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Synonymous with Seafood

David Green standing in a seafood restaurant.

Ask most anyone involved in North Carolina’s seafood industry if they’ve crossed paths with Dr. David Green, and chances are the answer is yes.

Green wears a number of hats – director of the NC State Seafood Laboratory, founder and former director of the Center for Marine Sciences and Technology (CMAST), professor of food science, department Extension leader – but the most important one is a title you won’t see listed on his CV:

Champion of the North Carolina seafood industry.

“For the last 30 years, Dr. Green has selflessly devoted his career to helping the seafood industries of North Carolina and beyond,” said Dr. Chris Daubert, head of the Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences. “He has staked a career on adding value to fish and fishery products through research, education and training support for industry in value-added product innovation and branding techniques. He is an exceptional faculty member, and his programs have had a significant impact on the state’s seafood and food manufacturing industries.”

In fact, Green is known worldwide for his innovative outreach programs and for bringing recognition to food science. He has won a number of awards, and has served as chair of the IFT Aquatic Food Products Division, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Aquatic Food Product Technology, and is a long-time member of the steering committee of the National Seafood HACCP Alliance for Education and Training.

Green also helped establish the Marine Science and Education Partnership, a ten-member institutional partnership that was shown in 2004 to be directly responsible for over 3,000 jobs and $127 million to the local economy.

As he prepares to retire, Green reflects on the last three decades and looks ahead to the future of the seafood industry in North Carolina.

You’ve served as director of the Seafood Lab since 1986. What would you say are your biggest accomplishments during that time?  

By far, the greatest organizational achievement was establishing the NC State University Center of Marine Sciences and Technology (CMAST) in Morehead City. CMAST gave NC State a footprint on the coast that enabled campus-based faculty, professional staff and students to have a base of operations for conducting field investigations and delivering coursework not previously available to them.

CMAST also helped forge stronger partnerships with stakeholders and other marine science and education institutions such as the UNC Institute of Marine Science, Duke University Marine Laboratory, NOAA National Marine Fisheries Laboratory, the N.C. Community College system and multiple state agencies including the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, N.C. Shellfish Sanitation and Recreational Water Quality Section, and N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences.

I think my biggest professional accomplishment was creating a tenure-track faculty position with two professional staff positions at the Seafood Lab in Morehead City. This accomplishment was made possible only through the efforts of stakeholder groups, including the North Carolina commercial seafood industry and state agencies, who recognized the value of education and training programs, technical services and applied research. Support provided by the N.C. General Assembly for the Seafood Lab established the foundation on which later professional accomplishments were made possible.

Fish for sale at an NC seafood market

You were instrumental in getting the CMAST facility built and served as its first director. What was it like getting such a big venture off the ground?

Dr. Frank Bancroft Thomas was the first seafood Extension specialist in the department. He was responsible for establishing the Seafood Laboratory beginning in the early 1960s. Dr. Thomas wanted to put food science expertise in the hands of those who needed it most – members of the seafood industry in coastal North Carolina. He, along with graduate advisor Dr. Tyre C. Lanier, were my mentors, colleagues and life-long friends. They gave me the self-confidence to launch CMAST.

The experience was unsurpassed in anything I had done before, and the skills acquired have served in other endeavors throughout my career. Whenever I was in doubt about an important decision, Dr. Thomas would say, “You have studied your entire life for this opportunity, just go and do it.” I used this approach often over the years to move the bar higher and farther than ever before.

How do you think the work of the Seafood Lab and CMAST helped grow the state’s seafood industry? 

I believe the work of the Seafood Lab that has most helped the state’s seafood industry has been delivery of education and training workshops on the United States Food and Drug Administration Seafood Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) regulation.

The Seafood Lab offers courses three times annually, and participants receive certificates of course completion from the Association of Food and Drug Officials. In addition to training, the Seafood Lab conducts process validations and verification to ensure product safety as part of a firm’s HACCP plan. Validation studies are required whenever there is a significant change in processing equipment, packaging used or product formation that may affect food safety.  Without the training workshops and process validation services, commercial seafood dealers and processors would not be able to sell their products in the market.

Other work that has helped grow the state’s seafood industry includes applied research and demonstration projects like cryogenic freezing techniques to improve quality, stress reduction at harvest to extend shelf life of fresh fish, and value-added processing such as crabmeat pasteurization, smoked fish and trout caviar. The most significant value-added product resulting from joint research and Extension efforts was development of scallop medallions by Wanchese Fish Company. This value-added product is credited with revolutionizing the United States sea scallop industry.

One of the hallmarks of your career is service on a number of state, national and international project teams. What does this work mean to you? 

No one person can do everything, especially in addressing problems that require a multi-disciplinary approach. Working cooperatively on project teams means listening, learning and recognizing others who have the same professional goals and desire to solve complex issues.

The opportunity to participate on a number of state and national project teams has broadened my perspective and increased my program visibility more than was possible before. It raised the bar such that others seek out your input and review of their programs. This in turn provided a wealth of knowledge and innovative ways for addressing local issues in my own programs.

The old adage “think globally, act locally” still applies today. The best approach to do this is to engage in project teams that require multi-disciplinary expertise to address the complicated issues of today. A case in point was establishment of the Trans-Atlantic Fisheries Technology Conference, a joint meeting of three regional associations that meets every third year rotating between North American and Europe. The networking opportunities and resulting personal relationships on an international basis have been invaluable to the development of my state Extension program.

Dr. David Green of the NC State Seafood Lab and CMAST

You’ve been involved in Extension for most of your career, capping it off as department Extension leader, and you’ve also been very active in a number of industry associations. Why is Extension so important to you?

Extension is important because it “puts knowledge to work.” We often hear about a new discovery or an important study but the real measure of success is applying that knowledge in a way that benefits society. Cooperative Extension was founded within the land-grant system on the premise of extending research-based knowledge to stakeholder groups.

Being an active member of a number of state and national Extension and industry associations has been invaluable. It has allowed me to learn from the success of other subject matter specialists and associates. It has given me the opportunity to recognize the contributions of others. And it has provided the opportunity to develop personal relationships necessary to address stakeholder needs; the North Carolina seafood industry.

The key to success in any program is based on networking, and Extension provides education and training opportunities for those individuals who want to succeed in their programs no matter what subject matter or issue of importance.

What do you think lies ahead for the North Carolina seafood industry? 

The needs of the seafood industry have changed over the past 30 years, but in some ways have not changed at all. When I first expressed a desire to work in the seafood industry, I was told to go back to school and get as much education as possible and then return to help the industry. What I have learned over the years is that knowledge alone is not sufficient to address the issues facing industry and impact positive changes. Solutions must take into account social, economic and political considerations as well.

The second important realization is that the industry is made up of many small family businesses. Dr. Lanier once told me that “being a small fish in a big pond is better that being a big fish in a small pond.” What I would like to see happen in the future is for the North Carolina seafood industry to realize it must adopt technological change more readily and recognize that their future depends upon working together as ‘small fish’ to compete with the ‘big fish’ in todays’ world market.

This post was originally published in College of Agriculture and Life Sciences News.

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