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National Seafood Month: New York Sea Grant Catches a New Seafood Safety and Technology Specialist

From lobster to catfish and back again—Mike Ciaramella’s plate is full

By Barbara Branca, New York Sea Grant
New York Sea Grant welcomes Michael Ciaramella who started as its new seafood safety and technology specialist in August 2015, bringing new energy to New York’s already innovative seafood safety program. 

Michael Ciaramella, a Pennsylvania native, has made his way up and down the eastern seaboard and is now settling into the role of New York Sea Grant’s new seafood safety and technology specialist. Armed with a Bachelor’s degree in Marine Science and Biology from Rider University in New Jersey, Mike went to the Canadian Maritimes to pursue a Master’s degree in Aquatic Health Sciences at the Atlantic Veterinary College University of Prince Edward Island.  His Master’s research focused on evaluating changes in nutritional status of the American lobster, Homarus americanus, as it progressed through its life cycle.

From the cold waters of PEI you left for the warm waters of Mississippi. Why?

My move to Mississippi was prompted by the desire to return to school in a doctoral program and a chance to combine my love of cooking with a career in science and aquaculture.  After receiving a fellowship from Mississippi State University in Food Science and Technology, my doctoral research focused on the effects of stress in aquaculture on the physiology and fillet quality of channel catfish.  

Although you’ve just begun meeting people in New York’s seafood industry and visiting established businesses, what has most surprised you?

I am surprised by the sheer size, diversity and even the pace of the industry in New York. It can be a bit overwhelming, but since my start here in the summer of 2015, several educational programs and workshops are already getting off the ground.  

How do you think you might apply your diverse research background to your job as New York’s seafood specialist?

My background in aquaculture and food science will allow me to help New York compete with regard to cultured seafood as that industry continues to grow to meet the demands of the local and global seafood markets. 

What other work experience do you bring to your job?

After finishing my masters, I taught students marine ecology, conservation, and biology through hands-on interactive lessons at Newfound Harbor Marine Institute in Big Pine Key, FL. I hope to use this experience along with my background in aquaculture, physiology and seafood science to generate effective programs for educating industry professionals and consumers throughout New York.

Your predecessor, Ken Gall, was well known to the Sea Grant Network and instrumental in setting up a successful HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) program and taking it to the Internet and internationally. How will your path be different?

Ken’s mentorship has been invaluable in getting me acquainted with the New York Seafood industry and the agencies that play a crucial role in regulating it. In my position, I’ll take on many of Ken’s duties with regard to the HACCP courses and curriculum, working closely with Sea Grant colleagues to learn the proper methods for administering the online course successfully and teaching the face-to-face Segment Two sessions. 

The dynamic nature of the industry will dictate my path, as it did for Ken. I am focusing on identifying needs in the areas of outreach and education, as well as the production, safety, sustainability and marketability of seafood. This will allow me to help the New York seafood industry continue to produce and distribute safe high quality seafood and help consumers continue to make healthy seafood choices throughout the state. I look forward to seeing what New York has in store for me.

If you would like to contact Michael to welcome him to Sea Grant and share your ideas or issues you can reach him by email at or by phone at 631-632-8791 at the New York Sea Grant Extension office on the campus of Stony Brook University on Long Island.
For more information, see New York Sea Grant’s webpage on seafood. 

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