Sea to Table update: New AP report says ex-employees raised concerns, were told to ignore issues

A new Associated Press report on Sea to Table has brought forth allegations from ex-employees claiming that the company’s founder, Sean Dimin, told them to ignore issues they brought up about the company’s seafood sourcing. 

The report comes just over a month after the initial AP report, which alleged that Sea to Table – which claims to have precise, local sourcing for all its seafood – mislead customers about the origins of some of its products. In particular, the report put the spotlight on its Montauk, New York supplier Bob Gosman Co. 

In its latest report – which was put together by the same reporters who exposed severe labor and human rights abuses by seafood companies in Thailand – AP cites ex-employees that said they raised concerns about the sourcing of the seafood at Sea to Table, and were either ignored or dismissed. 

Jacob Tupper, a former Sea to Table sales representative, told the AP that he raised concerns about imported tuna being mixed with other fish and placed into Sea to Table boxes at the Gosman Co. in Montauk. 

Tupper claimed he did not see any domestic-labeled tuna one day while visiting the Gosman Co., and alleges that Dimin told him to let the boxes go out to customers even though the origins of the fish inside were impossible to determine. 

Tupper also claimed that when he raised the issue again in company meetings, it would be swept aside by Dimin. 

"He would get really upset and pull me aside after and say, 'These are things you can address to me, but you shouldn't be asking things like these in front of the whole company,'" Tupper, who quit Sea to Table in 2016, said to the AP. “He never addressed it, and he let it happen.”

Another ex-employee, Hannah Grady, told the AP that she was given marketing materials that were counter to the truth about the origins of the seafood she was selling to customers, which promised that seafood wasn't being trucked or aggregated. In reality, seafood was being driven to Montauk from North Carolina, more than 700 miles away. 

"You're telling me, that I have bold-face lied to people who trust me?" she recalled asking Dimin, according to the AP's latest report. 

Since the initial article was published by the AP, Dimin has defended his company, saying that the story omitted key information. He also cast doubts on some of the claims of the story, such as one assertion that the DNA of some of the tuna Sea to Table offered customers could be traced back to companies with a history of questionable labor practices. 

Dimin also found defenders outside the company, who questioned the reporting in the story. 

“In their quest to document seafood fraud and human rights abuse one has to wonder why the AP reporters have gone after a company that is trying to be among the best,” said Ray Hilborn, professor at the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington, in a press release distributed by Sea to Table. “Even if the majority of the AP accusations were true, Sea to Table would still be among the most reliable suppliers of fish to American markets. Sea to Table and other companies that try to link consumers to fish of known source are not ‘preying’ on consumers’ good intentions but attempting to further fisheries sustainability and good management practice."

Dimin has continued to stand by his company, which has suffered heavy setbacks in the wake of the AP story. After reading the report, U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) called for NOAA and the FTC to investigate the company, and a community-supported fishery has filed cease-and-desist orders, demanding Sea To Table stop its deceptive marketing. Moreover, clients such as the University of Massachusetts-Amherst are considering whether they should renew ties with the business, in light of the AP's report.

Sea to Table, given its status as a small business, has had a difficult time defending itself in the aftermath of the AP's reporting, Dimin said.   

“Small businesses like Sea to Table are not equipped to defend themselves against an international news organization like the Associated Press,” he said in a company release. 

He also acknowledged that the company has more to work on, but that they are working hard to shore up any gaps in sustainable sourcing. 

“We feel the greatest asset to our business is to be open and transparent about our practices,” Dimin said. “There are specific opportunities for us to improve our systems and communication, and we will continue to do so, knowing that our work is making real positive change.”


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