When word got out among Boston-area foodies that the Cape Ann Fresh Catch community supported fishery (CSF) was being launched, nearly 1,000 locals leapt at the chance to collect weekly shares of locally caught fish. In a time when 80 percent of fish is imported and seafood is coming from as far away as China, the idea of buying fish that is caught nearby appeals to many—both for reducing their carbon footprint and for bolstering the local economy.
CSFs, a riff on the popular community supported agriculture (CSA) model, which supports farmers, calls on members to shoulder the risk with fishermen by paying for seasonal shares up front. In return, members score 12 to 14 weeks of fresh whole fish and, often, lessons on how to use it—from filleting workshops to recipe swaps to advice on using the bones for fish stock.
The Cape Ann CSF is the largest program in the country but not the first. The idea originated with the Midcoast Fishermen’s Cooperative of Port Clyde in Maine, which started a CSF in December 2007. Buoyed by success, the idea is migrating. Today 17 CSFs operate in the coastal U.S., including Alaska, North Carolina, Florida and California, and in Canada. More are in the pipeline, says Niaz Dorry of the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (NAMA), which is tracking the CSF movement.
Not all CSFs are equal. Some have received criticism for using environmentally destructive fishing methods and harvesting overfished species, so contact NAMA (namanet.org) to see how your CSF stacks up.