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.