Support Sustainable Seafood


By: Judi Gerber

Following the example of CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), a new idea has been gaining in popularity over the past several years: a CSF, or a Community Supported Fishery.

Like a CSA, where a consumer buys “shares” from a farmer; paying up front to cover the anticipated costs of the farm operation, in a CSF, instead of local, seasonal produce, the subscriber gets local, sustainable seafood. You buy shares from a fisherman and get a weekly share of seafood for a predetermined amount of time during the fishing season.

Just as with the agricultural model, the CSF allows fishermen to get a better price for their catch and CSF subscriptions also help the local community by supporting natural resource based economies.

It not only provides more fresh fish for the consumer, but the steady, increased income allows fishermen to fish more sustainably. It does this by reducing the amount of fish that need to be caught by improving the boat’s income for the seafood that the boat harvests.  CSFs also provide transparency to consumers about the seafood production process, creating awareness of environmental and ecological issues affecting fisheries.

As the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance states, “CSF’s help define the importance of local food sources by emphasizing sustainable fishery practices; encouraging environmental sensitivity among fishermen; ensuring higher quality processing standards; providing a direct-to-consumer, low carbon foot-print; and ultimately, a competitively-priced, higher quality seafood experience for the consumer.”

And, just like a CSA allows people to reconnect with local farmers and the land their food is grown on, a CSF lets them connect to the ocean and build a relationship between fisherman and consumers. Subscribers get to know where their fish is coming from and who their fisherman is.

Like most CSAs, one of the ways that the CSF’s build these relationships is by providing storage and cooking tips, recipes, and newsletters to keep the community up-to-date.

There are several CSFs on the East Coast including Cape Ann Fresh Catch in the Boston area. On the California coast, San Luis Obispo’s SLO Fresh Catch is part of a fishery reform project of the Nature Conservancy and Central Cost Salmon Enhancement. SLO fishermen provide fresh fish from Morro Bay and Port San Luis to about 100 customers. Local Catch Monterey is one of the newest CSFs and is still getting organized and is hoping to offer shares starting in early 2012.

There are other CSF’s in Alaska, Maine, North Carolina, and Virginia and in British Columbia and Atlantic Canada.

To find a CSF near you, check out Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance’s CSF listings. The site even has a search function where you can search using your zip code to find a CSF pick up location near you.