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By Katy Kawasoe + Images Courtesy of WSC
Say hello to Alex Hay, the co-owner and founder of Wellfleet Shellfish Company, one of Real Good Fish's most valuable partners. Our lucky members get a chance to enjoy the bounty of their local East Coast fishermen's catch—sourcing the freshest crustaceans and mollusks for our Shellfish Lovers Box which includes everyone's favorites: live lobster, Wellfleet Oysters, day boat scallops, and Quahog clams.
Alex has worked closely with the aquaculture and fishing industries on Cape Cod for more than 25 years, is an active member of the Massachusetts Aquaculture Association, and serves on the Mass. Division of Marine Fisheries Shellfish Advisory Panel and Marketing Committee. We sat down with him to learn what inspired the vision behind Wellfleet Shellfish Company, how he started procuring partnerships to provide more accessibility to shellfish, and the overall sustainability connection between seafood and where it comes from.
What inspired your interest in the aquaculture & fishing industry?
I was initially drawn to seafood because I grew up on Cape Cod Bay—I loved it. I lived it. My grandfather taught me how to fish for blues and bass and flounders, and I idolized him for his rich, giant tuna fish history and records. He taught me how to spot and dig for surf clams and quahogs and scratch the rivers and flats for oysters.
I became enthralled with learning the process of our catch: everything from wrapping them up for dinner, filleting bluefish, shucking surf clams, and all that came afterward, like getting the maximum yield on the rack, leaving nothing on the bone, cleaning up the clam meats and mincing them for what came next.
I was obsessed with his freshest fillet, wrapped up and weighed on his clunky hanging scale in the fish room. It was what kept me interested and looking for ways to keep that obsession part of my life.
What intrigued you about a partnership with Real Good Fish?
We saw a connection between what Alan (CEO & Founder of Real Good Fish) believed in and what we were doing here at Wellfleet Shellfish Company. After meeting with him in person it became clear that our mission of sharing sustainable seafood around the globe aligned with theirs.
Why do you think more people should have a connection to where their seafood came from?
Connecting consumers to the fishermen and the location their shellfish is sourced is something that is becoming much more widespread. Seafood lovers want to know they are not eating something that is harvested in a way that damages the environment. We're able to ease this concern by sharing details like how the product was sourced, where specifically on Cape Cod the product was harvested, and by which fishermen. It's important to Wellfleet Shellfish Company that these particulars not only educate the consumer but give credit and recognition back to our hardworking vendors who have made a career in shellfishing.
What species do you offer at Wellfleet Shellfish and what sustainable methods do your fishermen work with?
We purchase anything from Razor Clams to Jonah Crab. Some of the more popular species we offer at Wellfleet Shellfish Company are Quahogs, Oysters, live lobsters, and dayboat scallops. Since we buy from smaller-scale fishing families (and not huge corporations), we do our best to take everything they catch, and not just pick and choose.
Our buying process involves maintaining a lot of close relationships and constant communication with our vendors. Working with fishermen and farmers who truly share our values of sustainably harvesting the freshest and finest shellfish Cape Cod has to offer is something that's very important to us here at Wellfleet Shellfish Company. And it's important to our community too. Each town has its own municipal shellfish program with oversight from the Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) and the National Shellfish Sanitation Program (NSSP). The state maintains strict guidelines, gear specifications, area closures, and quota limits to prevent overfishing, and minimize negative impacts on our local ecosystem.
The majority of our oysters and quahogs are aqua-culturally farmed out of Wellfleet Harbor. Oysters are grown suspended in bags on iron racks that are 18" above the ocean floor, while clams are planted and grown in the sand until they are ready for harvest. Neither of these methods of production prevents a threat to our local waters. As you could probably guess... the Wellfleet oysters are our most popular item.
And, your dream seafood meal consists of...
Honestly, I love a raw oyster any time of year but, right now I'm switching it up for the winter months and am on a baked bivalve kick. I like to have the oysters cooked up with a little garlic, bread crumbs, and parmesan. As for the clams…they can take a little more work, but I'm a sucker for a good stuffy.
Photo Credit: My Fishing Cape Cod