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COMMUNITY-SUPPORTED FISHERIES

GROWING A VALUES-BASED SEAFOOD MOVEMENT
As a member of LocalCatch.org and an active participant in the CSF movement, Sitka Salmon Shares is working to implement and uplift these core values. As a CSF member, you demonstrate the demand for values-based seafood and are central to spreading this vision far and wide.
Sitka Salmon Shares is humbled and proud to be part of a growing movement for values-based seafood in the United States. This movement is fueled by the expansion of Community Supported Fisheries, innovative direct-to-consumer seafood businesses, and of course their champions, like you! What unites fishermen, fishmongers, entrepreneurs, food systems leaders, and seafood consumers together in this movement is a passion to infuse a new set of values into how we catch, process, sell, eat, appreciate seafood.

The origins of Community Supported Fisheries (CSFs) trace back to over 15 years ago in Carteret County, North Carolina. Around that time, a group of fishermen from the region, cooperative extension agents, professors, and community leaders investigated methods to boost demand for seafood from local fishermen, and in turn help them get a better price for their harvest. Carteret Catch, one of the earliest CSF models, was born out of these efforts. Word across the east coast started to spread, and many credit Port Clyde Fresh Catch up in Maine for starting the first “official” CSF in 2007.

The early years of CSFs were lively as the concept caught on across the fishing and seafood world. Farmers had been actively tapping into and benefiting from the local food movement through the tremendous growth of CSAs and farmer’s markets since the 1980s. It was finally time for fishermen to seize this important opportunity.
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Sitka's history
Sitka Salmon Shares was born amid these early CSF years in 2012, the same year the first National Summit on Community Supported Fisheries was held in New Hampshire. Funny enough, our CSF, also has it origin story with a food systems professor (as the experienced Salmonsharesian will know), just as the very first CSF model in North Carolina did!

Much has changed since 2012 at Salmon Shares and with the CSF movement. As we have grown, so have the number of CSFs and values-based seafood businesses in the U.S. When we started, there were around 20 CSFs, now there are considered to be 75-100 in North America. While CSFs come in a number of shapes, sizes, and with different business models, a true CSF should be anchored by a triple-bottom line approach which embraces environmental and social impact alongside financial profitability. Bolstering fishing livelihoods, supporting the health of coastal communities, protecting our oceans, building deeper connections between consumers and harvesters, and strengthening regional food systems remain key components of what it means to be a CSF.
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The "Slow Fish" movement
The Local Catch and Slow Fish networks play a vital role in upholding these values. This is particularly important today, as the number of claims being made about social and environmental responsibility in the food world are dramatically increasing. While slightly different, the networks have much in common, and Salmon Shares is active in both. Slow Fish, born out of “Slow Food,” is a national and international campaign working to “turn the tide away from industrial seafood and toward seafood that is good, clean, and fair for all.” Local Catch is community-of-practice committed to building a values-based seafood supply chain through a thriving network of CSFs and similar impact-driven seafood businesses.

At the second national gathering of CSFs and local seafood leaders in 2012 in Virginia, the community started developing what would become the Local Catch network’s core values shown above. This was in direct response to the emergence of businesses co-opting the term “Community Supported Fishery” and the need to define what it means as a movement. CSAs have faced similar challenges, and some states like California have responded by legally defining what it means to be a CSA.
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Taking Shorter Trips and Collapsing the Supply Chain
At Sitka Salmon Shares, we believe that resilient (some might say stubborn) communities are the bedrock of a healthy, sustainable food system. This understanding goes back more than a century to when farmers on the Great Plains organized as the Grangers to advocate for better prices for their crops. Today, this type of thinking is directly tied to the Community Supported Agriculture and Fishery movements. We are deliberate about building communities of consumers in the Midwest that will allow traditional fishing communities in Southeast Alaska to continue to thrive. The communities we establish in the Midwest encourage new opportunities for neighbors, colleagues, family, and friends to convene and connect. We do our part by creating videos, hosting dinners, BBQs, and cooking classes, and writing newsletters. Our fishermen travel to meet our members and, one day, our members may travel to Sitka to further build these ties.
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A bright and sustainable future
As Brett Tolley, a leader in the movement with Slow Fish USA and the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance described, "We’re seeing the values-based seafood movement grow both nationally and internationally. But with our success comes a new wave of co-optation and criticism by those who tell us this model is not how we're going to feed a growing planet. Our success will be defined by our ability to strengthen, protect, and celebrate our values."

The values-driven seafood community is activating, responding, and growing together. We join together regularly for national and regional gatherings and offer learning opportunities like webinars on seafood fraud. Together, we support each other, hold each other accountable, and work together with members like you to build a better seafood system that honors the people, cultures, traditions, ecosystems that we cherish. Together, we are making the prospect of knowing your fish and your fisherman a reality, not just an aspiration!