By Alex Gladu, Independent We Stand
The slow food movement has taken supermarkets, restaurants and schools by storm, as hungry consumers have looked to indulge in more sustainable and locally produced ingredients. But local food means more than greens and berries. Particularly for communities along a coast, sustainable food also means seafood.
Community-supported fisheries are programs created by groups of local fishermen to provide sustainable, fresh seafood to local consumers. It’s a similar idea to many community-supported agriculture programs, where subscribers or members get a basket of fresh produce each week from local farmers. As with the agricultural programs, community-supported fisheries are all about taking care of the environment and providing the freshest ingredients, all of which are reflective of the local community.
It’s no secret that the large-scale industrial fishing practices of recent generations have left the world’s oceans overfished. In the United States, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) identified 38 overfished species, meaning that the remaining population size of each species is too small. In 2014, 37 such species were identified.
Community-supported fisheries work on a local and national scale to promote sustainable fishing practices (Click to Tweet). On a local scale, fishermen work in their local waterways and communities to adhere to best practices that prevent overfishing, promote diversity and reduce bycatch, or the marine life caught in fishermen’s nets unintentionally. On a national scale, groups of community-supported fisheries organize together through nationwide groups, such as LocalCatch.org and the Community Fisheries Network. The Community Fisheries Network, for example, participates in sustainability research and advocates for ecosystem-friendly fishing policies.
Aside from the benefits they bring to the sea, community-supported fisheries work to support the local business community and improve the local economy on land. Boat-to-school programs, as LocalCatch.org promotes, allow local schools to buy seafood directly from community-supported fishermen, similar to farm-to-school programs. The Community Fisheries Network promises to work first with local businesses in its commercial operations. At the very least, community-supported fisheries cut out the middleman that is usually big-box supermarkets.
Community-supported fisheries seem to be gaining momentum across the country, which shouldn’t be a surprise given the parallel success of the slow food movement. Now that consumers have taken to eating farm-to-table, it’s time to consider adding boat-to-table into the mix. To find a community-supported seafood program near you, search locations from LocalCatch.org or the Community Fisheries Network.
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