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Natural Awakenings Boston

Think Globally, Fish Locally

Feb 26, 2013 12:23PM ● By Karen Masterson

The local food movement is expanding to the ocean. Momentum has grown over the last five years to connect community-based fishermen, who share values similar to those of family farmers, with seafood consumers. This alliance is working to protect the future of the ocean’s wild ecosystem and provide people with access to local seafood.

A marine ecosystem naturally consists of a great diversity of species in a complex food web, and fishing practices greatly affect this delicate balance. Similar to the well-documented concerns about massive single-crop, industrial farming operations, many people are now focusing attention on the issue of industrial fishing boats. These vessels have the ability to catch more fish than an ecosystem can safely offer, and they are moving into fishing grounds that are traditionally either not fished or fished only by small and medium-scale operations.

The focus of such corporate fleets is profit, not sustainability, and the scale of their operations are wreaking havoc on marine ecosystems around the world. Likewise, the practice of growing fish in contained “managed” systems such as aquaculture introduces a whole new set of problems. Perhaps the most notable danger is that of moving the public further away from the very real and increasingly urgent responsibility of caring for the wild ocean.

Fortunately, there is hope. Fishing communities are coming together to create new consumer models, such as Community Supported Fisheries (CSF), the land-based version of Community Supported Farms. CSFs allow consumers to purchase local fish directly from fishermen. They’re also advocating new policies that protect the ocean, and battling corporate takeover by the industrial fleets. This is work that demands public attention for the sake of fish, fishing families, fishing communities and seafood consumers.

The Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (NAMANET.org) is at the forefront of such efforts to transform markets and policies by working with small and medium scale fishermen. Together, 7 Principles for Choosing Seafoodthey are working on practical ways to protect ecosystems and deliver quality seafood to consumers. The Cape Ann Fresh Catch is a local arm of this alliance. Visit CapeAnnFreshCatch.org for more information.

Consumers can become educated about the seafood that’s available where they live and buy it as close to the source as possible. Local fish markets will respond to the needs of customers who demand local fish, caught by smallto medium-sized day boats that employ the people of the community. Ultimately, meeting the challenges of sustainable fishing will make it possible for future generations to enjoy bounty from the oceans, as well as the oceans themselves.


Karen Masterson is co-owner of Nourish restaurant, 1727 Mass. Ave., Lexington. For more information, call 781674-2400 and visit NourishLexington.com. Masterson is also founder of This Is My Face, an organization committed to serving women in crisis and challenging cultural norms around women and aging. Learn more at ThisIsMyFace.org.

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