Ways to buy local seafood directly from fishers

In recent years there has been a proliferation of direct marketing arrangements that aim to connect consumers to harvesters.  Here, we describe four ways to you can gain access to seafood. These categories are overly general, but in reality each direct marketing arrangement is unique.

Photo credit: Jason Houston

Photo credit: Jason Houston

Community Supported Fisheries

Based on the community-supported agriculture (CSA) model, a community supported fishery (CSF) is a program that links fishermen to a local market. In a CSF, customers pre-pay for a “season” of fresh, local, low-impact seafood, and in turn they receive a weekly or bi-weekly share of fish or shellfish.

CSFs – whether in Down East, Maine or Down East, North Carolina – seek to reconnect coastal communities to their food system, encourage sustainable fishing practices, and strengthen relationships between fishermen and communities.

Dock Pick-Ups

Another means of buying direct is directly off the boat or at a fishermen’s market. Such markets are typically held at the closest marina or port. Most often they are overlooked. As an attempt to make a better living, fishermen are now taking on roles in direct marketing. Due to licensing, health codes and food safety, these markets will likely have whole fish for sale. This fish is fresh, local, in season, and a great example of shortening and straightening the supply chain. Whether your in Half Moon Bay or Santa Barbara these markets seek to reconnect coastal communities to working waterfronts, encourage seasonal and local eating habits, strengthen relationships between fishermen and communities.

Farmers Markets

Farmers’ markets are one of the oldest forms of direct marketing by small farmers. Fishermen are now sharing this space. Growers, bakers and fishermen all over the world gather weekly to sell their products directly to the public.

In a farmers’ market, a group of fishermen or partner buyer/processor will sell their products once or twice a week at a designated public place like a park or parking lot. Fishermen must work with local processors to bring a filleted and packaged product to the consumer. Shopping at a farmers’ market can be a great way to meet local fishermen and get fresh, local seasonal seafood.

Boat-to-School

Based on the Farm-to-School model, Boat-to-School is a program that links fishermen and local processors to school cafeterias in preschools, grades K-12, and colleges. In boat to school programs, schools and local processors determine the pounds needed for their school in any given period and the amount of meals served per day. Based on this information the two will agree, often under contractual terms, pre-to a species, price and poundage. Schools are also interested in the educational value of using seafood in particular to teach lessons related to health, history, geography and science.