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Hawaii Strong: A fisherman and a businessman join forces to deliver the freshest catch

Updated: May. 7, 2021 at 5:04 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Maui native Chimo Shipp has spent a lifetime out at sea and has more than two decades of experience as a commercial fisherman ― a trade that collided head-on with the coronavirus pandemic.

“We solely sell our fish directly to high-end restaurants and they were all closed, so we couldn’t sell our fish,” Chipp said. “So I started selling fish at farmers markets.”

But he wasn’t the only one whose career was jolted. His longtime friend, Jake Barefoot, also worked closely with the visitor industry.

“I had a lot of accounts with them that were affected with the shutdown and then, my family business also, was a tour and activity ticket seller,” Barefoot said. “They were massively affected. They were completely shut down.”

[This story is part of HNN’s “Hawaii Strong” series, profiling businesses in the islands adapting to the pandemic and its economic fallout. To suggest a profile, send an email to hawaiistrong@hawaiinewsnow.com.]

Yet, the pandemic created a new venture.

Barefoot’s business and marketing background coupled with Shipp’s fishing expertise led to the perfect opportunity and the two created Fresh Fish Maui ― a delivery service that brings the day’s haul right to your table.

“We get catch reports from our fishermen throughout the day and we compile those into what we call a fish blast, which people can sign up for,” Barefoot said.

“It’s free and basically what happens is when you sign up for it, you put your phone number and you get an sms pretty much every day. It’s gonna tell you what we have caught.”

The fish is picked up from boats in the morning, processed, and delivered within hours.

Their operations follow strict catch regulations.

“It’s all hook and line fishing with rod and reel, so every fish we catch is the fish we’re trying to catch,” Shipp said. “We don’t kill any fish that we’re not targeting, so zero mammal bycatch. It’s a very sustainable fishery.”

Sustainable in a variety of ways.

They’ve partnered with other local Maui fishermen whose jobs were affected by the pandemic and after less than a year, Fresh Fish Maui is looking to expand.

“We’re starting to ship fish to the mainland, which is helping to bring in more dollars into our local economy than is happening from just tourism and helping to diversify things,” Barefoot said.

A business born out of necessity is now set for longevity ― a far cry from March 2020 when it was sink or swim.

“There’s two things that are coming out of this, either everything I got is gonna fall apart and I’m gonna lose everything or I’m gonna create something good out of it and I worked really hard to create something out of it,” Shipp said.

“I knew it was gonna open up opportunities, we just had to look for them.”

Look for them and reel them in.

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