The Northwest Atlantic Fishing Alliance, which has helped prove the viability of community-supported fisheries — selling directly to consumers — played a key role in a three-day national conference held in Portsmouth, N.H.
The conference corresponded with the start of the third year of Cape Ann Fresh Catch, the community-supported system that was launched in Gloucester and now operates across much of Greater Boston.
"Community-supported fisheries — whether Downeast Maine or downeast North Carolina — seek to reconnect coastal communities to their food system, encourage sustainable fishing practices and strengthen relationships between fishermen and communities," Niaz Dorry, NAMA's coordinating director, said in a prepared statement.
Based on the community-supported agriculture model, a community-supported fishery is a program that links fishermen to a local market where customers pre-pay for a "season" of fresh, local seafood. In turn, they receive a weekly or biweekly share of fish or shellfish. Over the past five years, these types of programs have grown dramatically in number and size across the U.S. and Canada.
Organized and managed by the Gloucester Fishermen's Wives Association, Cape Ann Fresh Catch — which helped validate the business model of direct harvest to consumer commerce — begins its third year this month, and now offers consumers the chance to contract for fresh fish in nearly two dozen locations throughout the metropolitan Boston Area.
"We wanted to further the dialogue for those involved in these efforts to meet, share and learn from each other," said Erik Chapman, assistant extension faculty, New Hampshire Sea Grant and University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension.
The summit was a collaborative effort between NOAA Fisheries Service, the National Sea Grant Office, multiple state sea grant programs, the Island Institute, and the NAMA. The goal was to foster development of a network of interested fishermen and business people to objectively evaluate the actual benefits and costs, and what it takes for such programs to succeed.
"Community-Supported Fisheries can help make our coastal communities more sustainable because: fishermen maximize their profits by selling directly to the consumer, consumers get to enjoy locally caught, high-quality seafood and the community benefits because the money is being spent locally," said Nick Battista, director of the marine program for the Island Institute.
"We are delighted to support creative ideas that provide higher quality fish products to consumers and improved profitability for local fishermen while promoting stewardship of the nation's marine resources," said Samuel Rauch, assistant administrator, NOAA Fisheries Service.
NAMA is a regional organization working with fishermen and other stakeholders to create ecosystem-based fisheries policies and markets that address social, economic, environmental and food system values. The Island Institute partners with Maine's year-round island and working-waterfront communities to ensure that they remain vibrant places to live, work, and educate children.
For locations, and pickup times as well as other information about the program, visit the Cape Ann Fresh Catch, go to capeannfreshcatch.org., or call 978-283-2504.
Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3464, or at email@example.com.