It is ironic that in a place that boasts New York State’s biggest-dollar commercial fishing port and is surrounded by a natural abundance of fish in inshore waters it can be oddly difficult for consumers and restaurants to buy local, fresh-caught fish and shellfish. Most of what is landed here is taken by trucks to the Hunts Point reincarnation of the Fulton Fish Market, where it can be put back on trucks and brought back to the South Fork. This is a bizarre arrangement, one that contributes an unnecessary amount of particulate and global-warming pollutants to the atmosphere while adding to the price local consumers pay for fish.
Now comes a way to provide an alternative route from fishing vessel to plate. The idea is to have consumers buy shares of a harvester’s catch, receiving a sampling of what is coming over the gunnels as the year moves along. Also likely to be interested in such a scheme is the region’s small but growing aquaculture industry. This might be good for our perennially hard-strapped baymen, who should be getting a premium for their catch but often do not, despite eye-popping prices by the pound once the fillets are in the shops. The initial plan comes from something called Dock to Dish, which is based in Montauk and has had early support from New York Sea Grant and the Concerned Citizens of Montauk.
The logistics are complicated, however, as are the hurdles necessary to satisfy regulatory authorities that the highly perishable product is safe and harvested legally. By comparison, few such regulations limit how community-supported farms provide boxes filled with kale, squash, or carrots to their subscribers. Supporters of the fish-share concept believe the challenges can be overcome.
We see the beginning of steps toward something that would be good for consumers and harvesters alike. As one fish-shop owner said last week, the more people who eat fish the better.