People in Destin, FL refer to their town as the "World's Luckiest Fishing Village".
Destin traces its history to a fisherman, Leonard Destin, who settled in Northwest Florida about 1845. For decades, he and his descendants fished and navigated the only channel passage to the Gulf of Mexico between Panama City and Pensacola, known as Destin’s East Pass. In 1879 Leonard hired a 13-year-old boy named William Marler. Captain “Billy” sailed the mail in and out of East Pass and created an informal post office. In 1904, an inquiry from Washington requested the name of the official new post office and Captain Billy responded with “Destin” in honor of his first employer. Destin remained undiscovered and pretty much an island unto itself until the mid-1930’s when the Marler Bridge was built and the world began trickling in, with Destin becoming officially incorporated in 1985.
Luck was none too good in 2000, when declining fish populations and a state ban on net fishing effectively put Destin’s 11 commercial fishing boats out of business. But due to new management practices fish populations have begun to rebound. In 2007, the National Marine Fisheries Service instituted a “catch share” program in which commercial fishermen are pre-assigned a quantity of snapper they can land, ending the free-for-all frenzy of the past. Now, red snapper numbers have more than doubled. This year’s red grouper quota was increased, and yellowfin tuna populations are up. Chatham Morgan is landing the F/V Toni Lynn each week with snapper and grouper, as is Captain Gary Jarvis and the F/V Miss Shannon with line caught yellowfin tuna. Striped mullet, an under utilized and under appreciated species, is almost always on the dock. Not only can we support the rebound of this traditional fishing community, but it is our good luck to enjoy some of the best fish anywhere.
Just down the road in sleepy Port St. Joe, the Wood family has been shrimping for five generations. Two years ago Ed Wood invested in state-of-the-art high-speed blast freezing equipment that allows Wild Florida White Shrimp IQF (individually quick frozen), both head-on and tails-only. Using the efficiencies of FedEx, we are shipping these shrimp from cold storage, using Next Day Ground within about 300 miles of either New York or Chicago at a significantly reduced carbon footprint and cost. When you taste the difference and compare the price of these crustaceans with the Asian farmed product that has flooded the market, you will be shocked- in a good way.
Although we haven’t yet won the battle against overfishing, we have turned a corner and are beginning to see many of our important stocks rebound. A remarkable milestone has been achieved with all federal fisheries having catch limits in place in time for the 2012 fishing season. “It’s something that’s arguably first in the world,” said Eric Schwaab, NOAA administrator for fisheries. “It’s a huge accomplishment for the country, and we recognize the tremendous amount of effort and sacrifice on the part of our nation’s fishermen and fishing communities to get us here”.
This week Michael will attend the TEDx conference “Changing The Way We Eat”. Our friend Michel Nischan, whose talk was the highlight of last year’s event, is honored in Food and Wine as one of 10 superstar chefs who are helping to make the world a better place. We love seeing special people get the recognition they deserve.