NO WASTE AND A COOL PLATE: Local ceviche on a local scallop shell was one of the dishes at UNH's Sustainable Seafood Dinner.

The University of New Hampshire is diving deep into the sea of sustainable seafood. Earlier this month, more than 3,000 people showed up to feast on local seafood, hang out with those who caught it and learn about being good stewards of the sea.

The Sustainable Seafood Dinner on April 16th in the Holloway Commons dining hall spotlighted locally caught seafood and New England’s fishing community. The menu featured hake, scallops, lobster dishes and oysters from regional waters and dishes like skate wing tacos and ceviche with calamari scallops and redfish (see recipes). The menu, which also featured slaw made from local kelp, highlighted efforts to alleviate pressure on overfished species by introducing diners to underused but abundant local seafood.

The dinner is part of a six-week pilot to source more local seafood at UNH dining halls, something UNH Dining is working with Boston-based seafood processor Red’s Best to achieve as sourcing seafood locally not only provides fishermen with a reliable market but also provides student with access to and education about local seafood.

FRESH CATCH. Local seafood means chefs can get creative with dishes like skate wing tacos, hake with lobstser sauce, and scallop ceviche.“Bringing more local seafood to our diners is a natural extension of UNH Dining’s Local Harvest commitment to connect with our region’s producers and source locally as much as possible,” says David Hill, UNH Dining assistant director for culinary operations. “And educating our customers about local fisheries and undiscovered seafood supports the university’s education mission, as well.”

Jon Plodzik, director of UNH dining, called the event a “phenomenal celebration that shows UNH’s commitment to local fish and the local economy.”

“We’re excited because helping local fishermen means a lot to us,” Plodzik added.

Plates for the event were provided by a local scallop boat’s stash of shells—carefully cleaned and run through the dishwasher, they made the perfectly cool and sustainable serving ware, Hill says.

“It’s been great working with UNH Dining Services as they respond to student demand for more local seafood,” says Spencer Montgomery, a senior nutritional sciences major at UNH and an organizer of the university’s Slow Fish campaign, which builds upon the principals of Slow Food. “As one of the largest food purchasers in the state, this commitment from UNH could help revitalize conditions for the local fleet.”

The pilot and dinner represent a collaboration between UNH Dining, Slow Food UNH, the Sustainability Institute, NH Sea Grant and the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance to increase local seafood availability in the dining halls.

Seafood is an extension of UNH’s commitment to sustainable food.

“Right now, about 23 percent of our food is purchased from within a 250-mile radius of the school,” Hill says. “It’s part of my job to grow that percentage year after year.”

Since 2005, UNH Dining and the Sustainability Institute have hosted a wildly acclaimed Local Harvest Dinner. And in 2006, UNH Dining signed the international Slow Food Principles while the student Organic Garden Club grows produce for the dining halls and on-campus eateries source greens and other vegetables produced as part of the sustainable agriculture.