Fishermen's News - The Advocate for the Commercial Fisherman

By Chris Philips
Managing Editor 

Meet the Producer

 


Software pioneer, investor and philanthropist Paul Allen thinks consumers should know where their fish comes from. He also believes that fish should be sustainably harvested and handled carefully along the supply chain between harvester and consumer.

Allen is supporting a new Seattle-based sustainable seafood program called Smart Catch (smartcatch.fish) that aims to connect restaurants that have committed to sustainability with consumers who are concerned with the health of the resource.

Smart Catch defines sustainable seafood as seafood from sources, whether fished or farmed, that can maintain or increase production without jeopardizing the health of affected ecosystems.

The program determines the sustainability of a fish based on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, as well as the NOAA Fisheries Fish Stock Sustainability Index.

While the Monterey Bay system has its detractors, who claim some of its ratings are politically rather than scientifically motivated, it has become a standard for fish-conscious consumers. Using the Seafood Watch system of green (best choice), yellow (good alternative), and red (avoid), the menus of participating restaurants are assessed and rated, with chefs agreeing to remove one red item (if they have any) from their menu as a commitment to serving sustainable seafood.

Chefs also commit to the continual evaluation, removal and replacement of red items until it is no longer feasible or their menu is at least 90 percent sustainable. If they have a large volume of gray species, or fish on their menu that haven’t been assessed, chefs also work to replace these items with better, available choices.

Another interesting program can be found just across the border, in the form of a community-supported fishery (CSF) started by Shaun and Sonia Strobel, who presented the program at our most recent Wild Seafood Exchange (www.wildseafoodexchange.com), in Bellingham, Washington. Skipper Otto’s CSF (www.skipperotto.com), named for Shaun’s father, fisherman Otto Strobel, offers a direct connection between local fishermen and consumers, ensuring that independent, small-scale harvesters can continue to fish using low impact practices, and remain competitive in an industry that is becoming dominated by big business and aquaculture.

CSF members “buy in” at the beginning of the season and receive a share of premium, wild, local, and sustainably caught seafood. Skipper Otto’s CSF was the first CSF in Canada, and the second in the world.

The CSF has now grown to support 15 fishermen and offers halibut, tuna, spot prawns, and crab, as well as a large variety of salmon fillets and smoked/canned items.

A similar program, this one from the East Coast but working its way West, is Dock to Dish. Sean Barrett, a restaurateur and fisherman from Montauk, New York, saw the fishermen from San Sebastian, a Basque city on the coast of Spain, carrying their wicker baskets of fresh fish and ice directly from their boats into the restaurants surrounding the harbor.

Barrett and a group of 42 fishermen around Montauk started the program with an examination of traditional seafood markets across the globe, then narrowed to very specifically focus on areas within a 250 mile radius of their dual headquarter ports of Key West, Florida, and Montauk, New York.

The goal of Dock to Dish (docktodish.com) is to fundamentally change the seafood marketplace by demonstrating to producers, through consumer demand, the economic and ecological value of traceable, sustainable seafood. The program has expanded to Amagansett, Sag Harbor and the Hamptons, and the system is coming soon to Key Largo, Miami, Boston and Vancouver, BC. Skipper Otto’s will be a partner in the Vancouver program, and we expect to see these community-supported fisheries work their way down the coast.

chris philips can be reached at:

206-284-8285 or email:

editor@fishermensnews.com

 
 

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