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

Monday, December 5, 2016

South County Hospital Wins the Local Food Challenge

As a member of Food Solutions New England (FSNE) we're excited to share this post from the FSNE blog. This post comes from John Stoddard, Healthy Food in Health Care Coordinator for the global non-profit organization, Health Care Without Harm. John works throughout New England on facilitating local and sustainable food procurement for health care institutions, with a specific focus on Connecticut and Rhode Island. We collaborated with Health Care Without Harm on a Seafood Throwdown in Rhode Island in September.

Health Care Without Harm congratulates South County Hospital for winning the Rhode Island Health Care Local Food Challenge.  South County outperformed their competitors in local food purchasing, education, and employee engagement, and has won $1000 in honor of their great efforts. “At South County we make every effort to provide a comfortable and healing environment for our patient, staff, and visitors, and the food we serve is a big part of that”, said Meghan Keenan, Director of Food and Nutrition.  “We also recognize our role in the community to support our local economy and our local food producers, and that a strong local food economy means a healthier community overall”.
RI Food Challenge Roger Williams demo

Five Rhode Island hospitals competed in the Local Food Challenge in addition to South County, including Bradley Hospital, The Miriam Hospital, Newport Hospital, Our Lady of Fatima Hospital, and Roger Williams Medical Center. “All of the hospitals in the Challenge deserve congratulations”, said John Stoddard, Healthy Food in Health Care Coordinator for Health Care Without Harm. “Each participant went the extra mile to purchase local foods and educate about local foods in their facilities.” 
The Local Food Challenge began in May 2015 and concluded in September 2016 with a Seafood Throwdown at the Rhode Island Seafood Festival in Providence.  Participants competed throughout the year in the areas of purchasing, education, and employee engagement around local foods.  Through the Challenge, participants collectively spent over $314,000 on local foods, held 17 educational events, and 251 employees were given access to local foods through Farm Fresh Rhode Island’s Veggie Box program.  Congratulations to South County and all the participants for their work.  Our farmers, fishers, and the whole community thanks you! 
Health Care Without Harm administered the Challenge through a LASA grant, while utilizing the support of our partners, Farm Fresh Rhode IslandNorthern Rhode Island Area Health Education Center and The Hospital Association of Rhode Island (HARI).

Thursday, November 17, 2016

"We Don't Need the Rest" A Lesson in Not Taking More Than the Ocean Can Give

“Bonito!” Ernie calls out with excitement. As we move the boat across the purse net we gather the rope, cinching it closed, herding the fish together. A larger striped silvery fish swims in and out of sight between lots of pogies and a few small squid and butterfish. The first bonito gets stuck on the net right below Mo who grabs it, wriggles it loose from the net, and tosses it into the boat. Yes! Bonito!

Owen Nichols holding our first bonito
Owen Nichols holding our first bonito
Shannon takes a minute to stitch up a hole in the net that’s big enough for a bonito to escape through. Water splashes my arms and I just keep giggling - feeling so happy to be with friends learning about their way of fishing. I pause to take a breath of fresh salty air when a pogie flops out of Owen’s dip net and onto my back and I burst out laughing again. The sun is shining on calm water all around us and it’s a perfect temperature with just t-shirts under our oil skins on a morning in late June. Owen, Russell, and Ernie, fill dip nets with pogies, scooping them out of the trap’s purse and into bins Shannon is stacking. Mo and I splash around in the bottom of the boat retrieving escaped pogies off the floor and back into the bins and tossing butterfish outside of the trap.

Almost all the pogies are in the bins when Shannon says, “We don’t need the rest.” What? After all this we’re going to release the rest? We’re not taking everything? As Owen, Shannon and Ernie lift up the net and fling the rest back out to sea I notice my instinct to take everything we could. That instinct to hoard fish, permits and quota is driving our fisheries and fishing communities to the brink. Instead of saying “we don’t need the rest” industrial fishing operations, corporate ownership and privatization policies reward those who take more than the ocean can give. Shannon’s generational connection to the ocean goes beyond immediate financial gain and values the next generation’s ability to feed people.
Mo, Shannon and Ernie release the extra fish
On the way back to shore Russell gestures to the vast ocean horizon, “however many fish are coming through, we’ll always only catch the very very small fraction of whatever happens to pass into our nets. If there’s a lot of fish swimming around we’ll probably catch more and if there aren’t as many, we’ll catch less.” The traps  naturally catch a healthy amount of fish relative to what’s swimming any day or year or decade or century. Weir traps have been used in North America for thousands of years. 65,000 stakes of ancient weirs were discovered by workers digging Boston’s Back Bay subway in 1913. Archaeologists say that between 3,700 and 4,700 years ago, native peoples captured tomcod, flounder, eels and herring in an ancient bay. Now weir fishing is extremely rare. SlowFish 2016 gathered community based fishermen from across North America in New Orleans, LA for three days of sharing stories, their catch, and strategizing about policy. Shannon and Russell attended along with Erica Porter who fishes her family’s weir in Nova Scotia, Canada. They run a low tide fishing weir, one of the last weirs in Nova Scotia. Erica’s been fishing the weir with her dad since she was 17.
Russell Kingman and I talk on the way back to the trap dock
Ernie Eldredge has been fishing the weirs full time since he graduated high school. Ernie’s father fished the weirs before him and now Ernie fishes with his daughter Shannon Eldredge, NAMA Board President, and her partner Russell Kingman. Back at the dock, Ernie hauls up the bins of pogies and takes a look at the three bonito in the bucket. Ernie thought it would be the last day of fishing but now that there were a few bonito in there, he might have to test his luck. Maybe the bonito will start showing up in greater numbers.
Ernie hauling the bins up to the Stage Harbor trap dock

Friday, October 14, 2016

Black Live, White House, Rays of Hope

This blog comes from Niaz Dorry, NAMA's Coordinating Director.

I'm bracing myself for what will come from this writing. Last time I wrote about the connection between racial inequities and fisheries and seafood was back in December 2012. In return, we received the most belligerent responses and the most number of unsubscribes from our newsletter. Clearly, we made some people uncomfortable. Good. For too long, our comfort has come on the backs of many who have been uncomfortable for a long, long time.

Since that writing, we have challenged ourselves to continue to address racial inequities as we do our work. During our strategic planning process this year, our board called for dignity for all people as one of our core values. And, when The Movement For Black Lives issued a policy platform earlier this year, we proudly endorsed it.

Back in 2012, the most consistent comment we heard was "what does race have to do fisheries/seafood?" As our board eloquently stated "Marginalization of any peoples is rooted in a long history of racism, exclusion, and oppression."

Many fishermen I've gotten to know over the past 22 years have told me they feel abused by the system, excluded from the process, and marginalized by fisheries policies. And, despite the multi-billion dollar global seafood trade, those who need it most are going hungry because we have been treating seafood as the food of the privileged. 

Truth is that we started down the slippery slope of choosing who matters when we decided that some people are expendable by decimating indigenous peoples, taking Africans as slaves, and declaring that the color of our skin and ethnicity determines our worth.

When it comes to fisheries issues, neo-liberal policies like Catch Shares have created inequities in the system that have marginalized majority of those who live in coastal communities, have the smallest ecological footprint, and rely on seafood for essential food and income. All the while, these same policies have continued to put fisheries in danger, leading to decline of ecosystems, and putting profit for those with greatest means above all else.

In the face of all this, it's easy to want to give up. I'm not writing all this to make you feel overwhelmed; just sufficiently-whelmed enough to want to change the status quo.

Change requires a real RevolOcean filled with hope and possibilities. And we are seeing it happen in real life. Just last week, some of our allies working to shift the system were recognized as Champions of Change by the White House. Others are running thriving values-based seafood operations that are prioritizing feeding their communities first. And more are fighting against policies that challenge inequities.

So bring on the emails! We're ready for them. We're ready to absorb the heat of the hatred and the warmth of the love, and reflect it all back as rays of hope as we walk down the RevolOceanary Road.


Monday, September 19, 2016

Top 10 Reasons Why We Keep Going to Farm Aid

This post comes from NAMA's Coordinating Director, Niaz Dorry.

My first day back from Farm Aid 2016, I see top 10 lists from Billboard and Rolling Stone magazines. Not to be outdone, I thought it’s time for my own list. So here it is: Top 10 Reasons Why We Keep Going to Farm Aid.

10. The #Road2FarmAid is paved with deep collaboration and camaraderie between old and new friends. This year, we once again teamed up with an old friend, the National Family Farm Coalition, and a new friend Fair Farms, whose staff went to town creating the “Wheel of Farming and Fishing” game for the HOMEGrown Village showing how what happens on land affects the water. The game made the Washington Post’s coverage. Watch their live Facebook video.

From L to R: Mitchelle Stephenson of Fair Farms, NAMA' Niaz Dorry, Betsy Garrold of Food for Maine's Future, Anna Hankins of National Family Farm Coalition, Siena Chrisman, Lisa Griffith of NFFC, and Savi Horne of Land Loss Prevention Project ready to rock the Homegrown Village!
9. This year’s Farm Advocate gathering was focused on the corporate control of food system with stories about contract chicken farmers’ fight against Tyson and other corporations who have the farmers and chickens under their thumbs. The stories are stunningly similar to the story of the privatization, consolidation, and corporate takeover of the ocean and fishing rights. It’s good to be there to bring home these parallels because we can’t fight them alone.

8. Every year we have an adventure getting seafood to Farm Aid so we can share the story of community based fishermen far and wide. This year was no exception. Thanks to Sharon Peele Kennedy of Buxton, NC, we were able to get 100 lbs of Pamlico Sound shrimp from F/V Miss Wanda and 100 pounds of Spanish Mackerel to feed the crew and artists. With limited transportation for the small-scale fishermen’s catch, we relied on the Island Hopper that typically transports medical supplies to get the seafood there!

F/V Miss Wanda Photo by Amy Huggins Gaw 
7. We had seafood for the concertgoers again this year. Basnight Lone Cedar Cafe once again brought shrimp and grits to the arena, and this year added yellowfin tuna bites all caught by small scale fishermen of the Outer Banks. Hidden Jules’ Rambler Food Truck brought wild salmon to the menu!

Hanging with the Basnight Lone Cedar Cafe - the calm before the storm!

6. This year we got to introduce Farm Aid fans to one of our new friends: Big Island Aquaculture. The father and son team of Bruce and Daniel Vogt came with 600 of their Big Island Pearls to the delight of the VIP tent guests. Farm Aid wrote a “Farmer Hero” blog about Daniel’s love toward his oysters, and even gave us a shout out stating “NAMA is a partner to us because we recognize that farmers and fishers are at the root of a healthy food system and they face many of the same hurdles and opportunities.”

5. We once again were able to supply the VIP tent with wild shrimp caught by F/V Miss Wanda. Yours truly got to play host and serve the shrimp all afternoon to delighted eaters. And I got to say “this shrimp was caught on Tuesday by a boat named Wanda!”
Doing my best to represent and do the shrimp justice in the VIP tent!
4. All this seafood was made possible because of our friendship and collaboration with Farm Aid since 2008, the same year we became a member of the National Family Farm Coalition who was instrumental in introducing our work to Farm Aid. For the past five years, Farm Aid’s Homegrown Concessions has opened up to seafood that matches their values. Thanks to Sonya Dagovitz and Glenda Yoder of Farm Aid for welcoming us with open arms.

3. Farm Aid gives us a platform to connect those who care about who grows and raises their landfood with those who catch and grow their seafood. It’s this kind of cross collaboration that will ultimately allows us to be able to win the battle for food that matches our collective values and stop the policies that are undermining our land and sea food.

Farm Aid food service volunteers included culinary students from Virginia, and here are three of them as they start to clean 100 pounds of shrimp from F/V Miss Wanda.
2. The music is amazing, even if I have yet to watch the show! Luckily, we are usually there before the actual concert and get to hear the sound check and rehearsals as we set up for various things. Getting to meet a few of these inspirational artists that are selflessly giving of their time and talent is priceless. This year I got to spend some time with Dave Amram, who someone appropriately called the “Magic Man!” He went on to tell me wistfully of his admiration for family farmers and fishermen, and his connections to Gloucester.

Listening in on the sound check with Wisconsin farmer Joel Greeno and Betsy Gerrold of Food for Maine's Future. 
1. I always come home exhausted! It’s the kind of exhaustion that makes you realize fighting the corporate agenda is tiring, but it’s possible. And you know that because you just came back from hanging out with a few thousand people who are committed to standing up for values across our food system, starting with those who catch, raise, and grow both our land and sea food.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Values-Driven Fisheries, Strength in Numbers!

This post comes from Dawn Tucker with End-O-Main Lobster and fishing family out of Wickford, Rhode Island

My name is Dawn (McAlister) Tucker and I am a family member of a fisherman in Wickford, Rhode Island. We are a small day boat fishing business involved in several fisheries with a dragger, lobster boat and we are also aquaculturists. 

that's me on the right
Since November of 2015 I have been working on initiatives to market (some of) our catch directly to the community. In Rhode Island this is a very daunting and expensive endeavor for small business fishermen.  

Through my research, I have come across and have tapped into several organizations that support direct marketing initiatives. is one network that falls right in line with my efforts. The fishermen in this group came together and created a core values document that I would like to share with fishermen, their families and communities everywhere. 

You can find these core values online at 
and you can also read them further below. 

In addition, I'd like to share some other regional/national organizations that I learned about over the last 6 months. I think every small scale fisherman and their families should be aware of these folks if you are not already. 

Specifically in Rhode Island, I'd like to connect with other fishermen and their families who have the same interest to direct market. It seems as if we are way far behind what other states are accomplishing with this initiative.

our family's fishing vessel, F/V Matrix
I have learned that fishermen are so busy fishing and dealing with fishery regulations, boat and crew maintenance, working long hours, that you do not have the time to be involved with what happens to our seafood when it comes off the boats.  It's just easier to send it off to the dealers and be done even if direct marketing is something you are interested in.  

What happens to our seafood when it comes off the boat and into the food system is a completely whole other world. However, neither would exist without the other. I feel there is a layer missing here in Rhode Island that connects the fishermen to the community and I have been working feverishly to bridge this gap. 

My goals are to educate the community on our RI locally caught seafood and get the Department of Health regulations modified to increase access directly from the fishermen to the consumer through community supported fisheries, fishermen's co-ops, off the boat sales, pop-up dockside fishermens markets, or selling at farmers markets.  

I am also researching the possibility of a mobile seafood processing unit that would be accessible to all fishermen that could be moved from port to port. If you are in Rhode Island and are interested in direct marketing through, community supported fisheries, fishermens co-ops, off the boat sales, pop-up dockside fishermans markets, or selling at farmers markets, please send me a note of interest by July 31st, with your name, contact number/email, what fisheries you are involved in and what port you fish from to

Here are some Rhode Island specific group's that we should be aware of:

Some other things you should be aware of are that the students at the Universities and Culinary Schools are making great strides with leading food movements to source locally from farms and fishermen.  Being tapped in as fishermen and families, aligning around shared values, and connecting to the above organizations, I see great things are coming down the pike.  Again, strength in numbers!

Thanks for reading, please share this with your fishermen friends and families and I look forward to hearing from some of you in RI. 


Forward - The purpose of this document is for the network to express, align, and strengthen its shared values. These value statements aim to create a higher level of accountability and trust, both internally within the network and externally to the public, in order to advance the movement of Community Supported Fisheries (CSF) and like-minded community-based seafood operations. These value statements are intended to be addressed holistically and are not ranked according to importance. The values reflect our collective aspirations and what we are working toward, not necessarily what is the current status quo. We define ‘values’ as standards of behavior or one’s judgement over what is important in life.

Community-Based Fisheries
Community-based fisheries enhance the social, ecological, and cultural fabric of our coastal communities. At the heart of community-based fisheries are community-based fishermen* who live and work in the communities where they fish. They are typically independent, owner-operators*, and are inherently committed to the long-term health of the marine ecosystem. Seafood supply chains and policies should foster and strengthen community-based fisheries.

Fair Access
Community-based fisheries cannot survive without equitable access* to the ocean commons. Fisheries access should be kept affordable, available to future generations,
and connected to the communities where they are fished. The ocean and its resources should be held in public trust and not privatized*.

Fair Price
Paying a fair price to fishermen, processors, and shore-side businesses helps support local economies and increases the quality of life for all those whose hands touch our fish. Community-based seafood should be available and affordable for all communities, and must be balanced against the needs and limits of the ocean as well as fishermen’s ability to sustain a livelihood with dignity and joy. Paying a fair price is also based on a conservation ethic where fishermen are able to attain higher value for lower volume of catch, which places less pressure on the fish stocks.

Eating with the Ecosystem
Eating with the ecosystem means matching our seafood consumption to the rhythms of nature and place. It means celebrating and respecting a region’s marine biodiversity by harvesting a diversity of seafood and respecting the unique seasonality of every species and fishery. It means appreciating the ocean as a complex ecological system and engaging and educating consumers to enable them to become conscious consumers of the ocean’s food production capacity.

Traceable and Simple Supply Chains
Traceable and simple supply chains promote trust and a more direct relationship between
fishermen, the public, consumers, retailers, wholesalers, managers and chefs. More direct and simple supply chains help maximize value to the fishermen and consumer. Information on who, how, where, and when a fish was caught, processed and distributed should be readily available to consumers. We encourage all seafood consumers to try local* first.

Catch and Handle with Honor
From sea to table, strict levels of quality control and safe handling practices ensure that we honor the fish, its life, and its role in our food system. This also means minimizing waste by using the whole animal as much as possible, and educating consumers about how to make use of and care for the whole fish.

Community and Ecosystem Based Fisheries Management
Fisheries management is key for maintaining sustainable fish stocks and livelihoods. Management should be bottom-up, ecosystem-based, and foster collaboration between fishermen, scientists, policy makers, and the broader public. Management should combat illegal fishing, consolidation, and privatization. Management should also address non-fishing impacts that threaten the health of our fisheries, such as climate change, ocean acidification, and pollution.

Honoring the Ocean
Seafood connects and incentivizes the broader public to care for marine ecosystems. By
eating seafood and knowing who, what, when, and how a fish was caught, the public is taking the health of wild fisheries, coastal communities and the ocean into its own hands. Not only is the commitment to healthier marine ecosystems crucial, but it is also a moral imperative that ensures future generations will inherit a clean and healthy ocean.

Creativity and Collaboration
Building a better seafood system requires innovation, creativity, and thinking outside the box. It also requires that innovative ideas are not isolated but rather spread through a network of diverse stakeholders working together, aligning around shared values, and acting. Creativity and networking fosters knowledge sharing, collective understanding, and mentorship needed to build a better future.


Fishermen: This is an inclusive and gender-neutral term for us, and the one used most commonly among women who fish in our network. It’s meant to refer to those who might also use the terms fish harvesters, fisherwomen, fishermisses, fishers, and intertidal gatherers, as well as those practicing restorative aquaculture on a sustainable scale.

Community-based fishermen: Community-based fishermen live and work in the communities where they fish. They are typically independent, owner-operators and the bulk of the boat’s earned income circulates within close range of the community. This contrasts with fishing operations that extract money and resources from coastal communities and circulate them elsewhere, often carried out by large corporations or investors without community ties. Community-based fishermen operate small and medium scale boats that match the scale of the ecosystems where they fish. They are ecological experts attuned to the nuances of ocean rhythms, fish migration patterns, and spawning habitat. Community-based fishermen are part of the social fabric that builds identity and culture within a community. The term community-based also reminds us that what is possible in one region may not necessarily be possible in another due to differences in marine ecosystems, infrastructure, community interest, and more.

Owner-operator: Owner-operators are holders of fishing rights (through licenses or other legal means) who also operate the vessel fishing, thus ensuring a direct connection between fisheries resources and the fisherman. The owner-operator principle has had a major positive effect in keeping fisheries access in the hands of community-based fishing fleets, which for many rural coastal communities is the largest private sector employer.

Non owner-operators include holders of fishing rights who permanently hire captains and crew. Other examples consist of: speculative investors, industry processors looking to secure access, and retired fishermen who finance their entire retirement plan with no regard for a fair transition to next generation fishermen.

The owner-operator principles also applies to businesses along the seafood supply chain whether its processing, operating a CSF, or a wholesale operation. We value control over these businesses remaining in the hands of those who are working the business, rather than far-away investors or companies that have no stake in the health or welfare of the community-based fishery.

Access: Access refers to two distinct concepts. The first is related to access to fishing rights for community-based fishermen. Due to regulations (e.g. area closures and privatization), non-fishing impacts (e.g. climate change and pollution), and development (e.g. working waterfront displacement and development) access for community-based fishermen is constantly threatened. Access also refers to food access. The LocalCatch network stands for seafood suppliers who want to ensure that their high-quality seafood is made available whenever possible to regions and communities that face challenges associated with food security.

Privatization: The act of transforming fishing access rights into monetary, private-property assets, which allows for the purchase of permits and quotas to consolidate upward to the most affluent, and often far-removed corporations. The ocean and its resources should be held in a public trust for current and future generations and not privatized. Nor should policies be designed to further consolidate fisheries access into fewer hands. Fair access to the ocean commons is supported by purchasing seafood from community based fishermen and by advocating for better policy that protect and promote, independent, owner-operators.

Local Seafood: Defining “local seafood” is difficult and complex because “local” means different things depending on location, marine ecosystem, and more. For example, ‘local seafood’ to someone living in Alaska is very different from someone living in Omaha. Therefore rather than propose an all encompassing definition of “local seafood,” we provide  some considerations we make when defining local in the context of our individual fisheries and communities.

  • Customer proximity to where the fish is landed
  • Customer proximity to where the fish was caught
  • Customer proximity to the fisherman
  • Distance travelled by product in the supply chain
  • Management boundary of the fishery
  • Relationship between the fisherman and consumers

About A community-of-practice that is made up of fisherman, organizers, researchers, and consumers from across North America that are committed to providing local, healthful, low-impact, and economy sustainable seafood via community supported fisheries (CSFs) and other direct marketing arrangements.

We seek to increase the visibility and viability of community-based fishermen and aim to provide assistance to individuals and organizations that need support envisioning, designing, and implementing locally-relevant businesses that work towards a triple bottom line.