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Chatham Inn and Ethic Ocean’s Educational Initiative For World Ocean Day

Highlighting the intricacies of seasonality at Cape Cod’s only Relais & Châteaux member

Renowned for its sprawling sand dunes, pristine beaches and wealth of historic lighthouses, Cape Cod has become one of the most coveted vacation destinations in all of the northeastern United States—and while the region’s population swells to roughly 500,000 people during peak season, humans are far from the only residents found thriving along the coast. Mussels, oysters, scallops and lobsters are just a small portion of the marine life that calls the Bay State home, and for any visiting gastronomes hoping to gain some insight into Cape Cod’s world-famous food scene, there’s no better destination than Chatham Inn.

Equipped with eighteen lavish rooms operating within an 1830s-era lodge, this cozy venue has earned widespread acclaim since its debut in 2015, currently serving as the sole Relais & Châteaux member across all of Cape Cod. While the inn is equipped with a polished indoor wine bar and outdoor terrace complete with fire pits, Barnstable County’s crown jewel of fine dining exists in the form of Cuvée, a gorgeous marble-clad dining room located just past the lobby. This sophisticated space offers a seven-course tasting menu that changes with each day, crafted at the behest of executive chef Isaac Olivo to showcase the rich flavors of Cape Cod through the use of locally-sourced shellfish and fresh vegetables grown in the property’s outdoor garden.

Cape Cod’s thriving seafood scene has been drawing tourists for decades, but the region’s native marine life hangs in a delicate balance—a fact that Chatham Inn knows all too well. A Relais & Châteaux member since 2019, the property has been working in tandem with the organization to promote the sustainable harvest of seafood, with 2023 seeing the launch of the SEAsonality campaign. Crafted in partnership with Ethic Ocean for this year’s World Ocean Day, this educational initiative highlights the intricacies of “seasonality” within the seafood industry, stressing that the consumption of certain vulnerable species should be avoided even during “peak season” to allow their population to recover. Bluefin tuna, flatfish and European eel are just a few of the marine animals targeted by the campaign, but at Chatham Inn, oysters take center stage within the realm of sustainably-sourced seafood.

Long before European colonists laid claim to Massachusetts, the Bay State coast was blanketed with thick clusters of oysters, but intense demand throughout the 19th century caused Cape Cod populations to drop to dangerously low levels. Fortunately, the advent of aquaculture in the 1900s allowed local farmers to rear oysters for human consumption, providing wild populations with an opportunity to recover—and today, Chatham Inn serves as a champion for native shellfish regeneration, working with the longstanding Holbrook Oyster farm to ensure that all of their protein is produced as efficiently as possible without causing harm to the region’s biodiversity.

While Chatham Inn is a driving force for sustainably-sourced seafood across New England, they’re far from the only Relais & Châteaux member that’s aligned with the cause. Across the Atlantic, Restaurante Arzak works closely with the Basque fishing industry to prevent overconsumption of the European anchovy—a species that’s thriving today thanks to a five-year fishing ban from 2005 to 2010—while Hotel Bareiss is home to one of Germany’s most innovative fish farms, rearing multiple trout species for on-site consumption in a facility that was designed with animal welfare as a top priority.

For Cape Cod in particular, the surrounding seafood scene has vaulted the region to international stardom, and with seasonal residents and first-time tourists arriving en masse each summer, sustainability is a crucial aspect of the local economy that cannot be ignored. While overfishing has had devastating effects on marine life all across the eastern seaboard, not all hope is lost for creating a sustainable balance between humanity and our ocean’s native species. Lobsters, mussels, clams and oysters have thrived across the frigid waters of Cape Cod for millennia, and with sustainability-focused hotels like Chatham Inn at the helm, there’s renewed hope for the survival of these iconic creatures far into the distant future.

Images courtesy of Chatham Inn Relais & Châteaux


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