Through a partnership with the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, a non-profit that works with state fishermen to promote sustainable fishing in the Gulf of Maine, Chef Nikaline Iacono of Vessel & Vine was able to offer a selection of fresh catch for a series of six “Fishies on the Porch” dinners.

Not only did this bring attention to less familiar species, but it helped raise $2,000 for Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association’s Fishermen Feeding Mainers program.

The Fishermen Feeding Mainers project buys seafood directly from fishermen and donates it to area schools and food banks. Since October 2020, the project provided over 210,000 meals to those in need throughout Maine. Fishermen Feeding Mainers brought together two needs in the community: fishermen seeking a stable market for their catch and Mainers facing food insecurity.

Although the project began during the height of the pandemic, the Association plans on continuing it into the future.

Part of the association’s broader work is to introduce people to seafood they might not typically eat. State fishermen catch a variety of species, and while some like lobster and haddock are familiar, others like monkfish and hake are abundant, sustainable and less well known.

“Monkfish is something not a ton of folks are familiar with, so local restaurants showing it off is a great way to try something new and maybe even get them cooking it at home.” said Brian Pearce, a monkfish fisherman out of Portland.

Diners at Vessel & Vine had a chance to sample seafood and also to learn about monkfish, the Association’s mission and the Fishermen Feeding Mainers project.

The sold-out series of six dinners included both out-of-town guests eager to try Maine seafood and more local guests like Nat Wildes, the co-founder of Flight Deck Brewing and Executive Director of Live Work Maine. Wildes said, “it was a delight to experience a wonderful meal made with care and in a manner which inspired us to use more of the bountiful and sustainable resources our local community provides.”

The event was the first of what the Association hopes will be several collaborations with local businesses in their efforts to promote Maine seafood and support small-boat fishermen and their communities.

According to Iacono, “The event was a great success. I got so many interesting questions and compliments from people who had never tried these dishes and really loved them.”

To learn more about future events or to donate to the Fishermen Feeding Mainers project, visit mainecoastfishermen.org.