch as few undersized fish as possible.
To avoid small fish, harvesters use nets with large mesh sizes, or gaps. The minimum regulated mesh size is 6.5", and some Gulf of Maine harvesters use even larger meshes that allow small fish to escape the nets. They also avoid fishing in areas that have small, juvenile fish. Not only is this better for the environment, it saves fishermen time and money sorting through unwanted, unmarketable catch.
Responsible fishing practices are important to us and to our harvester partners. After all, if we deplete the very resource that sustains us, we won't have a sustainable business. Over the last 30 years, in particular, fishermen, research scientists, and regulators have taken a number of steps to understand and reduce the environmental footprint of commercial fishing for the benefit of the fish, fishermen, the ocean, and all of us who want a reliable source of healthy protein.
“Sashimi-grade” is often used by seafood companies as an indicator of quality and freshness, which is definitely what we’re all about. In the Japanese vernacular, “sashimi” refers to thinly sliced raw fish. So, a natural conclusion one might make is that sashimi-grade fish is suitable for raw consumption. In fact, this isn’t always the case.
For many species, food safety laws require that the fish be frozen to kill parasites before being served raw. In labeling, products suitable for raw consumption can be labeled “ready-to-eat,” which is a regulated definition. On the other hand, there is no legal, or regulated, definition of “sashimi-grade.”
Our colleagues at the Ike Jime Federation are working to change that. They’re on a mission to define and put into regulation clear guidelines for what may be called sashimi-grade, both from food safety and quality standards. And, we’re big fans. With defined standards and auditing protocols, everyone will be on the same page when it comes to “sashimi-grade.”
Until then, be aware that seafood marketed as "sashimi-grade" might not be safe to consume raw.
Seafood is so good for our health, health experts are concerned we're not eating enough of it. It is good for the heart, brain, muscles, and mood, and cultures with seafood-rich diets also have longer life expectancy.
Yet just 1 in 10 Americans gets the recommended 2-3 servings of seafood per week, consuming just 16 pounds a year, while devouring over 100 pounds each red meat and poultry per year.
There are a few high-trophic fish from some parts of the world that have high levels of mercury that, if consumed in large quantities, can lead to toxicity. Outside of these items, the benefits of consuming seafood far outweigh risks from mercury.
Want to learn more? Our friends at the Seafood Nutrition Partnership have assembled a number of science-based resources to explore.