By Liz Craney, Media and Donor Communications Associate
I met Colin Benitt Delaware ‘15 while working on a spearfishing feature on Long Island. Canadian wildfire smoke turned the skies overhead orange. The visibility above water was just as murky as below. Battling the elements and fighting insane currents and frigid temperatures, the odds of catching anything were low. After several hours, Colin emerged victorious from the water. In his hands, a fresh sea bass. We jetted to a small sandbar and lit a fire. As the bass sizzled to perfection over the open flames, Colin resurfaced from the water again with two bags full of seaweed he’d just harvested. With a few quick rinses to remove sand and shells, a squeeze of lemon, and a dash of salt — we had the perfect side dish. A briny seaweed salad, the freshest fish you could ask for, great company, and a sandy set up — just a few steps from the source. Society expected him to walk straight from graduation into a 9-5, but Colin charted his path, challenging the status quo. Exchanging slick wetsuits for a stiff coat and tie, and fancy white tablecloths for fresh catches over open flames.
Taste for Adventure
Colin’s taste for adventure started early. As a child raised on Long Island, he joined the Boy Scouts, ultimately attaining Eagle Scout status. Years of high adventure trips led to a passion for the outdoors and his love for hiking and diving. On a trip to the Florida Keys with the Eagle Scouts, Colin realized his love of marine science and the sea ran deeper than he thought. An idea was sparked, and Colin devoted his life to the ocean.
Though he planned to attend a military academy, the ocean led him to the University of Delaware, where he completed a double major in Environmental Science and Marine Science. After meeting several Phi Psis, he joined the Delaware Alpha Chapter, jumping at the opportunity to dive deeper into their friendships with the brotherhood. Like so many Phi Psis before them, Colin and his brothers forged friendships that lasted well beyond graduation. These relationships and the brotherhood stand out, even when the tides of life get rough. “It’s the camaraderie… offering a place to stay if needed … helping out if you’re in a tough situation. I can reach out to anyone even if it’s been years, and we can bond like we did eight years ago, like no time has passed.”
Brother Benitt received his Master’s in Marine Science from Stony Brook University. There, he conducted extensive SCUBA research and lab work, including time in the Cayman Islands. As his connection to the ocean deepened, he began to explore spearfishing and bowhunting for fresh, local food. “I can remember where I was or the date for almost every single deer and notable fish that I’ve harvested. I truly believe that fisherman/hunters care and respect these animals and fish more than anyone else ever will.” This connection between our lives and our food sources resonated deeply with Colin and laid the groundwork for his first professional ventures at sea.
Diving headfirst into the world of sustainability, Colin had an idea for a regenerative ocean farm on Long Island. In 2020, he reached out to renowned spearfisher Valentine Thomas.
“We leased a 1-acre shellfish farm for about a year and a half,” Colin said. “We collaborated with people all over the world to try and capitalize on the blue economy.”
One autumn night, when their setup was still in its infancy, a rogue boat ignored all caution buoys and drove through the farm. Back on land, unaware of what transpired, a call rang through from the Coast Guard. They shared the heartbreaking news. The farm and all the work they’d put into it were destroyed, almost in its entirety. “The person was never caught, so we were never able to be refunded for the damages,” Colin said. He described the time of uncertainty for their careers. “It was very disheartening, and we decided since it takes years to get a farm back up and running, rebuilding wasn’t necessarily an option.” Though the setback was significant, their prior successes showed Brother Benitt that this passion for the food sector was worth fighting for.
Documenting and Educating
For the average American, we don’t often gather around an open fire to share a meal of fresh sea bass and seaweed salad on the beach. For Colin, that’s just another day at the office. To document his unique lifestyle and find new ways to educate people, he took to videography on Instagram. Documenting his dives, spearfishes, and meal preparations, he shared the value and excitement that can come with returning to nature. His feed-friendly content highlights the shortened distance between the farm (or ocean) and the table and the joy of involvement in the process from start to finish. Emphasizing conservation and education, Colin said, “I enjoy educating people on the choices they make in the supermarket and their community. Knowing when local produce is in season and supporting those local industries is the best thing an individual or family can do.” While the majority of the issues could be solved with policy, Colin believed in educating and empowering the average person to make better decisions, viewing it as his moral obligation. He recommends that consumers start with something simple, “Avoid the common overly ordered fish, and instead try local varieties; you will be shocked how much fresher it tastes.”
Adventures took him near and far, and Colin used these trips as a chance to stay connected with fellow Phi Psis. Throughout the years, he brought a few brothers along, sharing his unique world with them. “No one else was in the same major as me, but I’ve taken a few diving with me.” Back on land, he and his brothers typically meet up several times a year in various groups. The impact of Phi Psi has extended to skills of “communicating and relating with people from different backgrounds and ethnicities,” proving invaluable while he travels and teaches.
Ultimately, Brother Benitt aims to continue using his experiences to educate consumers and ensure a bright future for our oceans. Adding to his arsenal of educational tricks, Colin churns out content highlighting his unique lifestyle and connection to nature. He hopes that folks stop scrolling for a moment and consider how they impact their food sources. They may even take to sourcing their own fresh catch. One thing is certain — Brother Benitt has charted his path, showing that the world can be your oyster inside and outside a typical 9 to 5.