Sharing the Catch

    Commercial fishermen should be able to sell their catches directly to consumers, so say advocates of what is called community supported fisheries. Community supported agriculture has become familiar during the past decade. Members buy shares in a farm and are rewarded periodically with boxes of produce — and a sense of ownership. In the newer fishing model, subscribers prepay for the day’s catch, accepting whatever comes over the gunwales.
    Sea Grant, a joint program of Cornell and the State University at Stony Brook, has been studying whether community supported fisheries might work on Long Island. Several groups and private citizens are also trying to gauge interest.
    For the South Fork’s fishing families, such a program might be challenging, but it could bring potential rewards as well. From our perspective, a lot more and better marketing could be done to promote this region’s excellent and varied seafood. Trap fishing, in particular, is environmentally sustainable, yields the freshest, best-quality fish, and would be ideal for the subscriber model because catches are varied from day to day and season to season, something consumers require.
    Local farmers have been getting a lot of the attention lately, perhaps it is the fishing fleet’s turn to get in the spotlight.


Only if this is done with some serious ecological science in the design. Trap and net fishing are not necessarily ecologically sound. Look at the cod fishery around the world; the nets selected for larger fish and that, combined with intensive fishing over decades, had an irreversible and detrimental effect on the species gene pool. Local fishermen do a good job of garnering support for their precarious economic situations but don't necessarily know how to adjust their methods to support truly sustainable fisheries. That goes double for recreational fishermen. Tuna, shark and other populations that are prized for food and tournaments are in serious jeopardy. A broader, scientifically-driven perspective than just what's good for East Hampton and a lot more than effective marketing are needed to make this work -- for the fish as well as the fishermen.