Interview with Coalition Member Mike Eddy, President of Beacon Fisheries Inc.
Beacon Fisheries President Mike Eddy
|What is Beacon Fisheries?
Beacon Fisheries is an importer of fresh seafood from all Domestic markets, Mexico, most Central American countries, the Caribbean and most coastal South American countries. We also import Salmon from Norway and Scotland as well as frozen products from several S.E. Asian countries. We distribute from our own plant in Miami throughout the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean selling mostly to wholesale distributors and retail markets. Our sales office and headquarters are here in Jacksonville. We also have a seafood logistics company that delivers seafood throughout the southeastern U.S. It is truly a family business as my three sons and one of my four daughters work alongside me in the business and we are blessed with some of the finest people to work with including my sister and some longtime friends. One man, Mark Young, worked with me on the boats for several years and has been a key sales person since the early years of Beacon Fisheries.
How did you get into the seafood business?
The short version is that I started working on charter fishing boats in Mayport when I was 13 years old working every day during the summers and every weekend during school as a mate. I loved the sea and had a passion for what it produced. I loved the challenge that fishing required. After a short stint in college I returned to the sea working as a mate on a commercial snapper/grouper boat and then becoming a captain of a snapper/grouper boat. A couple of years later I purchased my own boat with a partner and started longline fishing for swordfish and tuna. We were the first ones to ever bring this type of fishing to the N.E. Florida area. When we brought in our first swordfish to Mayport in 1978 no one had ever seen one before. It was quite a novelty at first. We would set 35 miles of line a night in search of swordfish and tunas. This fishery required traveling to follow the fish up and down the coast. We would spend the springs between Cape Canaveral and Cape Hatteras and then move up to New Bedford, Mass. (just south of Boston) for the summer run. We would normally leave New Bedford just prior to Thanksgiving when the bad weather would set in. We would spend the winter in the Gulf of Mexico from the Florida Keys to Texas. We were normally at sea for 2-3 weeks at a time. After my wife Karen had our first child it became difficult being gone most of the time. After our second child was born I sold my boat to be home and worked for a few different seafood companies. In 1991 I was hired by the government of the Marshall Islands to buy 5 boats and retrofit them for a longline tuna fishing project. We were to take the boats to the Marshall Islands and train the local fisherman to fish for tuna.
During the early days of imported seafood (early 1990s) the quality of the imported seafood was very poor. One of those companies I worked for would send me overseas to teach the foreign fisherman and train them in quality control standards so the products we imported were well received by our customers. During those times of travel I met many people that would later become suppliers for Beacon Fisheries when I started that company in 1996.
How did you get involved with Seafood Nutrition Partnership?
We were working with Dr. Judith Rodriguez from UNF College of Nutrition and Health when I heard Linda Cornish of the Seafood Nutrition Partnership speak at one of their ceremonies. I always knew seafood was good for you but I was astonished at the information presented by Linda and immediately decided we needed to join this organization and help get the word out to consumers regarding the health benefits of making seafood an important part of our weekly diet.
What can you tell seafood consumers in the U.S. who are concerned about the origin and quality of the seafood they are eating?
Ninety-one percent of the seafood consumed in the U.S. last year was imported and that is not going to change. Good management of our local fisheries and the subsequent regulations and closures make it impossible to provide nearly enough local seafood to meet our needs. The quality and standards of imported fish as well as farm raised fish has changed drastically over the last 10 years. The quality demands of U.S. and European consumers have continued to drive the quality standards of the imported wild fish and the farm raised fish. Like any other industry there are always a few bad operators who seem to receive a lot of attention. The best recommendation I can give to those who are concerned about the origin or quality of the seafood you purchase is to deal with companies that you can trust, companies who know seafood. Seafood is a center of the plate protein with totally different characteristics than beef and poultry so it is difficult to add seafood to a meat department and expect the same people to be knowledgeable and be able to educate their consumers. If you want good seafood you need to shop with a knowledgeable fish monger.
What are the top selling types of seafood Beacon supplies?
We sell many different types of seafood but we are known best for our Grouper, Snapper, Mahi-Mahi, Swordfish and Tuna.
What is your favorite seafood dish?
My favorite seafood dish is probably Chilean Seabass but I only eat it on special occasions since it is very expensive. A close second for me is Tilefish which is very similar to Grouper but is normally less expensive than Grouper. When I worked on the Snapper/Grouper boats I normally took home Trigger Fish or Scamp Grouper and they are also great choices. My wife’s favorite is Hog Snapper or Hogfish which is a pearly white meat fish that is really not a snapper at all but similar in characteristics and very popular in South Florida and the Florida Keys.