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    Tuesday, August 09, 2022

    Stonington Fresh: Fishermen launch branding effort for locally caught seafood

    These graphics, designed by Stonington native Danica Finletter Mitchell of Finletter Creative in Washington, D.C., are part of a new branding initiative to promote seafood caught by Stonington fishermen and sold locally. (Courtesy of the Southern New England Fishermen's and Lobstermen's Association and Empire Fisheries)

    Stonington — A group of Town Dock fishermen in cooperation with the Economic Development Commission and Empire Fisheries have launched a branding initiative to promote the seafood they land as fresh and local.

    The “Stonington Fresh” logo will soon be appearing on T-shirts, trucks, on area restaurant menus and in fish markets, according to the group’s plans. The fishermen also have a Facebook page called Stonington Fishermen Good News.

    “There’s been a lack of understanding in the community about the fishermen, the challenges we face and that we produce locally caught and locally distributed fresh food,” said fisherman Joe Gilbert, who owns four Town Dock boats.

    He said the goal is to create “a buzz” about the fleet, so when people hear about Stonington fishermen and the Town Dock, they will immediately think fresh seafood much like the reputation Fishermen’s Wharf in San Francisco has. He said he sees the dock as a place for demonstrations, open houses and a place for people to come and buy fresh seafood off the boat.

    “There are so many opportunities here for public education,“ said resident Thomas Mitchell, who has been assisting the EDC in the effort.

    EDC Chairman Dave Hammond also pointed to the Gloucester, Mass., fishermen’s website, gloucesterfresh.com, as something that can be replicated here. The website lists the local restaurants and markets that sell seafood landed by Gloucester boats, recipes to prepare it, fleet news, its history and an even biographies of the fishermen.

    The Stonington Fresh initiative to promote the state’s last surviving commercial fishing fleet comes as it holds its 69th annual Blessing of the Fleet on Sunday in the borough with a Mass, procession through the streets and blessing of the boats.

    On Saturday from noon to 2:30 p.m. at the Town Dock, 1 High St., there will be an open house that will highlight the work of the local fishermen. There will be demonstrations, tours of the fishing vessels Furious and Tradition and an opportunity to talk to fishermen.

    Gilbert said he took some of the fishermen’s ideas to Hammond and Mitchell to see how they could improve their marketing and branding. The EDC came up with the Stonington Fresh concept.

    Gilbert said that when a product has the Stonington Fresh logo, buyers can be assured “it is truly a Stonington product and not rebranded.”

    Hammond said that while Town Dock fishermen land all types of seafood here, from flounder and squid to scallops and lobster, there are not a lot of local restaurants that come down to the dock and buy fresh fish off the boats.

    “We want the restaurants to be more involved,” and have the two groups form connections, he said.

    Gilbert suggested that instead of looking for seafood to match their printed menus, restaurants could come down to the dock, see what just came in and then put that item on their menu and market its as being fresh off the boat.

    Hammond said the fishermen’s website also could act as calendar, letting residents, markets and restaurants know what is being landed that day. Gilbert said fishermen also could teach how to prepare whole fish instead of just fillet, something that is popular in other countries.

    Gilbert said fishermen will find their own ways to interface with Stonington Fresh and could even cross-promote one another.

    j.wojtas@theday.com

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