Know Your Fisherman, Know Your Values: Local Seafood Summit 2016

This post is by NAMA Community Organizer Shira Tiffany

Community based fishermen from 19 US states, 3 Canadian provinces, Mexico, and Australia
docked their boats and gathered in Norfolk, VA in mid-February. These fishermen traveled from far and wide to talk about strategies for reaching their visions of making a sustainable livelihood as a steward of the ocean. Some are just dreaming up a Community Supported Fishery (CSF) business model or other direct marketing model and some are old hats. Well, “old” for CSFs. Alongside fishermen sat folks who run the business side of CSFs or direct seafood marketing operations and folks who build online infrastructure, advocate for, or invest in values based seafood businesses. We gathered together as members of the network to scheme, dream, and have some fun.

Connecting over Values Based Fishing Businesses

Sonia Strobel welcomed us to the Summit by sharing her story. Sonia is a Co-founder and the Managing Director of Skipper Otto’s CSF and one of the “old” hats. In 2008 the first CSFs were springing up across North America and Skipper Otto’s was in its infancy. Sonia described fledgling businesses popping up like popcorn. NAMA developed the first CSF guide, the CSF Bait Box, to help folks navigate the plentiful legal and logistical challenges.

Four years later the movement was expanding and we led a group in planning the first CSF Summit held in Rye, NH bringing together 65 people to launch the network. All the hard work of the Summit left our young network feeling exhausted.

First CSF Summit in Rye, NH

This year we co-sponsored the 2nd Local Seafood Summit convened by and left buzzing with the energy of a growing values-based seafood movement. The past eight years of nurturing the CSF movement have been an incredibly hopeful and inspiring and we are amazed at how the movement has grown.

Not only were we energized by the number of CSF businesses but by what they mean to the people behind them. It’s no surprise that folks who were in the room are motivated by deep shared values. They all made decisions, based on their values, to be part of a business model that that pays fishermen a fair price, rewards ecologically sustainable fishing practices, and educates the public about where their seafood comes from and the people who bring it to them. But still, starting a conversation about values at 8:45 am is tough. NAMA Coordinating Director Niaz Dorry inspired some laughter by asking us to use toilet paper from our hotel rooms as a tool to list out the values of our seafood businesses. We came up with a long list of shared values and got our brains churning around how to define them.

From left to right: Monique Coombs – Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association,
Taylor Witkin – Eating with the Ecosystem, and Alan Lovewell – Real Good
Fish talk about values

Comparing Values

Shared Values That Emerged from our Toilet Paper Activity

Throughout the three days of the Summit NAMA Community Organizer Brett Tolley and Founder Josh Stoll led a continuing conversation about values. Leading up to the Summit they scoured the websites, blogs, and fact sheets of the organizations in the room for their values. They noticed the values that came up over and over again and wrote them up in a draft narrative which they presented to the group. They were met with overwhelming agreement on the deeper motivations and values driving CSFs and a passion for figuring out how to say it right. We created a team to hone our shared narrative and look forward to sharing it with you in 2016 because we’re stronger together and #WhoFishesMatters.

The Dedicated Crew on the F/V Fishing w/Values

See you at the 3rd Summit! How many more values based seafood businesses will there be? I believe our course is headed for the thousands. Thank you Josh Stoll and the Planning Committee for your solid leadership.

Left to Right: Josh Stoll, Founder of, Susan Park,
Virgina Sea Grant, Stephanie Webb, UC Santa Cruz, Sonia Strobel, Skipper