Sustainable Local Fish: Brought To You By the Off the Hook CSF Coop

About two weeks ago, I had the chance to attend a public talk about Off the Hook and sustainable fishing practices. The turnout was great and included EAC staff and friends, local community members who are generally interested in CSF, a local chef and restaurant owner, CSF share holders, a Conservation Society representative, an Off the Hook co-op member fisherman, a member of Slow Food, and a Capital Centre representative.

The presenters were Sadie Beaton, EAC staff member and Off the Hook coordinator, and Beau Gillis, Off the Hook co-op fisherman. Beau is a local “bottom hook and line” fisherman out of Digby County, NS. He gave us an excellent history lesson on the environmental changes resulting from the widespread switch from hook and line fishing to dragging. He also discussed the economic impact of the change in method and in local ecology.

Beau brought in some fishing gear and demonstrated the logistics of bottom hook and line fishing – everything from how he puts hooks on his line to trade secrets regarding the best places to catch fish!

Throughout the presentation, questions and concerns around the economics of fishing were raised by presenters and audience members alike. Beau was very open about the issue, having even brought in a sampling of his bills and receipts from the past season.

Specifics of Off the Hook were also addressed. One CSF subscribed in the audience asked about the risk that CSF shareholders take by investing (aka paying upfront for a weekly delivery of fresh, local, sustainably caught fish). Just like investing in a CSA (community supported agriculture), investing in a CSF does hold a certain level of risk due to the nature of the industry. Quite literally, due to environment, a fisherman (or farmer) cannot guarantee you a specific amount of fish (or produce) with each delivery. Instead, you agree to share the ups and downs of the season with the fisherman (or, in the case of a CSA, the farmer). CSF subscribers in the audience made it clear that they are proud to share this risk with fishermen like Beau.

The meeting had certainly whet my appetite, leaving me inspired to find out more about CSFs. The meeting also left me disenchanted with supermarket fish and much of the fishing industry. Being from the South Shore, the long-term sustainability of Nova Scotia’s fishing industry is especially important to me – as it is to many others like Beau Gillis and the other Off the Hook Coop fishermen.

For more information on Off the Hook and sustainable fishing practices, please visit http://www.offthehookcsf.ca/.

Yours in fish, Jenny

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