Crossing the Pond to Talk CSFs

Shannon Eldrege, presenting at the FARNET conference.

Earlier this month I traveled to Stockholm, Sweden for the European Fisheries Areas
* (Farnet) “Marketing
the Local Catch
” workshop. FARNET is supported by the European Commission’s European Fisheries Fund. Representatives from Fisheries Local Action
Groups (FLAGs)
in 21 European countries descended upon the city to learn about how to help
fishermen develop & sell their region’s locally-caught fish in alternative
markets. The organizers of Farnet asked NAMA to participate in the “Short Chain
Markets: Community Supported Fisheries” lab. As a guest “expert,”I spent three days helping the FLAGs build a toolbox of resources and steps to starting
CSFs and fish box schemes around Europe’s coastal communities.

The concept of CSFs was fairly new to most of the FLAGs, who
were visiting from Spain, France, Greece, Italy, Estonia, Cyprus, Finland,
Latvia, the Netherlands, UK, and beyond. My co-expert was Jack Clarke, who
recently started the first CSF in the UK called “Catchbox,” and Paul Soto of

FARNET facilitated the lab, helping organize & translate concepts, problems, and
solutions for the diverse participants.

Over the three days, we discussed the basic components of a
CSF—how it works, who is involved, and gave the example of various CSF
initiatives in the United States, and the UK’s fish box scheme. We negotiated possible challenges
such as broker/fisherman relationships and lack of a local niche market, and
found solutions like incorporating intermediaries into the process and consumer
education of under-appreciated species.  The FLAGs, who spend time daily with fishermen in their
regions trying to discover new ways to market their catch as well as advocate for
fair prices and policies, created a ‘universal’ symbol for short chain markets
and laid out the bare bones steps to building a CSF.
Along some of Europe’s coasts, short chain markets and direct sales of fish have successfully existed for centuries, and the
participants shared the knowledge they’ve observed and learned from local
fishermen. In other places, the scale of the fishery is industrial, as is the
market. Independent fishermen are trying to carve out a niche for their smaller
catch because they believe short chains and direct sales will work well in
their communities, and provide all with a better product. 
But there are still
folks who believe this process could never work because the tradition of
auction-based sales for a global market, far removed from the fishermen and their communities, can never


In the end, European fisheries and markets
share a lot with what is happening in New England’s fishing communities, and
around the United States. The question that arose time and again in Stockholm around
short chain, direct sales and community-based markets was this: Can it work,
and can it change the face of the industry for the better? The answer, rooted
in hope was this: Yes it can. It starts with one fisherman and one consumer working
together to make a difference.

Shannon Eldredge is a commercial fisherman and a shellfish harvester on Monomoy Island and a weir fisherman in Nantucket Sound where her family has been involved in environmentally sound fishing practices using weirs, the oldest most passive way of fishing, since 1953. She serves on the board of directors of the Women of Fishing Families, is the co-propriotor of the Cape Cod Community Supported Fishery (CSF) and serves as the president of NAMA’s board of trustees.