In this morning’s New York Times Magazine, the Food column describes the decline of fisheries off South Carolina, and the effort by one fisherman to create a commercial market for alternative, more sustainable fish species. The decline and subsequent fishing restrictions on popular species there sounds depressingly like the steady decline of the Pacific salmon fisheries here on the West Coast—and simply reflects the overfished state of the seas worldwide. It’s a great story about a creative response to a serious problem.

A really intriguing idea pops up midway through:

Closing the loop tighter, last month Abundant Seafood started a community-sponsored fishery. Home cooks pay a share to receive 2 to 10 pounds of fish a month, and the company receives full retail price. Marhefka said he would use the direct relationship to teach the 60-plus members about the future of fish and its true value. ‘It’s their resource, not mine,’ he said.

I would love to see this locally. Berkeley has already enthusiastically embraced community-supported agriculture: You can buy shares in Full Belly Farm, Riverdog Farm, even meat shares from Marin Sun Farms. And down at the Berkeley Marina, fishermen sell their catch directly from their boats. It seems like it should be possible to merge these two things into an organized cooperative, whereby home cooks could be assured of a steady supply of locally caught, reasonably priced, very fresh fish.

On the other hand, the Monterey Fish Market retail outlet on Hopkins Street is a resource for sustainable seafood that already exists. I don’t patronize the fish market much because it’s a bit off the beaten track for me, and I tend to be intimidated by those one-on-one interactions over the counter.

What about you? Would you commit to buying a set amount of fish direct from the fisherman? Where do you buy your fish now?

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  1. I buy my fish mostly at Monterey Fish and at Hudson at the farmers market. Sometimes I go to Tokyo Fish or even WF or BB, but Monterey and Hudson are the best, in my opinion.

    I’d like to hear more about buying fish direct from fishermen at the marina. What kinds of fish do they have and where are they caught?

  2. I mostly buy my fish at Berkeley Bowl, Ver Brugge, or the farmer’s market (Monterey Market is a bit off the path for me as well). I LOVE the one on one interaction! I like to go to the counter/stand, see what looks fresh, and then ask the fisherman/employee for a recommended cooking method. I’ve learned some great new tricks (and tried some new fish) this way.

  3. The gang at Monterey Fish Market is so friendly! And helpful! I think they’re consistently the friendliest shop on Hopkins.

  4. Captain Mike, thank you for providing that background on the realities of the fishing business. I wondered whether it was practical or feasible for a single fisherman to guarantee a steady supply directly to consumers, and you answered that.

    I’ll make a point to stop by one of the local farmer’s markets to visit your booth and say hello.

  5. On the bright side, nearly ALL our california fish species are on the rebound – or they are considered “rebuilt”.
    Here’s a little excerpt from an article I received a while back:
    A new groundbreaking study published in the July 31 issue of Science magazine reveals that the California Current ecosystem has the lowest fishery exploitation rate of any place in the world examined by co-authors Ray Hilborn and Boris Worm and 19 other scientists.

    “The drastic reductions in harvest in California have been designed to rebuild the overexploited rockfish stocks,” said Hilborn. “At present the community of groundfish is now at about 60% of its unfished biomass, far above the 30-40% level target for maximum sustained yield.”

    So where do we go from here? CoOp’s are pretty much out of the question. Our fishing operations are too small and too weather dependent. No fisherman could guarantee you a couple pounds of rockfish on Friday, that’s what we have wholesalers for. We may have to fish that day because it’s the only day of the week that allows us to get out there.
    We sell our fish at the farmers’ markets around here, and lately we have been getting together with a bunch of our co-fishermen in order to keep the markets going in the absence of salmon, and with all the new restrictions that “Marine Protected Areas” (read: No Fishing Zones) are putting us through.

    The political ocean out there is changing rapidly, and it’s all going from a public trust resource towards private enterprise. Enjoy the fresh fish we bring to you now, be it from our market stands, or Monterey Fish (I know the owner of that company, and Paul is doing a fantastic job), or where ever you can get it from, because if things don’t change drastically very soon, the only “fresh” fish yuo will be able to purchase will come from Costco, Walmart, and other such corporations.