by Lisa Cavanaugh
With restaurants closed for dining earlier this spring, markets for locally caught fish appeared to be drying up, but the resilient and innovative Cape Cod fishing fleet quickly adapted to selling fresh catches directly from the docks. New ventures popped up on social media, such as Cape Cod Local Seafood run by Barnstable fisherman Kevin Conway, to market fish directly from captains to consumers. “We aim to offer the freshest seafood at the best price, and help our local commercial fishermen, such as Jessie Rose, who has been selling fresh scallops from his vessel Midnight Our in Harwich Port,” says Conway. “The response has been great, so we plan to continue doing this for the foreseeable future.”
Seafood varieties that fish lovers can buy fresh off the boat include scallops, lobster, haddock, and cod, and there are several harbors across the Cape that are facilitating fishermen to legally sell their catch, a permitted program through National Marine Fisheries not often utilized in the past. Another commercial fisherman who works with Conway is Nick Muto, who has been selling ground fish and lobsters from his two Chatham-based vessels. “We are shifting just a portion of our market while educating people what truly fresh fish is like,” says Muto. “Everyone seems to really appreciate the organic, local product we have. They thank us all the time for selling our catch this way.”
Even with fish markets and restaurants reopening across the state, there is still a market for buying fish at the pier. “Direct sales at the dock have proven to be a successful way for some fishermen to stay afloat during an unanticipated and unimaginably challenging time,” says John Pappalardo, CEO of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance, “But it has offered more than the opportunity for locals to buy delicious, fresh fish, it has strengthened, and, in many cases, created connections between captains and crew and the community.”
Fishing by its nature is always in flux, as are the different seafoods that can be purchased directly from fishing boats on Cape Cod. Dockside fish sales can be found at harbors in Harwich, Orleans, Provincetown, Chatham, and Yarmouth, with new vessels and locations added regularly. You can also order freshly harvested shellfish online from the Chatham Shellfish Company, which is selling oysters of all sizes, mussels, littlenecks, steamers via local pickup at their Barn Hill Road location in Chatham.