Community Supported Fisheries: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Tonight I went to a really cool event, the Summer Season Launch of Off The Hook 2011, a community supported fishery here in Halifax. CSFs give local people the opportunity to support their neighbors and get fresh fish harvested in a sustainable fashion. Being from away, CFAs are new to me, but I belonged to a CSA farm in Massachusetts, so I get the concept. At the beginning of the season, people buy shares from the farmer, or in this case the fisher. Every week for a certain number of weeks, the producer gives you an amount of the seasonal produce (or fish). This concept is win-win: the farmer/fisher gets some cash up front when they need it, and the customer gets the very freshest produce/catch organically/sustainably grown and harvested. Like CSA farms, CSFs  at their best become a community of people who share ideas, recipes and a commitment to small scale cooperation. In checking out the Facebook page for Off The Hook, it seems to be all of that, with wall photos of members at get togethers (one fed 160 people!) and photos of fish pizza, fish in foil and Brazilian Fish Stew among other choices. This is an example of Facebook using their powers for good and not for evil, by the way.

In the CSA farm system, a ‘share’ is just that–if the farmer has a bad season, or a storm at the wrong time, you share in the poor harvest. I don’t know how that works with a fishery–is it ever a bad year for fish? I suppose if there was some environmental problem like a red tide or something (heaven forfend) the subscribers would share, which is only fair, but I can’t imagine something taking away the whole season like a bad storm might do to a particular harvest. I never thought to ask.

I thought the subscription prices were quite reasonable: $120 for a 2-3 lb. whole (gutted) fish every week for eight weeks. At an average of 2.5 lbs./wk, that’s about six dollars a pound for fresh haddock or pollock. Your order can be picked up at the Brewery Market (on the Halifax Waterfront) every Thursday. Here is a photo of Chef Chris Velden demonstrating how to debone a whole fish.


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