Community-Supported Fisheries: A better way to buy fish?

dock to dish

Co-authored by Erica Cirino

It’s about five o’clock on an unusually warm Wednesday evening when I’m driving back home from a friend’s house a few towns over. When I’m nearly home, I pass a particularly pretty strip of beaches and marinas somewhere on Long Island’s North Shore.

Some combination of the salty ocean breeze, softly lapping waves and convenience of a fish market on my ride home makes me decide something from the sea would be a good choice for dinner tonight. I decide the fish market would be a good place to get dinner.

Inside the market I’m presented with an array of fish, from Alaskan salmon to Chilean sea bass. I stare at the fillets and wish there were a way to get more local, fresher fish. And I should be able to do so—I live on an island, after all.

According to ocean experts, there is a way, and that is community-supported fisheries.

Montauk-based Dock to Dish at New Amsterdam Market’s 2013 Gathering of Fisheries. Credit: Cesar Kastoun for New Amsterdam Market.

Community-supported fisheries, or CSFs, as they’re known, replace the typical seafood-purchasing model, which is largely based on importing seafood from other parts of the world, with one that is almost entirely local. CSFs are based on the same basic concept as community-supported agriculture (CSAs) their land-based brethren: consumers, restaurants, institutions or wholesale buyers pay local fishermen and fisherwomen a seasonal sum (sometimes through a CSF organizer), in return receiving a regular share of a fisher’s catches each week.

“Consumers know who caught their fish and when/where/how it was landed,” says Josh Stoll, PhD candidate in ecology and environmental sciences at the University of Maine and founder of LocalCatch.org, an online platform that connects American consumers with local fishers participating in CSF programs.

Stoll adds that CSFs also facilitate communication between —> Read More

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