Will the smashing success of Community Supported Agriculture carry over to fisheries in Oregon? I've been pondering this question for years now – particularly the more I learn about the complexities of regulating large-scale fisheries.
What does the small, local, sustainable business model look like for fisheries?
In Southern Oregon, a group called the Port Orford Ocean Resources Team is testing out a Community Supported Fishery. It's just like a CSA, but with seafood from the Pacific. They have about 20 fishermen lined up to supply fish year-round to customers who sign up for regular deliveries.
The CSF just launched officially this spring under the name Port Orford Sustainable Seafood. However, the group has been using that brand name in direct marketing for the past few years.
The website offers a handy chart of fishing seasons to show customers which fish are caught at different times of the year (Albacore tuna season is coming up. Yum!).
Fisherman Aaron Longton said the cost of joining the CSF is $150 per quarter or $50 a month.
Members get a delivery of $25 worth of fish every other Wednesday.
"We try to make sure they get a mixture of salmon or black cod matched up with rockfish or lingcod or even some bycatch like skate wing," he said.
The fish is frozen immediately after it's caught so it has longer shelf life, Longton said. And the sustainable fishing practices of the Port Orford fleet together with the traceability of the fish from the boat to the customer allow the fishermen to earn a premium.
"It's a new frontier," he said. "This is one of the things we feel is an opportunity for our community to add value to the resource and build a connection between the fish, fishermen and consumers."
I went to visit Port Orford earlier this year because I wanted to learn more about the unique attitude toward sustainable fisheries that I've heard so much about. Port Orford was one of the first communities in Oregon to propose its own no-fishing marine reserve at Redfish Rocks. The town has a small fishing fleet of small boats that catch a wide array of seafood using pots and hook and line.
The fleet is in a pretty unique situation. The dry dock in Port Orford towers over the beach and only smaller boats can be lifted into the water. The small boats can only go so far on one tank of fuel, which means the local fishermen are pretty limited in the range of fishing grounds they can access.
According to the folks I talked to in town, that's one major reason the community has made a commitment to sustainable fisheries.
And if the fishermen can capitalize on their local, sustainable fishing practices by marketing their fish at a premium, it would be the equivalent of what many CSAs have done for urban foodies.
The CSF is focused on customers in Southern Oregon so far but Longton said the group will be looking to set up a drop site in the Portland area next year.