What was the last piece of fish that you ate? More than likely, you don’t know, even if you think you do. That’s because one-third of seafood sold to restaurants and grocery stores is mislabeled. Aside from buying from producers directly—and some do sell from their own websites—consumers have limited options. This week, concerned seafood lovers just got another one: the ability to purchase 40 types of seafood directly from 15 different producers across the United States.
"I love blue sea" started out three years ago by selling sustainable seafood curated from the product list of a San Francisco distributor (that’s where the company is located). But there were a lot of middlemen involved—too many, most likely, for consumers to feel comfortable about the traceability of their fish. So in December, I love blue sea signed on seven producers to sell directly to consumers through the company’s website. The pilot went well; now consumers can buy from fifteen producers, selling everything from wild Alaskan sockeye salmon to large Gulf shrimp.
"We’re basically curating the best producers on all three coasts for quality of product, sustainability of harvesting methods, and supporting small-boat fishermen and small communities," explains CEO Martin Reed.
When a customer selects a product from I love blue sea—say, five pounds of those Gulf shrimp—the order is stored in the site’s system and sent to the producer at the appropriate time. If the customer needs their shrimp on Friday, the producer will be notified of the order on Thursday morning. The seafood is sent to its destination via Fedex and tracked the whole way. Customers get their seafood between 24 and 48 hours after it leaves the water. In comparison, the seafood you get at the grocery store can be up to 30 days old.
Fishermen have every reason to embrace the platform; they can earn two to three times as much cash as they usually do by selling direct to consumers. "Some producers were already doing this through their own websites, but there are lot of complexities involved with selling seafood online," says Reed. "We have created software specific to producers that they can use for all of their orders to see them all in one place, have some analytics and intelligence around what they’re shipping, and how they’re shipping it."
Will you pay a little more for your fish than you would at the grocery store? Of course, but there’s a lot to be said for having access to fresh, traceable seafood.
I love blue sea is part of a larger movement of initiatives emerging to serve customers who want access to fresh, traceable fish. Siren Fish Co. sells local, sustainable seafood—pretty much straight off the boat—to Bay Area subscribers (I’m one of them). Massachusetts harbors Cape Ann Fresh Catch, the country’s largest community-supported fishery. Even chain grocery stores like Safeway are pledging to source only traceable seafood in the near future.
So take heart: It’s getting just a little bit easier to know where your food comes from.