You’re probably aware of community supported agriculture, better known as CSA, where subscribers pay farmers for weekly shares of their crop before the season starts. CSAs benefit both the farmers and the eaters. The farmers get paid a fair price for the food they grow, and they’re provided with an infusion of cash right before the growing season. Eaters get fresh food from sustainable, local farms and are often introduced to vegetables and fruits they wouldn’t buy otherwise.

I recently learned that there are also community supported fisheries. It’s the same idea as a CSA. Local Catch explains that with a CSF, people pre-pay for shares of a season of “fresh, local, low-impact seafood, and in turn they receive a weekly or bi-weekly share of fish or shellfish.”

How a CSF benefits communities

A CSF reconnects coastal communities to their food system. That’s important because according to Paul Greenberg, author of “American Catch: The Fight for our Local Seafood,” in an interview he gave on NPR’s The Splendid Table, 91 percent of the seafood that Americans eat comes from other countries. One-third of the seafood caught by American fisherman is sold to other countries. Greenberg says it’s because Americans don’t value good seafood and don’t want to pay the price for it. They’d rather buy the inexpensive farmed seafood from other countries. The fisherman can get a better price for their good seafood by selling it overseas.

Communities also get the benefit of supporting sustainable fishing practices, which helps their local environment. Those who participate in a CSF know where their seafood comes from and get a boat-to-table experience.

How a CSF benefits fishermen

For the fishermen, they’re paid a fair price for the catch and feel that the work they do is valued by their communities. It encourages them to be good stewards of the environment.

Local Catch offers a CSF locator so you can find a community supported fishery near you. How much is a share? I’m sure the price varies, but I found the one closest to me through the locator. B&B Farms in Egg Harbor City, New Jersey, offers seafood shares for $230 for the season. Members get bi-weekly Jersey Fresh seafood shares that include clams, oysters, scallops, lobster, soft shell crabs along with swordfish, tuna and other high quality species. Members can sign up from October through early spring, and it looks like this season’s CSF was sold out.

If you live in a coastal region and you love fresh seafood, it might be beneficial to look into a CFA in your community. You might end up getting some of the freshest, most sustainable seafood available. 

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

What is community supported fishery?
When the CSA model is used for seafood, subscribers get fresh, sustainable seafood that goes straight from boat to fork.