You may be subscribed to receive, every week, a basket of fruits and vegetables provided directly by a farm in your area. Or, in any case, you have surely heard of this model, also called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), which originated in Japan in the 1960s and has been in place for about thirty years in North America – see for example the network of family farmers in Quebec and New Brunswick. Inspired by CSA programs, Community Supported Fisheries (CSF) systems offer an alternative for the marketing of fresh and local seafood. Thus, they offer members weekly slices of fresh seafood for a prepaid membership fee. The very first CSF program was launched in 2007 by the Port Clyde Fresh Catch fishermen’s cooperative in Maine (USA). Since then, other similar CSF projects have seen the light all over the world, especially in North America and Europe. CSFs aim to support the regeneration of marine ecosystems from the effects of overfishing, while maintaining a thriving fishing community. These models therefore promote a positive relationship between fishers, consumers and the ocean, still providing its members with high quality locally caught seafood. According to the organization Local Catch, a CSF program engages fishers and consumers in more robust and sustainable local food systems, while emphasizing the following elements: a transparent traceability chain from boat to plate, increasing access to locally caught quality seafood, a fair price for fishers in line with the value of their work, and, in short, providing a framework for the local community to creatively manage marine resources.
For almost fifteen years, the CSF organization Skipper Otto has offered Vancouver city dwellers, in exchange for a prepaid contribution, access to local seafood caught in a sustainable way throughout the fishing season. By providing a platform for small-scale fishers in the area to sell directly to their communities – rather than to large aquaculture companies or corporate chains – they can afford to practice more sustainable fishing methods. That is, by belonging to a community like Skipper Otto, they are able to make a good living by focusing (mostly) on catching sufficiently abundant species, thus helping to prevent overfishing. CSF programs also help rebuild the relationship, lost with the rise of commercial fishing practices, between people and the food they eat. In this sense, a client of Skipper Otto explains in a local Vancouver newspaper that each piece is traced so that members always know where the fish was caught and by whom – even a photo of the fisherman is on the tag. After all, let’s not forget that a strong food community is also key to supporting local economies: people will be more inclined to support their neighbors when they know about them.