Sean & Michael Dimin
Michael is a New Yorker who started Sea to Table with his family as a way to connect fishermen in Tobago with a wider market for their catch. Now the business overnights fresh fish caught by small-scale sustainable fishermen around the world to top restaurants.
How did you get into the seafood business?
I used to be in the packaging business. Then in 1996 my family went on a 10-day trip to Tobago in the West Indies. We spent a week in an idyllic village going out with the local fishermen on their pirogues—25-foot boats. We’d pull monstrous fish out by hand. One day I went fishing with two of my sons and we caught hundreds of pounds of beautiful fish: blackfin tuna, yellowfin tuna, mahimahi. This little village had no external market whatsoever, they just sold fish to each other. A lightbulb went off.
The packaging company wasn’t what I ultimately wanted to do with my life, so in 2003 my oldest son and I returned to Tobago and reconnected with the fishing village. We spent a year building relationships and then built a small processing plant and ice factory. We brought ice to local fishermen in eight different villages, processed their fish, and delivered that fish to chefs primarily in New York City. We called the business Tobago Wild.
How did Sea to Table come about?
With such a small fishery, we immediately maxed out our capacity. Sea to Table started when we decided to expand our supply. My son Sean spent time in Alaska developing relationships with fishermen in small-scale fisheries there. We grew our model to seek out new small-scale sustainable fisheries and find markets for them.
What does “small-scale sustainable fisheries” mean?
It’s knowing our fishermen partners, knowing their method of catch, and knowing that they do things in an appropriate manner. We learn about individual fisheries from local and regional management groups. We vet the docks we work with. We work closely with the Blue Ocean Institute, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and FishChoice to make sure the species are being sustainably managed and properly harvested. We also offer our customers the ability to visit the fisheries so they can see for themselves and don’t have to rely on generalized information.
What are the advantages of this model?
Our model allows for complete traceability and transparency. We ship through third-party logistics, primarily FedEx, and chefs know exactly where the fish came from, how it was caught, and by whom. Instead of being subject to an arcane market distribution system, our fishermen can go directly to high-end users. They love knowing that their fish is being eaten in some of the best restaurants in the country.
What do you envision your role to be in the Future of Fish?
We’re interested in establishing better distribution channels and new ways for product from small-scale sustainable fisheries to get to market.
Do you have a personal favorite among all the fish that’s flown straight from the docks?
When it’s wild salmon season in Alaska, king salmon and sockeyes are my favorites. That’s what we ship from a place called Seldovia Point. It’s in the middle of nowhere.