START is very pleased to announce that it is part of the Healthy Earth Partnership that just won the Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s $375,000 Challenge to develop a meaningful environmental project that also provides a positive economic and social impact to the local community. The project is based around developing a more sustainable approach to catching and processing our native grey striped mullet so that the entire fish is used from lip to tail. The program will involve doing the necessary research to gain a full sustainable certificate from the Marine Stewardship Council (SEC) that is important in gaining product distribution in select food stores like Whole Foods and Publix.
The focal point of the project is a new state-of-the-art fish processing plant slated to be built in Manatee County that will enable mullet to be efficiently processed into more by-products than just the current primary use of its roe for caviar or bottarga. The Healthy Earth processing plant will expand the use of the fish beyond its roe to a source of fillets for restaurants and markets, fish feed for aquaculture and Omega 3 oil for the pet and veterinary trade. The plant will also be designed to process our popular local Sun Ray Clams for distribution to new major markets.
The creation of these new mullet products will have a positive effect on our marine environment as the availability of mullet fillets as an alternative seafood selection in restaurants and markets will relieve some of the pressure from other over-fished species like Grouper. It will also reduce the need to catch as many menhaden and other bait fish to supply aquaculture needs.
The new processing plant will impact the local economy by providing new jobs in the plant and throughout the distribution system as the new mullet products move from processing to the consumer.
START’s role in the partnership will be to help make the public aware of the availability of the new mullet products through informational materials, recipes and food events in participating restaurants and markets. Look for our announcements in future Newsletters about our upcoming sustainable seafood events.
Other members of the Healthy Earth Partnership include the National Fish and Seafood Company, the Bay Shellfish Company, Mote Marine laboratories, The Water Institute of the Gulf and the University of South Florida’s Patel College of Global Sustainability.
We hope you share our enthusiasm for START’s role in this major environmental undertaking