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A Growing Movement for Community-Supported Fisheries

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Organic Transitions page.

Port Clyde, Me-  Heading toward his fifth hour of filleting, his thick rubber boots squeaking on the wet concrete floor, Glen Libby, a fisherman by trade, looks more like a beleaguered line cook than the hero of a seafood revolution.

Five years ago this month in this unspoiled fishing port immortalized by three generations of Wyeths, Mr. Libby and a half-dozen cohorts banded together to try to rescue their depleted fish stock and their profession.

The result ("after trial and error with a lot of error" in Mr. Libby's words) was Port Clyde Fresh Catch, the country's first community-supported fishery, now part of a burgeoning movement that tries to do for small-scale local fishermen what community-supported agriculture has done for farmers.

In the kitchen, community-supported fisheries require cooks to agree in advance to buy whatever fish or shellfish local fishermen catch. Fishermen are asked to embrace plentiful species like skate or redfish, once routinely tossed overboard. With about 80 percent of the seafood on the American plate imported and "traceability" the mandate du jour, community-supported fisheries of varying sizes and ambition are springing up around the country, from Cape Ann in Massachusetts to Santa Barbara in California. There are about 30 nationwide, including two in New York.   

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