Monday, December 20, 2010

One of the questions people often ask about CAFC is what do we mean by "sustainable"? "Sustainable" is defined as capable of being continued with minimal long-term effect on the environment. And by that definition, the fish we get are in fact sustainable. All of the stocks of fish that we purchase are not considered to be "overfished". In addition according the best and latest science, the stocks of fish that CAFC delivers are all growing.

But, just because a population of fish is growing does not necessarily mean that the fishing is sustainable. Some would argue that the way fish are caught is an important consideration of sustainability. The concern is that some fishing methods may do long term damage to the environment. These concerns usually focus on draggers, by-catch and extreme overfishing.

The draggers we buy fish from are fishing with a 5 inch mesh size, which is one of the largest mandated mesh sizes in the world. The large size of the mesh allow smaller fish to escape the net. Additionally it is not always clear that draggers "damage" the seafloor. It is certainly true that they can damage the seafloor, but it is also possible that small draggers may enhance an ecosystem by in effect 'tilling' the soil. More research needs to be done in this area, but as one fisherman said recently about the ecofriendliness of nets vs. hook and line, "There is no more indiscriminate killer in the ocean than a baited hook."

Here's a good take on how dragger fishing can be minimal impact.

One of the other key factors for sustainable harvesting of seafood really falls at the feet of the regulators who set the catch limits. Fishermen in the US fish under some of most restrictive rules in any fishery in the world. One of the things we can all agree on is that until the industry is rewarded for making changes to fish more sustainably, the status quo will prevail. So while we believe our program is sustainable, there is no question that making fishing more sustainable can happen if regulators create rules and laws that reward fishermen for fishing in area and with gear that results in decreasing long term negative impacts to ecosystems. We beleive that CAFC is a program that shows people care about sustainability, rewards sustainable fishing and encourages sustainable fishing. What do you think? Post a comment and let us know what you think about sustainability.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Consolidating the fleet won't save the fish

There are some really interesting things happening in fisheries management right now. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would have my hands full trying to figure out who or what puppet master is pulling the strings behind the curtain when it comes to fisheries management.

In this recent op-ed in South Coast Today, there is a statement about the number of boats not fishing:
"Two-thirds of New Bedford's fishing boats are tied up at the dock, according to data Mayor Scott W. Lang plans to release today. About 35 boats have caught and been allocated 80 percent of the catch, Lang said, while some 140 boats share the rest. That means they're fishing very little or staying home."
Advocates of "Catch shares" have not hidden their agenda to consolidate the fleet. They argue that reducing the fleet is the key to restoring fish populations, but in every catch share system ever implemented, consolidation does not lead to reduction of effort, rather it leads to consolidation of effort. In other words, just like the giveaways of family farms to corporations in the name of efficiency, the fishing fleet is being essentially offered up to the highest bidder.

Why? And who gains? Follow the money...One might think large vessel owners and processors would be in favor of consolidation, yet last Thursday the largest vessel owner in New England and the owner of the New Bedford Seafood Auction spoke out vigorously against the current management regime at a forum hosted by the mayor of New Bedford.
This is compounded by a transfer of wealth and consolidation of revenue. 55 of the 247 boats fishing are now realizing 61% of the revenue. The remaining 192 vessels account for only 39% of total revenue.
I can only say that at a time when people need jobs, the government seems intent on getting rid of fishing jobs.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Shrimp Season Begins!

December 1 marks the opening day for the Gulf of Maine Shrimp season, and with any luck we'll be getting some shrimp in our shares in the coming weeks or months. The following article is a re-print of an article you can find here. Thanks for reading!

Gulf of Maine Shrimp are back!

Gulf of Maine (GOM) Shrimp may be the best tasting least known seafood that comes from our local waters. Having fished and eaten fish since I was a kid it came as a surprise to me that there are locally caught edible shrimp, and that seafood connoisseurs consider them to be among the best tasting shrimp in the world. Yet, when I first heard of them I also found them hard to find.

People told me I would have to drive to Maine and find a roadside vendor if I wanted to find super fresh high quality catch. That sounded a little sketchy to me. Should I just go to Maine and drive around and hope to see some guy in a dark alley saying, "Hey you looking for shrimp?" My days of buying things from strange people in alleys being well behind me, I did manage to find a local fishmonger who told me all about GOM Shrimp.

The GOM Shrimp season runs in the winter when the adult shrimp come inshore to lay their eggs/roe. The shrimp were over fished for years and largely fell off the radar for consumers, processors and fishermen, but in one of the few success stories of single stock management the shrimp stock has rebounded nicely. One could argue that the resurgence of the stock has as much to do with other factors as management, but let's save that argument for another day. Yet while the stock continues to grow, consumers and processors are lagging behind in appreciating and consuming this tender, sweet delicate shrimp.

One of the great pleasures of being involved with CAFC in its inaugural season is hearing people talk about fish they had never eaten before. Whiting seemed to be a favorite discovery. Yellowtail flounder also elicited many "Best Meal Ever" exclamations from members. GOM Shrimp are sure to have the same effect. Those of us that have been aware of these shrimp eagerly await the beginning of the season (usually early Dec.). We shun those rubbery blobs of farmed "shrimp" imported from Asia, and the sometimes good but recently plagued by quality issues Gulf of Mexico Shrimp. We preach the GOM Shrimp's virtues, noting that it is prized as sushi
 in Japan (amiebi - sweet shrimp), and that once you eat GOM Shrimp you will never go back to other shrimps. Convinced yet?

Cleaning, Cooking and Eating GOM Shrimp
The first thing you will notice about GOM Shrimp is their color, a deep pink/red. They are also relatively small shrimp (50-70 count/ lb). You may also notice light blue eggs on most if not all the shrimp you get, which is because they are all females. Depending on what you plan to do with your shrimp, you can either peel them raw and cook the meat or cook them whole then peel them. GOM Shrimp do not need to be de-viened before cooking or eating. If you plan to freeze or store some shrimp, it is best to clean them and freeze the meat in a salt or stock broth. If you are a roe fan, try the eggs.

The key to cooking these shrimp is to understand that they are delicate and lose much of what makes them special if they are overcooked. Most recipes I have seen say to cook the shrimp for two or three minutes no more. The shells make an excellent stock as well that can be used as a base for all kinds of sauces. The real key however is to not overcook them and combine them with foods that allow the tender, delicate flesh and sweet flavor of the shrimp to emerge.
As to eating GOM Shrimp, well that's the easy part. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Solutions to seemingly intractable situations often require a paradigm shift of some sort. Something has to change that fundamentally alters the dynamic of the conflict. What does this have to do with fishing? Everything.

In the last twenty years fish in our waters became scarce, some environmental groups lobbied, filed lawsuits and campaigned against the pillaging of the ocean. In some cases directly other cases by insinuation fishermen were billed as "greedy", "rapacious" people who would only stop fishing when there were no more fish.

Meanwhile, fishermen's distrust of environmental groups grew into hatred. In this mix of antipathy NOAA probably received the most scorn. Enviro groups loathed the agency for not living up to the law, cowering to industry pressure and general incompetence. Fishermen and the fishing industry rightly felt persecution and heavy handed strategies to keep them from fishing such as the absurd idea of "days at sea" management regime, and regulations based on "science" that time and again proved to be lacking in rigor.

Looking back into this stew of acrimony and conflict, one thing seems exceedingly clear: management of fisheries is and has been bad for as long as people have tried to manage fisheries. Why is this? And, is there a better solution to this seemingly intractable mess?

I've been pondering this question for some time and every solution fails in some aspect to address the fundamental economic problem of the tragedy of the commons. I'm no economist, but the tragedy of the commons argues that individuals will deplete a common resource because it is in their own rational self-interest to get as much of the common before someone else does.

The solutions for problems of the commons, it is often argued, are to privatize the resource. In fishing this means "catch shares". For us in New England it is called "sectors". However privatization alone will not stop overfishing because it does not remove the incentive to catch as much as you can, rather it creates an incentive to make the worth of your "share" more valuable - be it by fishing or leasing your share or selling it. The only incentive to not deplete the resource is that it devalues the overall value of "shares", much like the value of the New York Stock exchange is higher than the the value of the Iraq Stock Exchange because the value of the individual shares that make up the market are worth more in one than the other.

However, realistically for fishermen, the value of their shares are completely out of their own control (unless you have enough shares to monopolize the market). The primary incentive not to over fish is actually a disincentive - a hard cap on the amount of fish you can catch. In the bizarre world of fish politics acronyms, it is called TAC for Total Allowable Catch.

Furthermore, "owning" shares of a TAC does not convey normal ownership rights such that you would invest in the value of your shares as you would make improvements to your house to increase its value. Instead fishermen only own the right to extract an amount from anywhere they can get it by the most efficient means (not always the most sustainable or environmentally friendly - in fact and in practice it is often the least environmentally friendly means that drives the value of the "share" higher).

Which brings again to the question/problem of how to regulate fishing in an effective, logical way. If you were given a "share" of fish and were told you can only catch those fish is this section of the ocean. No one else can catch fish in that section. All of a sudden the fisherman has a vested financial interest in the health and viability of the ocean under his or her control. In this scenario, catching up all the fish would be illogical and irrational.

This idea is called "Area Management". In area management, fish are allocated according to the scale of the ecosystem and its ability to sustain fishing - with fishermen considered as part of the ecosystem.

The problem for Area Management has always been the idea that fish populations are homogeneous, especially in New England and that fish naturally migrate between areas. In fact emerging science is showing that fish are much more sedentary than previously thought. Additionally they do not disperse as readily as had been assumed. A good example of this is that cod populations in the Eastern Gulf of Maine have crashed and are not rebounding even though cod populations in the Western Gulf of Maine are robust. In reality, cod are much more like salmon than we ever thought, they go back to the same spawning grounds, feeding grounds and breeding grounds and do not mix with other sub-populations on a large scale.

There is much much more to share on this topic, but a great place to start is this paper which gives a scientific background to the idea of Area Management. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A plug for the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, Gloucester Fishermen's Wives and bad weather....

Some of you may know that CAFC began (and continues) as a partnership between the Gloucester Fishermen's Wives Association (GFWA aka., "The Wives") and the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (NAMA). Many of you hopefully have heard of the good work the wives have done through the years to protect and represent the fishermen and fisher-women of Gloucester. GFWA president Angela Sanfillippo has tirelessly advocated for the safety and well being of fisher's, advocated for a healthy marine environment and led battles against oil drilling among other things.

She is also a fantastic cook. As are all the wives really. One of the great pleasures of working with the CAFC folks is our weekly lunch meetings where one of the wives cooks an amazing meal for us to eat as we discuss the weeks deliveries. (Nina deserves a special shout out for her effortless efforts that always result in something amazing.)

One of the things that always occurs to me at these meetings and with conversations with CAFC members is the connection we all have; namely a deep love of seafood. I know personally that I can talk for hours and hours about cooking fish and seafood, and one of the greatest pleasures of working with CAFC is being able to talk to fellow seafood lovers about how they cook their fish.

This week though, my thoughts turned to the weather. A steady blow from the North/Northeast drove swells that topped out at around 16 feet to our shores keeping the boats at the docks. Weather is a fact of life for fishermen. Aside from making the job dangerous, it can impact the fishing as fish move to deeper waters to ride out the storm. There are even tales of fish caught with rocks in their bellies as they ballast for a big storm.

I was talking to my co-worker at NAMA, Brett Tolley who is the son of a fisherman on the Cape as we watched giant waves break at Halibut Point last week.

"You ever get caught out in a storm like this?" I asked.

"Yup. No fun." he replied. That simple acknowledgment contained the kernel of why I love seafood. The people who fish do so because they have a passion for it. A passion they are sometimes willing to risk their lives for. Seafood is real food, wild food, brought to you by real people, passionate people, independent people. Its a profession worth saving, worth keeping from turning into just another corporate industry where workers are paid too little and risk too much.


NAMA and the GFWA are both small non-profit organizations working hard to support our fishermen and fishing communities. Please consider supporting either of these organizations with a donation.

Gloucester Fisherman's Wives Association

Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance

Friday, November 5, 2010

One of the main purposes of this blog is to keep CAFC members informed about fisheries issues. If you go back and read previous posts from the first to the most recent, you can get a decent sense of the issues fishermen are facing. Since we are at the beginning of a new season, I thought it would be a good time to revisit some of the issues that have been raised and give a glimpse into the regulatory process as it stands today.

So, a quick summary: In May 2010 management of the "groundfish complex" changed from a system that allocated fishermen "days at sea" to fish to a "catch shares system. In other words, fishermen previously were told, you can go fish for X number of days and each "day" you can catch X pounds of cod/haddock etc. The new system fundamentally alters the equation by giving groups of fishermen (called "sectors") an allocation of fish based on their fishing history. Fishermen in the "catch shares" scheme can fish whenever they want for as long as they want until they run out of allocation.

If a fisherman runs out of allocation for any single species he/she is done fishing for that year. If a sector runs out of allocation, the entire sector is shut down. So obviously fishermen are doing anything they can to spread their landing out over the year so they do not run out of allocation.

The initial reactions to sector fishing were mixed. Fishermen liked that they were no longer forced to discard all of their by-catch as they were under the previous system. The negatives as you can hear about here from Joe Orlando, a Gloucester Fisherman, are many including some of the onerous tracking requirements.

It is really not exaggerating to say that fisherman are tracked as tightly or more tightly than criminals. And while some people will say that fishermen brought it upon themselves by fishing the stocks to the point that the regulations were necessary, the real story is quite a bit more complex, and it could be argued that failed government policies had as much to do with the decline of stocks as the avariciousness of fishermen.

One of the things that those of us who regularly attend the meeting of the New England Marine Fisheries Management Council (NEFMC) meetings note is that the structure of the NEFMC meetings are reactive. In other words, the council tends to ignore issues until they absolutely have to. The upcoming docket of issues, called "Framework 45" is a perfect example of the hodgepodge way that the council fixes problems.

Here is the agenda for the next NEFMC meeting Nov 16-18. There are two items that ilustrate this point. One is a discussion of dockside monitoring, the other is a change in the allocation of pollack.

The current policy requires dockside monitoring of 50% or more of vessels - whether or not they have an onboard observer or not. Currently the government pays for the observers, however in the next year fishermen are required to pay for the observers, which can be hundreds of dollars per trip. Many fishermen and most council members agree that dockside monitoring is redundant, to onboard observers as well as dealer reporting requirements. For some small ports getting a monitor to show up at all can be challenging and costly.

Aaron Dority of the Penobscot East Resource Center and manager of the Downeast Coastal Communities Sector reported that in one case the monitor cost more than the value of the fish! Just about everyone knew this was going to be the case when the requirement was put in place, yet in the rush to push through "catch shares" the issue was put off...until now. There does not appear to be a clear resolution at this point.

When it comes to pollack, the initial allocations of pollack were so low that many fishermen feared their sectors would be closed down by the end of the summer because they would catch too many pollack. Fishermen argued that the pollack stocks were healthy and there was no basis for such a small allocation. Well, lo and behold, the scientists found more pollack. 600% more to be precise.

For fishermen, the regulatory landscape has been anything but stable. The constant churn of regulations is dizzying, complex and oftentimes contradictory. There have been few bright spots. However, there are two things that encourage fishermen that there may yet be a light at the end of the tunnel. One is that in many places the fish stocks are doing really well. The second is Cape Ann Fresh Catch, and for being a part of something that is doing something positive for fishermen, the community, your own health and for the eco-system you can certainly feel good about that!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A New Season and a Time to Look Back

Welcome to the latest CAFC season. It's hard to believe its only been two years since CAFC started with the idea that maybe 70 people would sign up to support local fishermen and sustainable seafood. Since those rose coloured glasses days we've served over 3000 shares!

We recently conducted a survey to which over 700 of you responded. We are happy to report that most of what we heard from the survey results are positive. A large majority who sign up for Cape Ann Fresh Catch are happy with the program. After reviewing the results of the survey and conducting a top down and bottom up review of the program, we have a few areas we feel we can improve, specifically seafood diversity, logistics share sizes and communication, each of which I'll tackle below.

But, before we get into the nitty-gritty of our plans for improving the program, some interesting items came out of our program review. Most everyone felt that supporting community based fishermen was one of the main reasons to support CAFC. In the last two years CAFC has created a number of new jobs and brought almost $500,000 dollars into the community. In this economy that is something you can feel good about.

Other successes:
- In the last season alone fishermen made 50% more than they would have selling their fish at auction.
- In the last season alone CAFC bought 17,000 lbs of fish. As our fish buyer Lenny Parco from Ocean Crest Seafood noted, "Frankly I was surprised how much fish went to the program. I had no idea it was so big."
- Bought fish from at least 16 different boats, which means we are making an impact across a large part of the fleet.

All of this is well and good, and a strong foundation to take forward but we are not resting on our laurels. Let's now take a look at some of the issues pointed out by the survey and what we plan to do about them.

First, the number one complaint was the lack of diversity of seafood. This was a problem we heard loud and clear some time ago. We began seriously addressing this issue at the beginning of our last season. Our new seafood buyer, Lenny Parco from Ocean Crest Seafood (who's company also makes Neptune's Harvest Fertilizer for all you gardeners out there) made sure that diversity was his top priority.

The result is that we brought 11 species of seafood in the nine weeks Lenny was buying for us. There are about 16 species commonly available to us in our local waters, so we feel that our selection is now pretty diverse. However we're not stopping there, we are working on ways to include other seafood into shares. We'd love to hear what you'd like to see in your shares?

A second issue people found were the hours when we have our deliveries. Everyone's so busy these days. When the shares can be picked up can be a challenge for some. This issue is a lot more complex than the variety issue, but we are working on it. To address this, we've started a pilot partnership with a local business. Our new location in Melrose, MA--at Turner's Seafood Market & Grille--matches their hours of operation to a certain degree and allows members to pick up their shares until 8pm on Tuesdays. We're exploring extending/adjusting the hours at our other locations as well. However, significant changes to our delivery logistics can only happen with
proper planning that often take several months to implement.

Another issues some folks have raised is the size of the shares. Or in some cases not just the size of the shares but just getting fish every week is too much. You probably have already seen that we've created a new share type with an alternating week share. So far this option seems popular. However I have one request for everyone getting an bi-weekly share: SPREAD THE WORD!!! Half shares are great but it also means we have to have twice as many people signed up at each location to cover the programs expenses. If each alternating share member gets one other family to sign up, we'll be in great shape.

And last but not least, communication to members can always improve. We've beefed up our weekly fish notices to include more pertinent and relevant information. We started this blog last season to explore some of the regulatory issues fishermen face. This season the blog will be working on profiles of the people who make up CAFC from the fishermen to the fish cutters to the truck drivers.

Last but by no means least is that we want to hear from you!. Post comments here, check out the website, let us know what we can do to better serve you! Thanks for being part of a program that does seeks to do good socially, economically, environmentally and for the food system!

Monday, October 4, 2010

End of One Season Beginning of Another...

As we get close to the end of the fall CSF season, I am going to do some housecleaning here in the CAFC Blog.

First of all, we want and need salespeople! And our best salespeople are share-members who love the CSF. PLEASE help us get the word out about CAFC to fish loving friends. Write a letter to your local paper, put up a flyer at your church, cafe, CSA Newsletter or community center. This is after all a COMMUNITY SUPPORTED fishery, so we hope you all can help us continue the program's success by pitching in and spreading the word.

Another item that I want to highlight is that CAFC works really hard to listen to sharemembers. Some complaints that we've addressed recently are a lack of diversity and the problem of too much fish for some folks. We are trying out an every-other-week share now to better accommodate those who feel an entire share is just too much fish. Please help us spread the word!

We've also really upped the ante on the variety. In general, many of the species we get in the temperate months tend to move to deeper water as the weather cools, and other species migrate out of the area entirely. This typically means less variety, however it also means that we'll be getting closer to Dec 1, which is the beginning of Gulf of Maine Shrimp season, which is one of my favorites.

And lastly a quick update on the fishing regulations. The scuttlebutt on the docks is and has been the same for a few months now, "There's plenty of fish, but no one is fishing." A lot of this has to do with fishermen not wanting to squander their quota too soon in the fishing year and/or spread their fishing out over the year. Some are also trying to time their fishing to coincide with higher fish prices around the holidays. The problem with trying to time fish prices is a lot like trying to time the stock market. There are too many variables to fish prices to reliably predict the daily price.

The price of market Cod today for example is $2.54/lb, which is relatively high for this time of year. However since the implementation of sectors prices have been higher than in years past. We did have some concern that prices and availability of fish might be an issue for CAFC. High prices may be a challenge in the coming months, but for now it looks like the fishermen will not be shut down because of 'choke species' or because they have fished out their quotas.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Last week I went by Turner's Seafood in Gloucester to pick up some Bluefish that Jim and Kathi Turner donated for a Sustainable Seafood Cooking Demonstration at the Healthy Living Expo (thanks again Jim and Kathi!). Turner's is one of the partners in Cape Ann Fresh Catch, and I have to say they are great people and a real pleasure to work with. They are committed to to helping and improving on every aspect of the program, and all of us are glad to be working with them. I'd never been to their facility, which has a retail storefront as well as the fish processing plant in the back. The video below is a snapshot of a day in the life at Turner's unloading and filleting Yellowtail flounders for CAFC.

Because of the way the rules work, fish must be landed, handled and processed at a facility that not only meets the legal health and safety requirements, but also has the legal status to report landing fish etc., I'll get into some detail about how Cape Ann Fresh Catch actually works, from the dock to your plate in a later post. But I will say that I have been around fish for years and one thing you can always tell right away about a fish facility is how it smells.

The best fish handlers and processors do not smell 'fishy' they smell like the ocean. They do not smell 'chemically', they smell clean. I walked into Turner's and could tell right away that they keep a clean shop. Everything smelled nice. The fish that you see in the video were so fresh they had an almost sweet smell.

A couple more notes before the video:
- The sanitizing system Turner's uses is state of the art. Jim explains it in the video, but the real important thing to understand is that using this technology, Turner's does not use any chemical sanitizing agents.
- Turner's also has a retail store and restuarant in Melrose, please support great local businesses like these that are making a commitment to helping fishermen and consumers get really fresh seafood, and making a long term commitment to sustainable fishing by supporting the small scale fishermen and fishing families who have a generations long commitment to our local seafood.

And lastly, Turner's along with Cape Ann Fresh Catch, the Gloucester Fishermen's Wives Association and the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance will be hosting tables at the upcoming Boston Local Food Festival. We'll also be doing cooking demonstrations and hosting a Seafood Throwdown cooking competition between to local celebrity chefs, Didi Emmons from Haley House and Jason Bond from Bondir Restaurant this Saturday Oct 2. The Seafood events will be on the Seaport Blvd end of the festival in Boston.

Now on to the video:

Monday, September 20, 2010

Here is the third and final part of my interview with Joe Orlando owner operator of the f/v Padre Pio. (f/v stands for "fishing vessel" in case you were wondering.) Though Joe does not catch fish for CAFC (yet!) He is very much typical of the fishermen we work with. He is a dayboat fisherman - he goes out and comes bak in the same day for the most part. His vessel is a small dragger, which is the predominate gear choice for fishermen out of Gloucester. He has been fishing for at least two decades and has seen everything from a fishery in decline to the current state of the fishery which is nearing its target goals to be considered 'rebuilt'.

Several things stand out for me from my talk with Joe. One is the amazing amount of regulation New England fishermen face. Not only do fishermen have to tell the government when they are going fishing, but they may have to bring a government employee on board to monitor everything from gear and safety to the size and composition of their catch, they are digitally tracked via satellite, and when they get back to port there could be another government employee waiting at the dockside to observe unloading.

But all that is just the tip of the iceberg. When they are out fishing they have strict limits on what gear they can use, where they can fish, closed areas, Coast Guard enforcement and State Environmental Police.

As if that were not enough, our fishermen are almost all independent businessmen and women. They have to figure out when and where to fish amidst the regulations so that they can make a living. Its a daunting task, and one that unfortunately not too many younger people are choosing as a way to make a living.

At one of our recent CAFC weekly meetings a bunch of us were talking about how much people like to watch fishing boats unload. I know for myself I can stand there and watch boats and fishermen for hours. Fishing has always had a certain romance about it; men heading out to sea to battle the wind and waves to bring back seafood. Their boats color our harbors, and their tales color our history.

When you hear Joe talk about the regulatory environment he works in, it is hard to see the romance of the job. Fishermen in New England are no longer battling just the seas and the fish.

In the coming weeks we'll move away from regulations and get into more details about the fishing vessels we use, how CAFC works with fishermen and shore-side operations and finally hopefully we can talk more about the fish we are eating. Now for more Joe:

Monday, September 13, 2010

Here is the second part of my conversation with Joe Orlando about fishing regulation and the current state of fish stocks. Joe fishes out of Gloucester on his boat "Padre Pio". One more installment to come next week.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Blog took a week off for the holiday weekend, but we are back with a video of Gloucester Fisherman Joe Orlando talking about fishing and fishing rules. Enjoy. Part 2 Next week.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Fish Rules

Short post today as this blog writer is travelling in Costa Rica. The day before I left I was talking to a fisherman from Gloucester who is not a CAFC fisherman. We had an extensive conversation about fisheries regulations - which I will post some video of in the coming weeks. One of the points he made stands out.

He noted that 80% of the seafood in the US is imported and that most if not all of those fisheries are LESS regulated than the Northwest Atlantic groundfishery. In fact the New England groundfish fleet might well be the most regulated fishery in the world.

Now I dont know if that is statistically true, but we do know that most other countries do not regualte their fisheries as tightly as the US. Here in Costa Rica I went fishing with a commercial fisherman from a very small town on the Pacific coast in his Panga. We caught a number of small yellowfin tuna. When I asked the fisherman what the size limit was for yellowfin he just stared at me blankly.

"Size limit?" he said.
"Yeah, do you have any rules about how big fish have to be to keep them?" I asked.
He laughed and said, "Maybe they do, but no one knows them. Who is there to enforce that?"

In the US, fisherman endure a sea of rules about how they fish, what they fish for, how big the fish have to be to keep, how many they can catch and when and where they can fish. Enforcing those rules are th National Marine Fisheries Service, On-board observers, Dockside monitors, the Coast Guard, and beyond all that fishermen have a slew of mandated safety regulations the costs of which are in the thousands of dollars.

The point? As always, eat local fish!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

This week the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association and CAFC along with the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance met with a group from Healthcare Without Harm. The group was comprised of foodservice managers, chefs etc., from several area hospitals. The topic of the day was how hospitals can improve their seafood purchasing decisions to improve patient health, reduce the environmental impact of their purchases and if possible support the communities in which they live and work. Sounds a lot like why people join a CSF!

I was not able to attend the entire presentation as we were having another one of our famous Seafood Throwdowns at the Gloucester Sidewalk Days Festival. (Check out some video here of local Gloucester impresario Joey Ciamartaro – owner/operator of - talking about the virtues of Dogfish aka Cape Shark.) However the parts I was able to attend I was thoroughly impressed by the attendees ambitions to increase local seafood in their hospital menus. There were some tough questions asked, and truthfully, these are also some of the main questions we get at CAFC from members as well as critics.

One of the presenters was Vito Giacalone, a Gloucester Fisherman as well as the owner of the Boston Seafood Display Auction in Gloucester where CAFC fish is landed. One of the hospital administrators asked how most of the fish in Gloucester were caught. Vito said that most of the boats are draggers with a small percentage of net boats. Her follow up question was, “We hear all the time that draggers are bad for the environment and are listed on the seafood buyer’s guides as an ‘avoid’ fishing practice. How can we buy seafood from draggers if that is the case?”

Vito’s response was that people have been dragging the same local waters for fifty plus years. In that time, they are finding the fish in the exact same spots that his father caught fish forty years ago. There are no secret spots, the fish tend to go to the same places and the fishermen go to the same places. If they were destroying the habitat how and why are the fish populations coming back? Not only that, but most of the draggers are small day boats that use technology to stay just off the bottom.

Now, keep that anecdote in mind. The next story was told by one of the folks from Fletcher Allen Hospital in Burlington, VT who is at the forefront of the local and healthy in hospitals movement. They did a survey of all the kinds of seafood they could serve and used several criteria including the seafood buyer’s guidelines. One of the seafoods they came across that is recommended highly by most of the seafood buyers guides is Alaska Pollock.

But Fletcher Allen dug a bit deeper than the seafood cards and found out that not only is Alaska Pollock on of the most industrialized fleets in the world, but they use huge drag nets to catch the Pollock. Once the Pollock is caught and flash frozen, it is shipped to China for processing then shipped back to the US for sale. Yet according to some seafood buyer guides, Alaska trawl caught Pollock is more sustainable than Atlantic trawl caught Cod.As with most purchase decisions these days the confrontation for the conscientious buyer is between a cheap product with an unknown social and environmental cost .vs a more costly product that has social and environmental integrity. I don’t know about you, but I know I feel a lot better getting my fish from a small local producer with a known social and environmental footprint than from a far-flung factory operation where the real social and environmental costs are buried in a huge carbon footprint and a factory in China.

And don’t even get me started on the difference in the taste…

Monday, August 2, 2010

I had a great opportunity to speak with a bunch of CAFC members recently at one of the Seafood Throwdowns we do in conjunction with the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance. Cape Ann Fresh Catch will be co-hosting several Seafood Throwdowns this summer in Gloucester. There is a calendar of events here. I also got to talk to a bunch of folks who were interested in the program but questioned what we mean by ‘sustainable’. For some reason when this conversation comes up people always bring up Cod and whether it is sustainable. The other common question is whether the fishing methods are sustainable. (We’ll tackle the latter issue in another blog post.)

There are several aspects to this discussion, and for many people, even those of us who deal with this issue on a daily basis; we have to admit that it can be confusing. The simplest way to begin is to go back to an earlier blog post where we noted that the New England Fisheries Management Council (the NEFMC is one of eight regional councils established under the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Act to advise the government on regulations) has recently improved the assessments of most of the fish stocks you will see from CAFC, including noting that the Cod stocks that CAFC fish come from are no longer overfished.

The most important misconception people have in understanding Cod sustainability is to think that Atlantic Cod are all one population. This could not be farther from the truth. Canada, for example fished their cod to the point of extinction, the US has not. They are separate populations of fish of the same species that have as much to do with each other as human population levels in the US and China. We are even learning that within the GOM there are distinct sub-populations, thus the reason Western GOM cod are recovering while Eastern GOM Cod are not. It is possible, even likely, that currently one of the strongest populations of Cod in the Western Atlantic is just off Gloucester at Middle Bank. (For further information on this subject, check out the work NAMA is doing to promote finer scale management.)

Still, there is much that we do not know. I am sure you have heard the adage that we know more about outer space than we do the oceans, which is even true on the fishing grounds we have been fishing for centuries. Our approach is to pay attention to the latest science, listen to the fishermen and listen to those who purchase shares in CAFC.

We know there are other views out there. And, I should add that we also hear a lot more of “I love the Cod!” than complaints about cod. So chime in, post a comment below, let us know what you think and what you want to know more about. We'll be

Also, don’t forget to sign up for the new 8 week season beginning Aug 8. Also please feel free to post a flyer at your work, church, community center, coffee shop, CSA etc. (LINK).

Thanks for a wonderful summer season so far. Looking forward to seeing you all again in a couple weeks.

Monday, July 26, 2010

We get a lot of questions (and an occasional complaint) about the prevalence of Cod in your shares. And, we can assure you we do try our best to deliver as much variety as we can. But, we will not compromise quality for variety. We are Cape Ann FRESH Catch after all, and we can say that over the last two years no one has ever complained that the fish were not fresh.

With a program like CAFC CSF, you sign up to get a share of what our fishermen are catching. (By the way we now have over a dozen boats participating in the CSF). But if Cod are close and are fetching a good price that is what all the fishermen will bring in, and there’s not a lot we can do to change that except tell some other fish to swim in closer, but they never listen to us. Typically the variety increases as the summer progresses and we should start seeing some of last year’s favorite, whiting, soon. (And we will delve more into the issue of Cod sustainability in a future blog post.)

The gatekeeper for CAFC fish is Steve Parkes. Steve has been working in fisheries for years, starting out selling fish out of a van in Western Massachusetts to eventually starting Pigeon Cove Seafoods which he later sold to Whole Foods where he continued as their head seafood buyer before coming to CAFC. Steve knows more about seafood than just about anyone and has seen the ups and downs of the fishing industry. We asked Steve a few questions about CAFC fish:

CAFC News: Steve, what is the criteria for selecting CAFC fish?
SP: Number one, two and three is freshness. 99% of our fish are dayboat fish and are only a few hours out of the water by the time we get them. (Ed: “Dayboat” means that the boat left and returned to the dock in the same day vs. “tripboat” fish where the boat may stay out for several days or more).

CAFC News: How are our fish being caught?
SP: Mostly draggers. The draggers can go out right now and be back in a few hours with a full boat on one tow. So in reality it is the best way to get fresh fish to the dock quickly. In fact the problem for some guys right now is that with the new sector system they don’t want to catch too much at once and right now we are seeing the best fishing as long as I’ve been doing this.

CAFC News: So tell us more about what fishermen are seeing and saying about fishing conditions and the new rules?
SP: Well number one is that the guys are really happy that they can land whatever they catch, there is no more by-catch. Guys just hated throwing over healthy fish because of a trip limit. So they are really happy about that. Number two they are happy the fish are coming back so well.

CAFC News: We’ve been getting a lot of cod lately why?
SP: Well, there’s a lot of them out there. It is also the traditional Cod fishing season. We’ll start to see more flatfish as the summer wears on and the cod move to deeper waters. Guys are so used to the old rules they tend to still fish where they did then, so things may change but right now the price is up and the cod are close and plentiful so that’s what they bring in.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Welcome to the CAFC Blog.

Starting this week and each week hereafter we will be writing a new blog entry covering issues related to fishing, eating fish, fish politics and relevant fish events. One of our objectives as a CSF is to build on the “Community” that we have been able to establish. The CAFC Blog is a way for us to get news out to you about what is going on in the world of fish. You will still receive separate notifications on the day of your delivery about what types of fish and/or any problems with weather etc.

One of the things we know our community care’s about is the sustainability of the fish you get from CAFC. And on that front there is increasingly good news to report. Most, if not all of the fish you are receiving are from stocks that are growing. For example, the following quote comes from a June 25 press release from the New England Fisheries Management Council (NEFMC) (The NEMFC is one of 8 regional Councils set up by the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Act of 1976 to advise the government on fisheries policies. We will go into this in more detail next week):

“Gulf of Maine haddock are rebuilt and are being harvested at sustainable levels. Gulf of Maine cod is no longer overfished and is at a stock size that has not been seen in 30 years. Acadian redfish is very close to or fully rebuilt, although that determination awaits confirmation by a stock assessment. While they are not fully rebuilt, increases in many of the stocks in the groundfish complex are being observed for the first time in nearly a decade.”

Indeed a recent Pollack assessment changed that fish from overfished to abundant. So, after years of sacrifice and struggle, fishermen are encouraged by the rebounding stocks. Indeed for some fishermen the problem is that they are catching too many fish - a topic we will cover next week. So while there are still lots of issues, problems and challenges facing local fishermen, for the first time in a long time a scarcity of fish is not the main problem.

Each week we will try to tell you a little more about the fish, fishermen (and women), where and how they catch their fish and the shore-side processors – without who’s participation CAFC could not exist, as well as some of the fun events going on involving seafood.