Sustainability

Our mission is to provide current and future generations of Dock to Dish cooperative members with fully transparent access to the freshest, healthiest and most sustainable wild seafood harvests available in their respective regions — while leading the ongoing adaptation of coastal communities to climate change.

“The future of sustainability is traceability.”

The Dock to Dish mission, model and methods were all designed with your grandchildren’s great grandchildren in mind.  Since our inception, we have developed and honed the most sophisticated sustainability criteria—and most advanced tracking and traceability technologies—ever introduced to the wild seafood industry in tandem. Our unique membership programs are driven by abundant, underutilized local supply, instead of high-pressured global demand on specific target species. We require no more than 150 total “food miles” for transport, with as few as 10 in some distribution areas; and our operations generate the smallest carbon footprint of any other sourcing and distribution model in our class.

[Graphic courtesy of The Future of Fish]

Know Your Fisherman

At Dock to Dish we are continuing to revolutionize the marketplace by pioneering the world’s first live tracking dashboard to monitor hauls of wild seafood, with precision accuracy, from individual fishermen at sea directly to end consumers on land, in near-real time calibration. This unprecedented technology bundle that we are bringing online has been dubbed Dock to Dish 2.0, and is being created in partnership with Pelagic Data Systems®, Local Catch and Fish Trax Technologies. Once completed, the bundle will be open-sourced for all independent small- and medium-scale fisheries operations around the world to replicate and use.

“We are global leaders in live tracking technology.”

Dock to Dish sustainability initiatives have recently been recognized by the United Nations Foundation as being among the most advanced in the world, and have been featured prominently in the NY Times, LA Times, Washington Post, NPR, TIME magazine, the March for Science, VICE Environmental and National Geographic magazine. Special Dock to Dish video productions on sustainability have recently aired on PBS, ABC, WLIW, Zagat Channel, Smithsonian Channel, KTLA 5, the Karma Network and the Travel Channel. Dock to Dish has also recently been featured at the New York Times Food for Tomorrow Conference; ranked among the 25 Most Daring Organizations by Vanity Fair and Conde Nast magazines; named to Grist’s list of the Foremost 50 Initiatives Fighting for a More Sustainable Future; listed as one of Sonima’s top 50 Innovators Shaping the Future of Wellness; identified as one of the Top 7 Leaders of the Future of Food by Bon Appetit magazine; designated as New York State’s ambassador to the “United States of Healthy” by editors of Cooking Light magazine; nominated by both the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Carl Safina to be recognized by the White House as a United States Champion of Change for Sustainable Seafood (during the previous administration); presented at TEDx Montclair; and been designated by Governor Andrew Cuomo to serve as a member of the New York State Marine Resources Advisory Council (MRAC) at the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) through 2019. We are proud founding members of the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (NAMA), the Amagansett Food Institute (AFI) and LocalCatch.org and also serve on the executive board of the esteemed Greenwave.org where we work to advance 3D ocean farming designed to restore ocean ecosystems, mitigate climate change, and create blue-green jobs for fishermen — while providing healthy, local food for communities.

The Smithsonian Channel presents Dock to Dish

Explore the origins of the Dock to Dish model in this short video produced by The Smithsonian Channel

Small carbon footprint, huge digital fingerprint

Over the past fifty years, the seafood industry has become interconnected at a global scale, with fish now being the number one most traded food commodity worldwide ($130bn,) followed by soybeans and wheat. The average travel distance for seafood consumed in the U.S. is a staggering 5,476 miles.  Because seafood is so highly perishable, it is often shipped in airplanes. Air freight ranks as the number one leading carbon producing means of transport; for every one pound of fish that is shipped across the country by air, more than two pounds of carbon is produced and released into the atmosphere. Dock to Dish fish never travels by air, nor leaves a 150-mile radius from the port that it was landed in. Our average “food miles” are in the 75 mile range, and our “fingerprint fish” policy ensures that 100% of all seafood distributed to our members can be traced back to the hands of a licensed commercial fisherman or specific vessel. Headquartered in Montauk, New York, we work hard to actively engage seafood producers and consumers through a membership-based, supply-driven marketplace model, where local commercial fishers are incentivized to only harvest seafood that is rated abundant and sustainable by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.  By directly reconnecting our communities with the fishers who provide their seafood we are able to provide full accountability and transparency through an elimination of the industrialized ‘chain-of-custody’ for fish that historically existed between the dock and the dish. Our innovative model has proven to be a win-win-win for the environment, the consumers and the commercial fishers—with our future generations designated as the most prominent beneficiaries.

The Dock to Dish Difference

At Dock to Dish we are changing the nature of our seafood economy by pioneering fundamental, yet drastic, improvements to the outdated and perilous industrialized system of seafood sourcing and distribution that is currently in place throughout North and Central America. By demonstrating that a supply-driven membership model can flourish in numerous regional markets, we are creating a blueprint to be replicated internationally while revitalizing local commercial fishing ports. By comparison:

Because the U.S. imports up to 90 percent of its seafood, about half of which is aquaculture, our current industrialized system is undisputedly contributing to global warming and climate change. At Dock to Dish, we designed our system to have a dramatically minimized carbon footprint and a reduction of ‘food miles’ that is measured by orders of magnitude. Our new system of local seafood sourcing and distribution was also built upon a broad spectrum of environmental best management practices for fisheries sustainability, and we are concurrently focused on increasing public access to the safest, freshest North and Central American seafood available while advocating for good health through holistic nutrition. We believe that our work is critical to realigning our nation’s food system, improving community health and elevating compensation and recognition for commercial fishing families — while ensuring the long term sustainability of our oceans and protecting working waterfronts. Because of our comprehensive ecosystem-based management approach, we are proud to have been named a Featured Supplier of sustainable seafood by FishChoice. This internationally recognized organization uses up-to-date sustainability ratings and certification information on wild fisheries that utilize environmentally responsible fishing methods.  To ensure rating accuracy of their featured suppliers, FishChoice targets and analyzes the entire U.S. and Canadian seafood supply chain, and has partnered with only the most respected organizations that have science-based, credible sustainable seafood programs, including:

  • Seafood Watch
  • SeaChoice
  • Ocean Wise
  • Blue Ocean Institute
  • NOAA Fisheries’ FishWatch
  • Aquaculture Stewardship Council
  • Marine Stewardship Council
  • Food Alliance Certification

We believe that sustainable seafood is a simple concept: collaboratively managing our resources so that there will be equal or greater availability for future generations. But genuine sustainability is often an elusive goal, and truly achieving it can be like hitting a moving target from a moving target. Sustainability exists on a sliding scale spread across multiple criteria: food miles, mode of transport, carbon emissions, fishing methods, the size/location/species of fish, packaging materials. There is no shortage of ways to measure sustainability. We recognize that the challenge is to identify where we can play the most effective and balanced role through supporting our fishing partners, sharing their harvest with our members and educating ourselves and the community on ways to best preserve our ecosystems. We are constantly striving to improve and expand the Dock to Dish model of sustainability so that we can assure our members, our producers and the community that we are genuinely producing the least environmental impact possible—while providing superior seafood for our friends and neighbors.

Calculating the Enormous Carbon Footprint
of New York State’s Imported Seafood

As the number of people on the planet gets close to passing 8 billion, the huge amount of food we produce and consume is having an impact on environments around the world. When it comes to climate change, food production accounts for a quarter of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Though wild seafood contributes dramatically less carbon emissions than other industries like industrial beef production, there are aspects of seafood supply chains that need to be addressed. One secretive and often willfully ignored aspect of the global seafood marketplace is the carbon intensive reality of transportation.

Sustainability snapshot: The carbon footprint of seafood imports into New York state

90% of seafood sold in New York State is imported. Even though there are abundant and well-managed fish stocks just off the coast, a staggering amount is brought in from distant, out-of-state locations. This means there is an enormous carbon footprint associated with most of the seafood eaten in New York.


(Download PDF version)

Dock to Dish Montauk has set a goal of being carbon neutral by 2022 and is currently working with our partners at GreenWave and the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University on creating New York State’s first inshore network of restorative carbon-sequestering kelp farms that are designed to pull carbon from the atmosphere at a rate that is five times more aggressive than land based plants.

This isn’t just an issue in New York but a worldwide trend where each year seafood is being sourced further and further from where it is consumed. This is a problem because the carbon footprint of seafood increases substantially for products that are flown fresh by air – as a lot of seafood is. Using the Monterrey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch transport calculator, we estimated the carbon footprint of different types of seafood being flown in from locations around the world. What we found was that even seafood that is labeled and marketed as being caught or grown responsibly, becomes decidedly unsustainable in the era of climate change when it is packed on airplanes and shipped great distances by air freight.


(Download PDF version)

So where do you start if you want to decrease your seafood footprint? One way is to buy seafood that is truly locally-sourced. Dock to Dish was recently named the first wild seafood operation to gain the New York State Grown and Certified label. That means that 100% of our seafood is caught locally, shipped locally and eaten locally – all to say that it has a relatively low carbon footprint.

An incredible resource to help you cut through the greenwash and find locally-sourced fish is Localcatch.org and their Seafood Finder. Using this tool, you can sort by the type of organization, like dock pick-up or farmer’s markets, and by core values, like community-based fisheries, honoring the ocean, or more.

In a time when there is a lot of concern about the environment and where an individual can feel like an insignificant part of the equation – this is where your choices can make a real impact. Whether you’re a chef who decides to source locally and reduce the carbon footprint of your menu or a customer who actively searches for restaurants serving Dock to Dish fish – you can send a message: reduce your carbon footprint, eat local fish.

New York State Department of Agricultural and Markets

Dock to Dish is the first wild fishery operation in history to qualify and participate in the New York State Grown and Certified Program which recognizes authentic operations with the highest commitments to food safety and environmental stewardship. Upon entry in 2019, Elise Gilchrist, Dock to Dish Director of Communications, said, “This important certification for wild seafood is a major step forward for New York State’s fishing communities and enables consumers to identify truly local, traceable and sustainable products that are caught responsibly and in full compliance with the law. We have worked for many years with the Department of Agriculture to highlight the high quality and low carbon footprint of New York’s abundant wild seafood resources, to identify and prevent seafood fraud and mislabeling, and to strengthen the marketplace for New York’s commercial fishers and their families. We are honored to be the first wild seafood operation in the state to participate and be certified, and we are grateful to the Department for their work to bring wild seafood into the NYS Grown & Certified program. This initiative is yet another example of New York State leading the way and setting an example for the rest of the country.