At the intersection of marine conservation and social, economic, environmental and food justice

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A Sneak Peek at!

This blog comes from Amanda Parks, co-founder of New England Fishmongers and part time commercial hand gear fisherman on the Maine/NH Seacoast.

In case you haven’t heard: October is National Farm to School Month! Although nearing its end, it is important to act like every month should be continually focused on providing students with healthy, fresh, and local foods. And, Farm to School isn’t just about the veggies – efforts have been made to merge the work of local seafood organizations alongside farmers trying to accomplish the same goal.

And to celebrate, we'll soon be launching the website.

Coming Soon! Website!
What will the website hold, you ask?
Seafood recipes that students love…check! 

Network of resources…check!

Printed guides…check!

Social media highlights…check!

Stories from across the country…check!

All this and more can be found soon on the new website. Don't everyone rush over there now because you won't see anything! I have been chipping away at the website over the summer and am glad to announce things are well on their way to going live. 

Prior to our launch which will be in the next few weeks, I wanted to share a few shots of what it will look like. This website will act as a tool to unite those working to bring local and sustainable seafood to their schools. There is a lot of great work going on from Sitka, Alaska to Gloucester, Massachusetts and many places in between. Our goal is to highlight these stories and keep the momentum going! 
Just a couple of projects on the map so far, more to come before the site goes live.
It is no easy task to find a way to successfully incorporate a system for sourcing, funding, and promoting a local seafood focus in the food service system. Through stories, resources, and contacts, everyone can share their ideas and solutions, and make their work effortless. 

If you are interested in contributing stories or acting as a member of the steering committee, please contact me at is one of the projects taken on by the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance and its partners in the Fish Locally Collaborative (FLC). Amanda Parks is part of the FLC's Moving Markets and Food Justice Workgroup. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Farm Aid 2015 - My Top Three Takeaways

This post comes to us from Brett Tolley, NAMA's community organizer.

I'll admit it -- I'm a huge Dave Matthews fan. Long ago I happened upon a discarded Dave CD in the woods by my high school. I dusted the dirt off and rocked out in my 1980 Volkswagen Rabbit (which I bought by digging steamer clams). It was love at first "Song that Jane Likes".

So when Farm Aid invited NAMA to join this year's event (for the 7th year in a row) you can imagine my excitement. Dave Matthews is a Farm Aid board member and performs each year. But looking back, it wasn't Dave or the other rock legends that stood out. It was the family farmers whose words, stories, and messages hit me harder than anything I ever blasted from my old beat-up VW.

Farm Aid -- the US's longest running "concert for a cause" is not just an event, it's a non-profit organization advancing the good food movement, supporting family farmers, and reshaping the system to reflect values such as justice, diversity, democracy, and sustainability. At NAMA we share these values and were honored to take part in our necessary work to build bridges between family farmers and fishers.

Joining us this year to host a Homegrown Village exhibit were inspirational organizations and friends like the National Family Farm Coalition, the Rural Coalition, Sitka Salmon Shares, Salmon Beyond Borders, Last Man Fishing, and members of the US Food Sovereignty Alliance. See our photo album here.

Fish and farm advocates stand together at 30th Anniversary of Farm Aid in Chicago.
An overarching theme of this year's Farm Aid was intergenerational knowledge and the "passing of the baton" between the movement's seasoned veterans and its new emerging leaders. As a young leader myself I was ready to sponge up everything I could. These are my top takeaways. 

Takeaway 1: Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help

David Senter, a farmer and leader of the American Agriculture Movement, told stories about the country's first "tractor-cades" -- convoys of farmers on their tractors bringing their complaints to policy makers. In 1977 David led a tractorcade to the Texas capital and upon arriving he confronted a police officer. The officer asked, "What are you doing?" And with a smile David responded, "We're here to protest... now if someone could just show us how to go about doing that, we'd appreciate it."

Similar to family fishermen, family farmers weren't always familiar with protest tactics and methods for movement building. Like a fish out of water, this can feel uncomfortable and lead to doubt or resistance. One farmer I met told me ... 
These same words could have been spoken along any docks of any given fish pier up and down any coast.

David inspired a movement of tractorcades across the country that eventually converged on Washington DC where thousands of farmers banded together to take on the injustices of the agriculture system. In the fish world we may not be there yet, but we're making headway.

For example, a few weeks ago NAMA and our networks organized with family fishermen to protest policies that are consolidating the fleet and privatizing the ocean commons (Sign the Petition) We reached 300,000 people through a Thunderclap campaign, and now have a wave of momentum heading toward DC to impact the national Fish Bill reauthorization (aka Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act) which is currently underway.

Tractorcades across the country helped spark a movement in support
of family farmer livelihoods and against industrial food monopolies
Takeaway 2: Connect the Old With the New

A farmer said to me, "We have a generational crisis on our hands. You won't believe this, but the average age of a farmer is around 60 years old." I said yes I believe you, because that's the same average age as the fishermen.

In both farming and fishing communities young people are being told there is no hope. Which is why Farm Aid designed workshops to address this challenge and ensure the younger people entering the movement are well equipped and supported.

At NAMA we're also making a strong commitment to support the next generation of change-makers, whether that means on our board, in our network's leadership, or though skills training and development. When it comes to the urgency of supporting our young food producers and advocates, fishers and farmers are in the same boat.

A new generation of fisher & healthy ocean advocates testify
with community-based fishermen at recent New England Council meetings
Takeaway 3: Keep Hope Alive

Mark Ritchie, former Minnesota Secretary of State and farmer advocate, said that if we are to succeed, we must keep hope alive. And to keep hope alive, we must continue building relationships and strengthening our networks. This reminded me of words from a fishing mentor that, "for relationship building, there is no substitute for face to face time and real human interaction. Today's computer technology is great, but don't forget that real connections are made it person."

Direct in-person connections are what helped spark the United Farmer and Rancher Congress in 1986 where 2,000 farmers traveled to St. Louis, Missouri. The gathering of rural caucuses across the country put forward policy solutions that stemmed the tide of the farming crisis and established the Farm Aid network -- still going strong for 30 years. Maybe its time for a 2nd United Farmer, Rancher, and FISHER Congress?! Count me on board.

Overall, I left Farm Aid inspired and energized. And in the words of Dave Matthews... 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Remembering Zeke Grader, Fisheries Warrior and Ocean Hero

This post comes from Sara Randall, an independent natural resource consultant specializing in commercial fisheries, food systems, and sustainable economies and is now based in her home state of Maine.

Last month, we saw the passing of Zeke Grader, a champion of our nation’s commercial fisheries, our fishing men and women, healthy ecosystems and the public trust.

Zeke Grader, San Francisco
I first met Zeke when I started working with him at the Institute for Fisheries Resources (IFR) and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA) in the fall of 2002. It happened to be right in the middle of Klamath River fish kill, the largest man-made fish kill in known western history.  I vividly remember answering distraught phone calls from those on the ground in the region relaying the gruesome scene of 65,000 adult spawning salmon and steelhead lying dead and decomposing on the banks of the Klamath and Trinity rivers. This ecological disaster was the result of the Bush Administration, through Bureau of Reclamation, allowing water diversions for irrigation to Klamath Basin ranchers and agri-business in clear violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  

Always on the side of fish and fishing families, Zeke led the way in bringing attention to the dangers these water diversions posed to the health of our salmon runs and ecological balance of our rivers.  He correctly pointed out that these water diversions reduce flow rates and raise water temperatures, a deadly combination for salmon attempting to return to their natal streams to spawn.

Never one to back down, Zeke ’s responded by initiating a lawsuit against the federal agency, and in an act that is remembered by many, orchestrated the delivery of 500 lbs. of rotting adult Klamath River salmon killed to the steps of the Department of the Interior headquarters in Washington, D.C. As I came to learn through my time working with Zeke, his career was characterized by this kind of bold and tenacious advocacy as a modern day warrior for our wild-caught fisheries.

Over the better part of the next decade, I had the privilege to continue working with Zeke as the Director of Programs at IFR, during which time we literally tackled every conceivable issue that affected the health and productivity of our fish bearing waterways and fishing communities. Throughout it all Zeke never tired or lost an ounce of passion and somehow managed to maintain a strong presence on local, regional, national, and international stages.

Zeke was an effective and tireless advocate for fishing families and the environment they depend on.  He devoted countless hours advocating for the modernization of the MSA.  Zeke’s efforts led to securing federal disaster relief for fishing families after the loss of fishing seasons due to water mismanagement on the Klamath and Sacramento rivers, and more effective oil spill prevention and response policies. Together we worked on efforts to warn consumers about the dangers of ocean salmon farming, to create a national organization for commercial fishermen, to stop the FDA’s approval of genetically engineered salmon, and to include fisheries in the sustainable food movement.

Grader at the Congressional Salmon Summit, 2010
Zeke warned of the of the negative social, economic, and environmental consequences of unfettered expansion of catch share fishery management systems, and pushed for the establishment of Community Fishing Associations as a method for communities to maintain fishing access. Zeke wasn’t afraid to take important issues to court and lead the charge to legally protect fisheries, especially when it came to accelerating the painfully slow process of water quality restoration under the Clean Water Act.  He was a master of utilizing locally-caught fresh seafood to connect decision makers to commercial fishermen and to illustrate the importance of keeping our aquatic ecosystems healthy.

During my tenure, PCFFA & IFR worked for dam removal on several important salmon bearing waterways, including spending many years at the negotiating table for the removal of four dams on the Klamath River. The resulting dam removal agreement, the 2010 Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, would be the largest dam removal project in history and plans to open 420 miles of salmon habitat.

Dysfunctional water rights policies required Zeke to spend a lot of time working for fewer water diversions and increased water flows on salmon bearing rivers and streams. This work pitted Zeke against powerful and deep-pocketed agri-business and urban water districts, as well as resistant state and federal agencies and, as others have noted, Zeke never flinched.

Despite the long battles he was so often forced to engage in, Zeke never lost his humor and would always take time to have in-depth conversations and build community. Zeke often hosted “Beer Fridays” in his office overlooking San Francisco Bay where he would relay war stories with old friends and impart knowledge on younger workers.

As most who witnessed Zeke in action know, he was not afraid to speak truth to power and did not mince words in doing so.  As just one example, in 2006, when the regulators were trying to close the commercial salmon season due to the 2002 Klamath Fish Kill, Zeke pointed out that without efforts to address the water over-allocation that led to their decline, “putting fish back into a river that's killing them makes as much sense as tossing virgins into a volcano". Later he also was quoted as saying, "There is, in fact, more evidence for the low flows killing these fish than there is for Iraq having weapons of mass destruction”.

Grader with Jane Lubchenco, Pietro Parravano and Sara Randall.
Using his characteristic wit, he was able to summarize and boil down complex regulations, policies, and scientific concepts in a way that allowed lay people to understand while at the same time placing the issue into the broader political, social, and economic context. He was a verbal bomb thrower and his spoken acuity could singlehandedly change the dynamic and direction of public discourse. Zeke was so verbally nimble and quick on his feet that few dared to debate with him in public. At the same time, his deep intelligence and straightforwardness enabled him to be a powerful diplomat. Zeke worked with and advised leaders at every level of industry and government.  Innumerous times throughout his career he was able build bridges and create understanding between communities with disparate viewpoints. Through these talents he earned the respect of many, even his opponents.

Before my time working with him, Zeke’s accomplishments included leading the effort to pass legislation for a conservation plan to double wild salmon numbers in California, and then used the legislation to reform the federal Central Valley Project. This work eventually led to the passage of the 1992 Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA), which reserved 800,000 acre-feet of water for the environment and is known as the most important water policy reform legislation ever passed by Congress.  In 1998 Vice President Al Gore presented Zeke with NOAA’s Environmental Hero Award.

Zeke and many former staffers at his retirement party earlier this year

One of Zeke’s greatest legacies is the number of young people he directly mentored and inspired. Through the years that I worked for him Zeke directly mentored over 20 individuals, many of them coming from the AmeriCorps Watershed Stewards Project (as I did), and later from the Golden Gate University School of Law. It is clear that Zeke made an impact on their lives and careers long after their stint at IFR came to an end.  Most continue to work in the natural resource field for commercial fishing groups, environmental organizations; and regional, state, and local government.

In memorializing Zeke, his friend Leon Panetta said, “if our oceans are the ‘salt in our veins,’ Zeke Grader is the fire in our spirit”. Indeed, Zeke’s legacy demonstrates the difference one person can make in the world through perseverance and determination. He will be missed by many.  

Here's more about Zeke's life and work from The Scuttlefish,  the Santa Rosa Press Democrat and the LA Times.