story & photo
by Anna Trusky
Area diners can now enjoy fresh, locally raised trout and tilapia, thanks to recently passed legislation that allows students from the Marine Science Magnet High School (MSMHS) in Groton to sell the fish they raise as part of their aquaculture curriculum to Grossman’s Seafood Inc.
Bill 5447 permits the Commissioner of Agriculture to license aquaculture facilities in the state to sell farm-raised aquatic animals—tilapia, rainbow trout, soft-shell crabs, oysters, and shrimp—to seafood distributors and restaurants in Connecticut. Stakeholders from MSMHS worked with State Senator Andrew Maynard to develop and pass the bill; before the students, teachers, and MSMHS Principal Dr. Nicholas Spera testified earlier this year, there was no law that allowed state aquaculture facilities to sell aquatic animals for food.
“Our MSMHS family is excited to acknowledge all the stakeholders who helped make this dream a reality,” Dr. Spera said. “We are proud of the hard work and efforts that were accomplished by our students, parents, staff, and community leaders, which allowed for the passing of this bill and for the sale of our fish.”
Thanks to his leadership in helping the MSMHS to develop Bill 5447, as well as to achieve the highest CAPT scores in Connecticut, Dr. Spera was honored with the William Cieslukowski Outstanding First-Year Principal of the Year Award from the Connecticut Association of Schools at their annual awards ceremony on Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville. The award is named after a late Killingworth elementary principal who was known for his leadership.
MSMHS acknowledged all those who were instrumental in creating and passing the bill, including Senator Maynard and Senator Andrea Stillman; David Carey, director of the CT Bureau of Aquaculture; Dr. Virginia Seccombe, executive director of LEARN; and Sean Coleman, general manager of Grossman’s Seafood.
“This is just the beginning,” said Senator Stillman. “I wish you great success, and I thank Grossman’s for selling locally grown fish.”
After the ceremony, a few dozen students trooped off to the aquaculture lab, followed by state legislators, representatives from Grossman’s, teachers and administrators, and a phalanx of reporters and photographers. When they got to the lab, the students donned special bright-orange gloves—not a pre-Halloween touch, but to make it easier to capture the wriggling fish. Then the intrepid students caught, weighed, and measured several hundred slippery tilapia and trout!
Junior Hayly Fogg of Ledyard recorded the statistics as they were called out by classmates who were measuring and weighing the wriggling critters. The fish ranged between 24 and 26 centimeters and 125 to 200 grams. “They can get bigger, but this is a good restaurant size,” she said as she jotted down numbers.
Once they’d been checked for size, the fish were plopped into buckets so they could be put on ice for shipping to Grossman’s. Hayly’s classmate MacKenzie Coty, who was putting the fish into the buckets, managed to hold onto a slippery trout long enough to have her photo taken. “I’ve really learned a lot,” she said.
Always willing to pitch in, Senator Maynard removed his blazer, rolled up his sleeves, and helped catch a few fish. “I can handle this—I grew up in Noank,” he said with a chuckle. “I remember fishing off the docks for fluke when I was a kid. I kind of miss it!”
Sean Coleman said, “I’m very excited to have this opportunity to sell locally raised fish. Our industry is changing through depleting stocks in the wild and increasing government regulations. To see this happening locally is incredible!” The fish are available in Grossman’s stores as well as in the restaurants Grossman’s supplies. Bill Hendriks, Executive Chef of Grossman’s catering business, is coming up with delicious recipes for customers to enjoy during the holiday season and all year-round.