Kate Masury is program director of Eating with the Ecosystem, a Warren-based nonprofit with a mission to promote a place-based approach to sustaining New England’s wild seafood through healthy habitats, flourishing food webs and short, adaptive seafood supply chains. As the organization’s sole staff person, Masury performs many roles, from communications to event planning to graphic design to scientific research.
Currently, a big part of her work involves a research project in partnership with the University of Rhode Island to compare the availability of local seafood species in the New England marketplace to their abundance in the local marine ecosystem and work toward a better ecosystem-marketplace match. A native of Kittery, Maine, she earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., and a master’s in marine biodiversity and conservation from Scripps Institute of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego.
PBN: A nonprofit launched in 2014, what is the mission of Eating with the Ecosystem?
MASURY: Eating with the Ecosystem’s mission is to promote a place-based approach to sustaining New England’s wild seafood. Our purpose is tethered to five anchor [points]:
- Proximity: Choose seafood from the ecosystem closest to you.
- Symmetry: Balancing our seafood diets with the diversity of species in the marine ecosystem.
- Adaptability: Embedding flexibility and responsiveness into our diets and supply chains, so they keep up with a dynamic environment.
- Connectivity: Completing the feedback loop between ocean and plate by pairing seafood consumption with calls to action to protect and restore fishery habitats.
- Community: Building community around local seafood and instilling appreciation for local fishermen.
PBN: How do you interact with the greater Rhode Island community?
MASURY: Our vision is to transform New England’s seafood marketplace into a support system for its marine ecosystems and the people who depend on them. Eating with the Ecosystem interacts with the greater Rhode Island community through our educational events, research, participation in the food system and the Rhode Island Fishing Heritage Trail, which we designed in partnership with the local fishing community to educate visitors to our ports about our local fisheries. Some of our events include an annual community dinner led by local fishermen and held at the South Kingstown Elks Lodge; our monthly School of Fish classes, where we partner with local chefs to educate consumers about how to cook with local species; and our Scales & Tales Food Boat and fundraising dinners.
Our research also allows for community interaction. We partnered with local seafood dealers, Tony’s Seafood and The Town Dock, and the Rhode Island [Community] Food Bank to pilot new supply chains to get local seafood to Rhode Islanders who might not otherwise have access. We also are currently partnering with Jeremy Collie and Hiro Uchida of the University of Rhode Island to research how to better match our marine ecosystems with our fisheries and marketplace. As part of that project we engaged 89 citizen scientists, 20 of whom were from Rhode Island, to help assess the availability of local seafood in New England’s marketplace.
PBN: How do you educate the community about Rhode Island’s fishing and marine heritage through your Scales & Tales program?
MASURY: Our Scales & Tales program has two parts, our Scales & Tales Food Boat program and Scales & Tales fundraising dinners. Our fundraisers are both educational and serve as support generators for our Food Boat program. The “Scales” part of these programs refers to the food. At our Scales & Tales events, participants enjoy delicious and abundant local seafood species, many of which they might not be familiar with, prepared by talented local chefs. The “Tales” portion of these events are an education component, with fishermen and scientists sharing stories and digging deeper into Eating with the Ecosystem’s mission in relation to the marine species being served.
Through the Scales & Tales Food Boat program, Eating with the Ecosystem offers free, fun, educational events to teach consumers about our local seafood, fisheries and ecosystems. These events raise awareness for and promote local lesser-known seafood species and include seafood cooking demonstrations, free samples of local seafood and storytelling by fishermen and scientists. The food boat is a mobile kitchen (on wheels, not the sea) built on the deck of a 19-foot fishing skiff and painted with images of more than 75 local seafood creatures. The Scales & Tales Food Boat made its debut in September 2017 and Eating with the Ecosystem is now able to take this food boat on the road to outdoor locations such as farmers markets, seafood festivals and other local venues to offer free programs for our local communities.
PBN: How do the Scales & Tales fundraising dinners work and how much have you raised to date?
MASURY: Eating with the Ecosystem partnered with Eat Drink RI to present our Scales & Tales fundraising dinners. These seasonal events are held at local restaurants to promote our mission of creating a place-based approach to sustaining New England’s wild seafood and raise money for our Scales & Tales Food Boat program. We work with some of the region’s most talented chefs to curate diverse and delicious multicourse seafood menus designed to tell the story of our local ecosystems. Each course features a different local fish and is paired with wine or artisanal cocktails. While guests sit back and enjoy their meal, I teach about the species guests are consuming and local fishermen share their stories of the day-to-day realities of living and working in our marine ecosystems.
At these upscale dinners, you get wined and dined for a cause: $30 from each ticket sold goes to funding Eating with the Ecosystem’s Scales & Tales Food Boat program and, so far, we have raised over $2,200 to support the program.
PBN: If there was one thing you wished the greater public knew about the state’s marine trade, what would it be?
MASURY: I wish consumers realized what a diversity of local seafood is available in our ecosystems and how they can support them and our local fisheries by asking for local and eating a diversity of species.