By Sean Horgan
---- — GLOUCESTER — Cape Ann Seafood Exchange is the lone Gloucester-based applicant that NOAA is recommending to receive a grant under the long-awaited 2013 Saltonstall Kennedy Grant dispersal of funding.
The Rogers Street business, which primarily operates as one of the city’s two seafood auctions, is set to receive $391,670, pending final cost analysis and legal review by NOAA’s grants management office, for its project to help build a sustainable redfish fishery and market the under-utilized species to consumers.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it anticipates the recommended applicants will receive the grants within 30 to 60 days.
The award makes leaves Cape Ann Seafood as the last applicant standing among the more than half-dozen Gloucester-based applicants.
Cape Ann Seafood survived a witheringly competitive field to reach the final stage, with more than 261 Saltonstall Kennedy grant applications nationwide and 123 from the Northeast.
“We’re very happy about this,” said Jerry McCarthy, the sales and purchasing manager at Cape Ann Seafood and a key member of the team that assembled the grant application. “We’re very enthused here about the nature of our proposal and the broad benefits it should have for fishermen. It’s good for Gloucester and good for the fishery.”
The focus of the project is to build a sustainable fishery for Gulf of Maine-harvested redfish and to develop the capability to process and market the species to the domestic and international seafood-consuming public, McCarthy said.
That effort will require capital investment in the form of new equipment for processing the redfish. But in a larger sense, the real battle will come in the effort to create new markets for the species by shifting the prevailing attitude among consumers and retailers about the viability of the fish as a product and a food source.
“Redfish is a resource out there that’s been under-utilized,” McCarthy said. “A lot of fishermen don’t fish it because the price for it is so low, and they don’t see a lot of value in it. But if we can develop new markets, hopefully, we can get the prices up and add value.”
The news of Cape Ann Seafood’s successful inclusion in the funding was welcome news for Sarah Garcia, Gloucester’s harbor planning director.
“CASE was one of the shore-side businesses hardest hit by the fishery disaster,” Garcia said. “Unlike a lot of applicants that included partnerships with not-for-profits doing research, these are people trying to make a living, and it’s heartening to see them rewarded for an idea that, if successful, will bring better prices for the fish and that will bring more commercial fishing boats looking to land their catch in the port of Gloucester.”
Cape Ann Seafood is one of about 40 successful applicants nationwide to share the approximately $10 million being portioned in this funding season. It is one of 21 applicants from the Greater Atlantic region that cumulatively are set to receive nearly $5.6 million, or more than half of the grant money being doled out this year.
The awards to the Greater Atlantic region also speak to the true nature of the disaster that has come to define the Northeast groundfish fishery, with $2.5 million, or nearly half of the region’s total grant awards, going to proposals specifically dealing with groundfish.
The Saltonstall Kennedy Grant program is designed to fund private and public-private research and development projects that benefit the U.S. fishing industry. The money for the program originates from tariffs paid to the federal government on imported seafood.
The announcement of the successful candidates has been delayed almost three months, first by the partial shutdown of the federal government last fall and then by what NOAA characterized as the sheer volume and competitiveness of the field of candidates.