Community-supported fisheries is an idea that’s big in the US, and is starting to get a tentative foothold in the UK. It involves the collection of fresh fish from small, family fishing boats in little fishing towns and villages, and brought to drop-off points in towns inland. Customers can stipulate what weight of fish they want per week, and pay for several weeks in advance, so that the schemes know that they have customers, and no fish is wasted.
The fish that the customers pick up were swimming in the sea 24 hours previously, and the scheme operator is able to give the name of the skipper who caught them. Customers don’t know what species they’re going to get – it could be anything from cod, plaice or Dover sole to gurnard, monkfish or octopus. Schemes often provide recipes and preparation tips, but there’s plenty of information online too.
What to do
1. Find your local scheme
Not as easy as it sounds, as there aren’t many. The original UK scheme, Catchbox, seems to have died, and so we only know of three at the moment. Information on how to join and pay can be found on their websites:
2. Find other sources of fish from small day boats
Fishbox, Inverness, Scotland – fishbox scheme, national delivery
The Cornish Fishmonger, St. Austell – fishbox scheme, national delivery
Sole of Discrection, Plymouth – collective of small fishers selling via the Open Food Network
The Fish Deli, Ashburton, Devon – fish from Devon day boats
Matthew Stevens, St. Ives, Cornwall – sustainable fish from Cornish day boats; shop and mail order
P J Tonkin, Newlyn, Cornwall – national delivery of fish caught by Newlyn day boats
Local Catch – information hub for fresh locally caught seafood around the UK, with map
If you know of more sources, please let us know.
3. Start a scheme
Guy Dorrell of Faircatch is prepared to advise people on how to set up a scheme in exchange for some help. He’ll host people overnight at his home, and they’ll go out with him to collect the fish and drop them off at the pick-up points, so that they can learn the ropes, see how everything works and decide if it’s for them. There are lots of little things to work out, not least how to get around the big distributors, who often try to punish small fishing boats who sell to anyone but them. More fishbox schemes would make it easier to avoid their bullying, as they could join together to ensure continued business for the fishing boats, so that they can avoid the big boys altogether. Let us know if you’re interested.
And here’s a report on the future of community-supported fisheries in the UK