Midwest’s First Community Supported Fishery

Many of us concerned about the impact of our food dollars support small farmers through Community Supported Agriculture and farmers markets. Now the Midwest’s first Community Supported Fishery gives those of us far from a coast an option in the seafood arena.

I learned about Sitka Salmon Shares at FoodCon. It’s an operation bringing sustainable seafood to the heartland on a direct-to-consumer model—similar to Community Supported Agriculture.

Anyone in a landlocked area who wants to buy local has a hard time with fish.* Especially when, as in Indiana’s case, the majority of our waterways are tainted with mercury due to coal plants.

Sitka Salmon Shares has a crew of independent, small boat family fishermen and -women who catch Alaskan salmon, halibut and cod with low-impact methods. The flash-frozen fish lands on the dinner tables of Midwesterners hungry for a protein source that’s healthy, delicious, and sustainably harvested.

Fishing Boats in Metlakatla, Alaska, ca. 1856 - 1936. National Archives and Records Administration.

Fishing Boats in Metlakatla, Alaska, ca. 1856 – 1936. National Archives and Records Administration.

From the website:

“In this day and age, we face a large industrial food system that too often puts profit ahead of people, communities, and the environment … in the process quickly replacing small family producers with huge companies and multinational corporations. It’s hard to feel good about eating food from such a system.”

And how. But here’s an alternative.

Sitka returns 1% of revenue to fisheries conservation. It also pays fishermen more than they could earn from big multinational processors. Further, rather than using trawls that result in large amounts of unwanted fish being thrown overboard, Sitka’s fishing families use hook-and-line methods to minimize impacts on unintended species.

These practices sustain ecosystems, fishing communities, and fish populations, while giving customers peace of mind as well.

At FoodCon I picked up a pocket guide from these folks: I love their sustainable seafood commandments for the Midwest. (Among them: Gear types matter. Also: Frozen and canned fish are often better choices.)

Here’s a great interview with Chief Salmon Steward Nic Mink that explains more.

Nic does double duty, serving as Butler University’s Center for Urban Ecology’s Urban Sustainable Foods Fellow.

As an aside, I really think he has two of the best job titles ever.

He will be speaking at the July 16 Irvington Green Hour about his work with the Indy Food Council, building the capacity of sustainable food systems in Indianapolis.

(*Some readers may remember my pledge to try sardines in an effort to eat lower on the food chain. I have yet to crack the tin I purchased. It is on my list. I guess you could say I’m nothing if not deliberate in my food choices. I could deliberate a long time here.)

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