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!