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|EcoFish: No Longer Swimming Against the Tide|
|Published Wednesday, March 4, 2015|
A Dover company on a mission to bring sustainable seafood to the masses has its sights set on becoming the Ben and Jerry’s of frozen and canned fish. Launched in 1999 by husband and wife Henry and Lisa Lovejoy, EcoFish now generates more than $3 million annually. Its “Henry and Lisa’s” retail brand is in more than 4,000 markets nationwide and they've been growing about 10 percent annually.
The couple, who ran a $10 million lobster business in Boston for a decade, started EcoFish after visiting seafood exchanges worldwide where seafood lined auction houses the size of football fields. “It was evident to us man was removing fish from the sea at a faster rate than the sea could replace it,” Henry says, pointing out numerous species are being fished to extinction. “It’s total insanity, the wastefulness,” Henry says of the amount of fish caught unintentionally, called bycatch, and dumped back into the ocean dead.
“Nobody in the industry was talking about sustainability,” Henry says. “Our utopian goal was to shift consumer demand from overfished fisheries to managed fisheries.”
EcoFish now has 12 items on the shelves—six frozen and six canned. Products include wild sardines from Portugal, Grab’n Go Wild Alaskan Cod, canned Albacore tuna, frozen battered Wild Alaskan salmon fillets, and salmon burgers. EcoFish selects species that are abundant and prolific enough to sustain moderate fishing pressure. Fisheries must have a sustainability plan with little or no bycatch, no endangered species in the bycatch, and fishing gear that cannot destroy marine habitats.
The Lovejoys started the business from their family farm in NH, focusing on selling to chefs. “We started calling celebrity chefs who were looking for organic beef and free range eggs,” knowing they would be interested in a sustainable source of seafood. They grew into retail, in part with help from a $2.6 million investment from the Sea Change Investment Fund supported by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. EcoFish was its first investment in the sustainable commercial seafood business. EcoFish relies on an advisory board made up of scientists. Members need to unanimously approve anything sold by the company.
EcoFish still works with celebrity chefs on product development, including Rick Bayless, owner and chef of Frontera Grill & Topolobampo in Chicago; Nora Pouillon, chef and owner of Restaurant Nora in Washington, DC; and Susan Spicer, chef owner of Bayona Restaurant in New Orleans.
Henry says while EcoFish has been a niche player in the marketplace, the company, which has four full-time employees in Dover and a part-time employee in Seattle, needs to grow. “We envision the company being much bigger than it is today. We’re looking for a partner who can take us to the next level,” Henry says.
For more information, visit ecofish.com.
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