Supporting local, regional and community fisheries
There is a difference between international, commercial, large-scale, industrialised fisheries and local, independent, small-scale, artisanal fisheries, although each have their own set of issues and impacts, costs and benefits. When we support local, regional and community fisheries, we take our power back, and responsibility for our food security and sovereignty, and our environmental impact, out of the hands of global corporations. We support our local economies, businesses and our communities, instead of a few investors and shareholders.
We can purchase our seafood from local markets, instead of from a supermarket. Markets source their seafood direct from local fisheries, and the seller has first-hand knowledge about different species gained from suppliers. Get to know your local fishmonger well and ask them questions about where the fish they sell comes from and whether they can recommend other species caught locally. Find out which regional fisheries operate in waters close to home and how you can source their products as a consumer.
Eat seafood caught close to home by local fishermen or local companies, so profits are retained in your community. Seek out alternative, less well-known, more abundant, seafood species. Get creative and learn different ways to prepare and cook them. We tend to eat the same seafood species repeatedly, species we have always eaten, that everyone eats, species which may be over-fished or farmed, species that are imported from other countries.
Community Supported Fisheries (CSFs)
A community supported fishery or CSF works in a similar way to a co-operative agricultural model, where the members own and control the business that operates solely for the benefit of its members. Community supported fisheries provide fresh, high-quality, locally sourced seafood to members. A CSF promotes transparent supply chains, connecting fishermen and customers directly with marine resources, cutting out the middle-man of industrial fisheries.
Community supported fisheries encourage sustainable fishing practices, support communal stewardship of the ocean and marine environment, benefit local economies and provide an opportunity to create economic livelihoods for coastal communities. Members are invested in ensuring the seafood the co-op sources from the ocean comes from a sustainable source.
Community supported fisheries may reduce fisheries-related environmental impacts. An American study found that consuming seafood sourced from local, community supported fisheries reduced the carbon footprint by more than two orders of magnitude, compared to the carbon footprint of seafood supplied by industrial fisheries, with an average distribution distance of 65km and 8812km, respectively. CSFs utilise bycatch efficiently, with potential to create local demand for the distribution of under-utilised species (McClenachan et al. 2014).
Fishing to feed your family
For coastal communities in developing countries, subsistence fishing is part of everyday life. For millions of people around the world, fish is their primary source of protein. Fishermen catch enough to feed their families, and perhaps make a living on the side, sharing excess catch with their local communities. These communities have been fishing sustainably for generations to provide for their nutritional needs, and to protect their food sovereignty, food security, jobs and livelihoods, for themselves, their families, children, and grandchildren.
If you can, consider catching fish yourself, one at a time, just enough to feed your family, and maybe your local community, and nothing more, using fishing gear and low-impact, more selective methods of capture that reduce bycatch and damage to habitat, including pole and line fishing, hand gathering and spear fishing. Try freshwater fish over saltwater fish, or eat herbivorous fish instead of carnivorous fish, or species you have never tried before.
Where do we fit in the great web of life?
Sourcing our seafood from local, regional and community fisheries allows us to create and nurture a direct relationship with the ocean, helping us to reconnect with our place in the food web. Taking a moment to reflect on how we can enjoy seafood with the least impact on the environment is an opportunity to engage deeply with our experience of eating seafood.
When we engage with ourselves and the ocean on a deeper level, we can acknowledge the seafood we eat as critical elements in a vital, healthy, functioning marine ecosystem, and we learn to respect and honour marine organisms as unique, sentient, living beings that, science says, have the capacity to feel pain, and have intrinsic and ecological value over and above their commercial value as economic units or their nutritional value as food and energy.
We find a way to live and work with nature, not against her, as if we are separate from her, or as if our actions have no consequences beyond the boundaries of our own lives. A healthy system must be sustainable on all levels, for all beings who participate in that system.
We need to understand our place in the great food web of life, that we share this web not only with people who rely on seafood as their sole source of protein, with those who enjoy eating seafood, with the seafood itself that are a vital part of the marine environment, and with all marine and terrestrial beings that rely on seafood for reproduction, growth and survival.
We must respect the seafood we eat, and not waste it, but we must also respect our seafood when we catch it, and not waste it. Supporting local, regional and community fisheries is an opportunity for us to deepen our relationship with seafood and our place in the food web.
© 2016 – 2021 Seafood Free September
Loren McClenachan, Benjamin P. Neal, Dalal Al-Abdulrazzak, Taylor Witkin, Kara Fisher, John N. Kittinger, Do community supported fisheries (CSFs) improve sustainability?, Fisheries Research, Volume 157, 2014, Pages 62-69, ISSN 0165-7836, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fishres.2014.03.016