Saturday, May 2, 2015

Mom's, Bikes, and Cheaper Lobsters

Lobster Prices

If you have been paying any attention to lobsters over the last few months you will know that the price has been high. Live lobsters have been up over $12 per pound and lobster meat has risen as high as $75 per pound. Yikes!

But today I bear good news. The price of lobsters has begun to drop and as the weather improves we should continue to see price decreases. Yay!

Today I updated our website, slashing small lobsters by $2 per pound and dropping a $1 per pound off from mediums, larges, and jumbos. Picked lobster meat saw a $10 per pound drop.

Mother's Day Shipping Schedule

The price drop comes just in time for Mother's Day. Mother's Day is important for us, lobsters are a popular choice to show Mom you care plus it marks the beginning of our "summer" busy season.

Mother's Day is Sunday May 10, 2015. You have two options for scheduling the delivery of tasty lobsters to your mom for a special weekend.

1. Place your order NLT 8 pm EST on Wednesday. We will ship on Thursday and your mom will receive her package on Friday.

2. Place your order NLT 8 pm EST on Thursday (selecting Priority Overnight and Saturday Delivery). We will ship on Friday and your mom will receive her package on Saturday. Please keep in mind that there is a $20 surcharge Saturday deliveries.

Trek Across Maine Fundraising

Finally, David and I will be riding in the Trek Across Maine this year. It is a 3-day, 180 mile bike ride from the western mountains (Sunday River Ski Resort) to the coast (Belfast). Proceeds support the American Lung Association of New England. If you didn't know, the ALA does a lot more than fight cancer. They also fight for clean and healthy air for everyone. They lobby for stronger emissions laws and help protect existing laws. Two of my favorite acts they supported were banning indoor smoking and smoking near public entrances.

Anyway, David and I will be riding in the Trek and working on collecting donations. If you donate $25 or more I will waive my portion of the handling charge ($10) on your next shipping order.

Step 1. Click HERE and donate at least $25.
Step 2. Send me an email at, I will send you a coupon code that will be good for 1 year.
Step 3. Go to shopping at GurnetTrading.Com/Shop and enter your code at check out to receive $10 off.

Oh and donations are also tax deductible. Donations need to be made by May 13th.

My lungs thank you for your support!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Valentine's Day 2015

Oysters have long been considered an aphrodisiac, as far back as the ancient Greeks. Today, most people are quick to laugh at the though of sexual enhancement from an ocean critter, but back in 2005 there was a study done that shows there might be some truth to the old wives' tale after all. As it turns out they have zinc and some amino acids which are important to the production of testosterone in men and progesterone in women. 

While there does seem to be some credence to oysters as a libido booster, does it really matter whether their effect is physiological or psychological? Either way oysters make a great alternative to the usual (read boring) Valentine's Day gifts. 

Flowers wilt and chocolate is the norm. A romantic seafood dinner, on the other hand, says special. This Valentine's Day treat your sweetheart to something unique. 

This year try some Wild Belon Oysters

Or maybe the Lover's Lobster Dinner

 Valentine's Day is on Saturday, February 14th. If you place your order by the end of day on Wednesday we can ship on Thursday for a standard overnight delivery on Friday. 

Or for those of you who like to wait until the last minute, you can place your order on Thursday for a Saturday delivery (usually arrives by noon) just in time for dinner that night.  

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Scallop Nets Don't Have Eyes . . . and why this makes me angry

This morning I read an interesting article in the Portland Press Herald about scallop diving in Maine. Whereas my dad is a commercial scallop diver and has been for my entire life, the article wasn't "new" to me. But it is interesting to see how outsiders choose to report on the industry and the heavy politics within it.

My dad first began diving for scallops in 1978 or 79 when he learned how to scuba dive while at Maine Maritime Academy. During his free time he would dive into the Bagaduce River to pick up scallops for friends and the occasional professor. After college he shipped out for a few years on ocean going tug boats, but when he returned to Maine in the late '80s he also returned to scallop diving. Initially it was a part time gig, but as both urchins and scallops became more lucrative it turned into a full time job.

When I was a kid, my dad sold his scallops door to door. He had a list of customers he would call up and sell them scallops by the gallon. There were a couple of bed and breakfasts and other "wholesale" buyers, but most were friends, family and neighbors. My parents would package the scallops in ziplock bags and deliver them around town.

It was my dad's scallops that really pushed my parents into opening Gurnet Trading Co. They were tired of driving around town and dealing with finicky wholesale markets. The opening of a seafood market meant that they could have a stable market where customers would come to them.

My dad's story mirrors the one told by Mary Pols in her article. It is a dwindling community where almost everyone knows each other. In fact, two of the divers interviewed are well known to my family. Both divers sold urchin's to my parents when they were urchin dealers and Brian Preney did many of the renovations on my brother's store, Zach's Country Store. Both Brian and my dad have served on the Scallop Advisory Council and have been active members in pushing for smarter industry regulations and protections.

For the most part the article does a decent job illustrating the scallop industry in Maine, but there are a few points I would like to expand upon.

1. Several times in the article, there is reference to a dragger's net. With this, I take great issue. What do you think of when you hear net? Personally, I envision some sort of nylon mesh. Maybe something like this net being used to catch salmon.

But that is nothing remotely like what scallop draggers use. The real word is a scallop dredge.

sea scallop dredge

It is made of steel and chains. It drags along the ocean floor and pulverizes reef into dust. The author by no means implied that dragging is non-invasive but few people fully understand the "net" that scallop draggers use. This is one of the biggest reasons divers hate to be lumped in and treated the same as draggers. It would take years for a diver with a good supply of dynamite to do a fraction of the damage done by a dredge in just minutes.

2. The author mentioned that scallop divers work in 50-100 feet of water. While divers can work in those depths, it is uncommon and inefficient. Without going too far into diving physiology (trust me, I'm a scuba instructor), a commercial scallop diver sticks to depths less than 60 feet. At 100 feet, a diver can only stay down for a few minutes or else risk getting decompression sickness (aka the bends).  By diving in 30-40 feet of water, a diver can safely spend hours underwater. Furthermore, at deep depths, a diver can only dive about three tanks in a 12 hour period. When he is scalloping, my dad dives about 6 tanks in a 6 hour period, far more than he would be able to do in deep water.

Diving decompression calculations further accentuate the difference between draggers and divers. A dragger can tow in virtually any depth, limited only by fuel and daylight. A diver is limited to shallow water (much shallower than many people realize) and if they do choose to dive deeper they will be exponentially decreasing their safe bottom time. 

3. The following is an excerpt taken from the article. 

Steneck theorized that divers might threaten the biodiversity of an area, plucking all the scallops that are particular to the Sheepscot River or Muscongus Bay. Or, if they didn’t care about the resource, by simply taking everything they see in an area. A dragger, he points out, can’t get everything; a net doesn't have a set of eyes on it. Divers laugh at this notion. They would never imperil the resource or be able to in the time their air supply or the conditions allot, they say.

I like that the author chose to follow up Steneck's position with a nod to the absurdity of this position. 

First, a scallop dredge does not have eyes, therefore it scoops up or demolishes everything in its path. There is significant by-catch when dragging. Whereas scallop divers do have eyes and the bycatch is virtually not existent (though you do get a few barnacles attached to the scallop's shell and occasionally a small fish hiding out inside the shell). 

Second, a scallop dredge does not have eyes, therefore it tows up undersized scallops. Yes the dredges have rings that help prevent this, but they are not perfect and undersized scallops make it to the surface. Whereas divers do have eyes, they can make an initial judgement on the size of a scallop on the bottom and leave it completely unmolested. 

Third, scallop dredges don't have eyes but they do have highly accurate GPSs and advanced sounding technology. A dragger can tow back and forth, over and over for hours covering every square inch of an area. A diver is greatly limited by air, current and stamina. Generally, and diver will get in the water and do a draft dive, swimming with the current. After the sack has been filled or the diver is running low on air, he will surface. If it was a good area he might have his tender drop him back off at the beginning again, or he might move on. Diving for scallops is about collecting the low hang fruit. It is too inefficient to "clean" an area. A commercial scallop diver would never waste energy fighting currents and "chasing scallops." Divers have be able conserve enough energy to make multiple dives in a day. Kicking across the current to get that last scallop is counter productive, instead a smart diver lets the current do the work and bring him to the scallops. 

Fourth, scallop dredges don't have eyes, therefore they are not limited by poor water visibility and can tow in a greater range of weather. Divers have eyes. But not really. In Maine, the water visibility is usually less than 15 feet and after rain it can drop to less than 5 feet. This winter we have had a lot of rain. That rain floods sediment into the water and shuts down visibility to a point where my dad can't dive. Even when the visibility is "good" scallop diving really is scallop hunting. You have to be practically on top of them to find them. I don't think having eyes is really an asset, scallop divers would do much better if they had antennae. 

4. Another excerpt from the article

Cheney hopes the Department of Marine Resources one day will be able to re-open the licensing program. “We do have to come up with some type of re-entry plan for people,” she said. “We have a whole generation that has missed access to the fishery.”

A new plan wouldn’t necessarily favor divers, however. The divers’ work is important and low-impact, Cheney said. “But to expect the whole coastline to be harvested by divers is just not a reality.”

First, a reentry plan is critical. My dad is 56 years old. Every year for the past ten years he has said "this year is my last." The winters are too cold and the weather is too bad, especially now that he has a vacation spot in Florida. He keeps holding on though, the money is too good and he doesn't want to risk losing his license. Some fisheries allow license holders to sell their license, others allow them to be given to children. If the DMR allowed either of those things to happen, I would jump at the chance. Instead we just sit and wait as the industry shrinks and the last few old men get too tired to battle the frigid winter Atlantic.

Second, why isn't diver harvesting realistic? My dad has a lot of experience and is pretty good at scalloping but he's not Superman. He's not a Navy Seal or some crazy fish-man. He's just a guy that has made a solid living off from a class he took in college. It's not rocket science. You can get a scuba certification in less than a week for about $300. Kids only 8 years old can do it and they can get a full certification when they turn 15. The equipment isn't even that expensive, my basic cold water gear kit was less than $1500. Sure you need a boat and a tender, but you need that to drag scallops as well. The industry isn't dwindling because no one wants to do it or its too hard. If being hard kept people out of an industry you wouldn't have clam diggers or lobstermen or even doctors and rocket scientists. The industry is dwindling because they aren't letting the next generation enter the fishery. If they took the dragger permits and opened up a lottery for diver permits, it would be a tough on the draggers but I guarantee they would be able to fill the lottery with applicants, not to mention the growth we would see in regional dive shops and instructors from an influx of new commercial divers.

It just continually blows my mind, that in a era where third world countries don't allow anchors to be dropped on their reefs, we allow our fishermen to dredge the holy living hell out of ours.

If you can't tell, I'm pretty opinionated on the dragger/diver subject. I read Mary Pols' piece and wanted thank her for it and expand upon some of the topics she touched. I'll get off my soapbox now. Thanks for your time.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!

2014 was a busy year for us. It marked the second year of our webstore and with it came a bunch of changes to the pricing structure to help make the website more user friendly. It still needs some work but I think there were some big improvements over 2013.

After the trouble we ran into in 2013 with UPS we switched to an expediter who specializes in insuring perishable products (PERISHIP) using the FEDEX shipping network. 100% of our orders shipped during Christmas and New Years delivered on time and in good condition. This was a huge improvement over last year, which saved us and you a lot of stress and money.

Personally, I had a lot of lessons learned on improving communication with customers, especially before and during our big holiday shipping weeks. In 2013, we had a lot of last minute Christmas orders being placed the day before or the day of shipment, which makes an already hectic time of year even more crazy. In 2014, early communication and an improved scheduling system resulted in many of our orders coming in days or even weeks in advance. Yes, we still had last minute orders but overall it was a calmer season despite more shipping more orders.

In 2015 we will continue to work hard to provide the same great in-store service you are used to and continue to improve our online and shipping services. To thank you for a great year and to celebrate a great year to come, we are offering $20 off your next shipping order. 


Offer valid until 1/15/15. Valid online only. $100 minimum required (including shipping)

Happy New Year from the Gurnet Trading Co. Team!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Scheduling Christmas Orders

This holiday season is our busiest time of year when it comes to our shipping business. Seafood makes a great gift especially for those transplants who can't make it home to Maine for Christmas. It is also a popular choice to create a special Christmas Eve or Christmas dinner.

No surprise, it is also FEDEX's busiest season and with the extra workload and the possibility of winter storms there are sometimes delivery hiccups. 

So to help facilitate the successful delivery of your packages and the creation of a memorable holiday, I have a few tips for you.

  1. If you are sending seafood as a gift, make sure the recipient is expecting it. Lobsters are a great gift but a terrible surprise. If the recipient is away for a few days when the box is delivered they might be returning to an unpleasant gift on their doorstep.                                                                                  
  2. FEDEX does NOT deliver on December 25th or on January 1st. We are NOT open on December 25th or January 1st.                                                                                                              
  3. The last delivery before Christmas will be December 24th. The first delivery after Christmas will be December 30th (or December 27th with a Saturday delivery).                                                     
  4. The last delivery before New Year's will be December 31st. The first delivery after New Year's will be January 6th (or January 3rd with a Saturday delivery).                                                                     
  5. We ARE open Christmas Eve and New Years Eve, we will be closing at 5 pm.                                  
  6. Standard Overnight typically delivers around 4 pm but sometimes as late as 8 pm, depending on your local delivery routes. Deliveries also tend to be a little later during Christmas. If you are having a dinner party you should order Priority Overnight or even order a day early. Priority Overnight usually delivers by noon.                                                                                    
  7. Live lobsters are shipped overnight and generally should be eaten shortly after arrival. However, cooked lobsters, lobster meat, scallops, chowders and other less perishable items can last a couple of extra days in transit or in a refrigerator. If you plan to ship these types of items you might consider shipping them early to create more cushion in the event of a shipping delay. For example:  
    • You need 2 pounds of lobster meat and a pound of scallops for a Christmas eve dinner party. 
    • If you schedule the delivery for the 23rd and for some reason FEDEX can't deliver on time, they will be able try again on the 24th. The product will still be perfect and the party will be saved.
    • If you schedule the delivery for the 24th and there is a problem, FEDEX will not attempt delivery again until the 26th. Uh oh hotdogs for dinner and possibly spoiled product when it does arrive.
    •  I am not trying to scare you away from shipping. I am just making you aware that FEDEX is a third party and there are sometimes complications outside of yours or my control, but there are ways we can mitigate risk simply by choosing a different delivery day.   
  8. In the event of a mishandled box or a delayed shipment you are protected. We can submit refund claims for late deliveries or spoiled product. But FEDEX usually rejects weather related claims. So if you know there is going to be a wicked snow storm in your area we should probably reschedule the order. We do our best to watch the weather, but you are a lot more familiar with your local forecast . . .  so help us help you and send me an email at if you are concerned about the weather.                                       
  9. I'm a pretty awesome person, but alas I am only one pretty awesome person. I do not have a team of pickers and packers standing by to process and ship your order. I receive the order from the website, create a shipping label, process payments, answer any questions, and then send instructions to our packer (who is also the commercial wharf hand). It's all quite manual and while not particularly complicated, it does take time. Generally, if I haven't created a shipping label by noon we won't be able to make our 3 pm FEDEX pickup.  Long story short, same day shipments are really tough. Please place your order at least the day before it needs to ship. The sooner you order, the better. An early order means more time for us to plan and pick out the best product we can for your delivery. 
  10. FEDEX has announced a rate increase of about 5% for 2015. Our shipping calculator will not include this rate increase until January 1. Any orders placed prior to January 1 that are scheduled to ship after January 1 may be subject to a slight surcharge to account for the increase. We apologize for the inconvenience.  
By keeping these few tips in mind we should be able to get you some tasty seafood for the holidays. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Nautical Knits

Winter is pretty much here which means Soper Ocean Services is on winter break, which is good since we ship most of our orders during the holidays.

With the extra spare time I have in the winter, I took up knitting last year. Naturally, my projects tend to have a nautical flair to them. 

This year I can win a gift card from Halcyon Yarn in Bath and help fund my habit by posting a link to my wishlist. So here's wishin'. Maybe my next project will be a lobby.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Scallops are Coming!

If you're up on your Maine seafood news you will already know that there will be no shrimp season again this year. As sad as that makes me, at least I have some good news. There is a scallop season and it starts this week!

My dad's diving season starts on Wednesday, December 3. For the first three weeks of the season he will be allowed to dive Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Later in the season the days are earlier in the week (I will update you in a few weeks).  

Why do you care what day he is diving? Because if you stop into the store in the late afternoon on a dive day you will be in line to get the freshest scallops possible. Or if you want to have some fresh scallops shipped, you will want to plan the ship day to match up with a dive day or the day after.

In preparation for the coming season, I have compiled some lovely scallop pictures and videos:

Seared Scallops and Lemon Risotto (recipe at the bottom of the post)

Scallop Diving with Brian

Packaging Our Diver Scallops

Seafood Stuffed Scallops (Order Here)
Fresh Raw Dive Scallops (Order Here)

Bacon Wrapped Scallops . . . because everything is better with bacon

Scallops can vary in size

The top of a scallop shell is covered in marine growth and barnacles while the bottom is smooth and mostly bare

More Scallop Diving