Who Caught Your Fish?

The truth is 95% of the population can’t answer that question. This needs to change because the less we know about where our seafood comes from the higher the likelihood we won’t like what’s happened behind the scenes to the fish, the fishermen, fishworkers, and others who work in the seafood sytem.

We believe changing how and where the seafood that ends up on dinner tables comes from is key to fisheries conservation. That’s why we believes it’s important to connect all communities - regardless of income, class, race, or geography - to small and medium scale community-based fishermen while ensuring a fair price for fishermen and fair working conditions along the seafood supply chain. We are working to build a movement of eaters advocating for policies that allow community based fishermen to sustain themselves and continue bringing their catch to market. We do this by shifting individual consumers’ habits as well as purchasing policies of institutions such as hospitals, universities, and schools.

Creating and expanding market appreciation for the diversity of species caught by community based fishermen allows them to shift their focus from high-volume, low-value industrial-scale and single species focused fisheries to ones that are low-volume, high value, and community-based that values the diversity, seasonality, and quality of their catch.

For some of us this represents a return to childhood memories, for others it is a totally new idea. For the oceans, it means a better chance of being able to feed us for the long haul.

Problem: Any Seafood, Any Time

The demand for “any seafood, any time,” built rapidly over the past two centuries. Means of preserving and transporting fresh and processed fish to distant markets grew while the recipients went unaware of the ecological consequences. This gave rise to fleets of industrial scale fishing boats that can roam the ocean in search of new populations of fish. But all that has occurred at the expense of the web of sealife, health of coastal communities everywhere, and the quality of seafood on our plates.
Out-paced, out-spent and out-marketed, small and medium-scale community-based fishing operations have suffered, and, as this growth took hold, fishery after fishery collapsed.

Solution: Eat Local Seafood

Why Local Matters

There is a direct correlation between extracting seafood for the global commodities market and the decline of the ocean’s health, the price fishermen are paid for their catch, and how workers are treated along the seafood chain. Furthermore, there is an essential quality of seafood that you only get when it’s caught locally and delivered to you just hours out of the ocean. Under the industrial fishing system, fishermen must focus on catching higher volumes of single species to make ends meet. Community-based fishing and local ownership of boats and fishing operations enable fishermen to meet their needs by focusing on the value they receive for their catch and empowers them to strengthen their local community, economy and the sustainability of the marine ecosystem.

Our seafood market transformation work - particularly Community Supported Fisheries (CSF) - are changing the way we measure the success of fishing businesses. They’re proving that the following factors must be considered to have truly sustainable fisheries:

  • Environmental Stewardship:  By connecting the community to the fishermen we encourage an ethic of ecological stewardship that results in creative, community-based approaches to marine conservation.

  • Local Economies: Local markets increase the viability of traditional coastal communities by fostering economic opportunities that support natural resource-based livelihoods.

  • Social Improvements: Developing local relationships between fishermen and consumers cultivates ties and establishes bonds between shoreside communities and inshore urban, suburban and rural communities by providing fresh, local seafood.

  • Healthy Regional Food Systems:  Local seafood paves the way for a truly safe, secure, sovereign and healthy regional food system by ensuring seafood is included in local and regional food systems.

NAMA is working to inject this quadruple bottom-line strategy throughout the seafood market. We must shift our seafood purchasing decisions toward the catch of ecologically responsible, locally controlled fisheries not only to bring seafood lovers fresh fish but to build a base of support for the long-term economic health of fishing communities and the marine ecosystems that sustains them. Without a strong base of public support, our community based fishermen will be out-marketed and out-spent by big aqua-business.

To change the paradigm, we are working to:

  • Create seafood access and justice
  • Elevate the voices of seafood workers
  • Shift institutional seafood purchasing policies
  • Shift consumer power toward locally caught seafood through community supported fisheries and other direct marketing innovations

And to make sure this work has a public face, we engage in public education such as our Seafood Throwdown events, Slow Fish Workshops, and the Know Your Fisherman campaign.