Let's Talk... Shareen Davis!
By: Marketing Coordinator Intern, UMass Dartmouth, Michaella Lesieur
Bold: Michaella Lesieur
Italics: Shareen Davis
The weather might be cranked to the max with temps hitting 90 across New England but this one on one interview will cool everyone down. We had the opportunity to talk to the Manager for the Chatham Harvesters Cooperative Value-added Dogfish Program and Interim Coop Manager, Shareen Davis who gave us a behind the scenes all access pass to her love of sustainable fishing and more.
This past July we set sail through the Atlantic waters in Chatham with captain Doug Feeney where we worked closely to cover dogfish and give you the ins and outs of the industry. Now we are taking it to the next level with a spotlight on Davis’s life through the lens of the marketing field.
What is a typical day for you like?
Looking at opportunities to expand the Coop and for other members sustainable and fair pricing for their fish. A typical day is varied between sales, marketing/branding, administration but most always working with members on product visioning and expansion.
How long have you been working with Captain Doug Feeney? How have you seen his journey grow over the years?
I have known Doug for many years and have had great discussions with him about sustainable fishing practices and the rights of the small-scale fishermen to remain independent and autonomous in a system where catch shares and quota programs are consolidating the fisheries into a system supporting larger corporate efforts.
Small boat fishermen should not be dependent upon a system that is dictated by policy beyond their control and wallet and does not think in terms of feeding people, have no ties to the community. Fishermen feed people and their communities. Sustainability is key to the wellness of both.
Think about how what one fisherman does for their community. They feed the community, they spend their hard-earned money in that community, send their children to school, volunteer and bring quality of life to that community. But I digress, this is the first time we have worked together. Having the same core value-system is what this project and the Coop believe in.
How have you seen the fishing industry change over the years (now that underutilized fish is what most fisherman are looking to catch)?
My family are generational weir fisherman fishing the waters of Nantucket Sound. We have caught “underutilized" fish all our lives. We never thought of our catch as underutilized, we offered our catch to the community. People would come to the dock to buy fish right off the dock and fish markets would have it readily available when in season. We also shipped our fish to buyers and processors in NY, MA and Maine.
Somehow, we have lost our way eating what is caught seasonally and abundant at the time. In reality with changing fish stocks, climate change, fisheries consolidation and quota systems adaptation and new opportunities and flexibility is key. Being able to feed people and to continue the way of life of a fishing community is essential to small scale businesses. There are many challenges beyond the sea and policy. Like infrastructure, trucking and education. All of which the Coop recognizes and on a small scale are working toward finding solutions.
Dogfish, monkfish and skate are all underutilized but abundant. What is your take on these fish? Do you have a favorite? Favorite recipe?
No, no favorites I like them all. A simple recipe for skate is to dredge the fileted wings in flour and sautéed in brown butter, lemon and capers. Very elegant and easy. There is nothing better than finding new ways to prepare and cook fish, but a tried and true thinking is to look at the fish filet texture and find a way it can fit into a traditional recipe. Often times dogfish and monk work well when the recipe called for cod or haddock. When I sold fish at the Chatham Seafood Cooperative many years ago, we called monkfish poor man’s lobster. It had a similar density. It was inexpensive and easier to prepare and cook- still is.
Today, I would put it in a seafood stew. Same with dogfish. Our program makes a value-added breaded nugget good for easily cooking fish tacos or fish sandwiches. But as a fillet it has a nice density, a pretty white meat. If fileted and chunked it would hold up well in a seafood stew made with chopped garlic, olive oil, onion, crushed tomatoes, wine as a base (rice or potatoes are optional.) There is nothing better than a nice fish stew, crusty bread and a glass of red.
More people are becoming aware of dogfish our efforts are regional and targeted specifically to schools and universities at this point. We are working on creating local markets for this and other abundant underutilized fish. The idea that our communities can be more connected to its own food supply and fishermen can get a better price for their fish is part of the Coop’s philosophy.
What is the Chatham Harvesters Cooperative and what is the overarching goal? Where do you believe the future of the industry is going?
The Chatham Harvesters Cooperative is a fishermen-owned business that works from a core value of sustainable community and practices, fair off the boat pricing for the products harvested and better control of the supply change in which they provide seafood.
I believe the future of the fishing industry is through the harvester, micro businesses/ small food hubs and processors that feed and provide regional community with locally harvested and value-added food products.
Keeping it local and keeping it fresh is what it is all about. Underutilized fish is a true catch; whether you are whipping up monkfish or trying your favorite scup dish it’s a delicacy. Davis has grown up with the fish and is a true native when it comes to these local staples.