Black-owned seafood restaurants, markets and fishers amplified by new NC Catch project


A historic project conceived by NC Catch to build understanding of the vital role people of color play in the state’s seafood industry is underway.

North Carolina’s Black seafood business community has partnered with researchers for “Recognizing African American Participation in the North Carolina Seafood Industry.” The project will compile narratives, video and oral histories featuring Black fishers, wholesalers, chefs and others working in seafood to increase recognition of African American participation in the N.C. seafood industry.

NC Catch in 2021 conceived the plans to spotlight the contributions people of color have made to North Carolina’s valuable seafood industry. The upcoming project has received a 2023 Community Collaborative Research Grant supported in part by N.C. Sea Grant.

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“Low public awareness of how African Americans shape our seafood industry deprives Black-owned seafood businesses of full recognition as key contributors to our state’s culinary history, coastal economy, and cultural diversity,” project managers John Mallette, Southern Breeze Seafood, Jacksonville, and cultural anthropologist Barbara Garrity-Blake, Duke University Marine Lab fisheries policy instructor and NC Catch president, wrote in the “Recognizing African American Participation in the North Carolina Seafood Industry” project description.

John Mallette Pole Fishing Credit John Mallette (1)

Capt. John Mallette is a commercial
fisherman and seafood market owner
based in Jacksonville, N.C.

“We aim to increase public awareness of Black participation by examining the state’s seafood industry through the lens of African American history, culture, and entrepreneurship. We will explore unique barriers faced by Black seafood purveyors and strategies employed to adapt to and overcome challenges. Our aim is to raise public awareness of the African American experience in the North Carolina seafood industry as a way to grow support for Black-owned businesses, foster empathy, and help build more inclusive communities.”

Mallette and Garrity-Blake will work with NC Catch Chef Ambassadors Ricky Moore, James Beard Award winner at Saltbox Seafood Joint in Durham; Jamie Davis of Eater-recognized The Hackney restaurant in Washington, N.C.; and James Beard Award semi-finalist Keith Rhodes of Catch Restaurant in Wilmington.

Ricky Moore Jamie Davis John Mallette Credit John Mallette (1)

NC Catch Chef Ambassadors Ricky Moore
and Jamie Davis teamed up with
John Mallette in 2022 for a special dinner
celebrating African-American seafood cookery.

NC Catch’s network of regional Catch groups, from the Outer Banks to Brunswick County, as well as NC Catch board and project team member Tyrone Hightower of Apex Seafood & Market in Apex, N.C., will provide the project unparalleled opportunities to identify Black commercial fishers, market owners, restaurateurs, chefs, boat builders and others working in seafood.

Narratives, video and oral histories gathered by “Recognizing African American Participation in the North Carolina Seafood Industry” will be shared at and on NC Catch social media channels, including Facebook and Instagram. Core Sound Waterfowl Museum in Harkers Island, N.C., will house the project’s research and plans an in-house and traveling exhibit to share its findings.

Tyrone Hightower Crab

Tyrone Hightower of Apex Seafood
is on the "Recognizing African
American Participation in the
N.C. Seafood Industry" project team.

Phase I of the “Recognizing African American Participation in the North Carolina Seafood Industry” project was awarded a $25,000 Community Collaborative Research Grant. The grant program is supported by N.C. Sea Grant and the North Carolina’s Water Resources Research Institute (WRRI), in partnership with the William R. Kenan Jr. Institute for Engineering, Technology and Science (KIETS), at N.C. State University.

Phase I of the “Recognizing African American Participation in the North Carolina Seafood Industry” is just the beginning of NC Catch’s ongoing efforts to recognize people of color working in seafood. NC Catch plans development of a N.C. Black Seafood Trail and a series of seafood events.

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