Turning the Tide for Coastal Fisheries

Entry Overview

Fresh. Fair. Fish
Entrant Image: 
Off the Hook Community Supported Fishery
2705 Fern Lane
B3K 1T1 Halifax, Nova Scotia
44° 39' 24.0696" N, 63° 35' 46.6764" W
Describe the problem: 

The collapse of the Atlantic Canadian groundfish fishery in the early 1990’s remains globally significant in terms of its ecological and social consequences. In addition to the cod stocks, small-scale fishers and coastal communities were also decimated. Gradual rebuilding of near shore groundfish stocks, coupled with a growing demand for sustainable seafood, offers new opportunities to expose small-scale, sustainable fisheries to the marketplace and to involve fishers in marketing initiatives. Off the Hook (OTH) Community Supported Fishery (CSF) was created to directly link fishers and consumers. OTH also engages in customer education on fisheries management issues, with government on policy initiatives and in research to better understand the impacts of fishing on marine diversity.

Biodiversity Impact: 
OTH supports small-scale fishers engaged in ecologically sustainable fisheries,who are also interested in economically and socially sustainable enterprises. Our fishers use hook and line gear, which promotes ecosystem health by its inherent inefficiency and its minimal contact with the sea floor. OTH fishers are also engaged in research to further minimize the impact of their fishery on marine diversity and are exploring the use of groundfish traps to reduce fishing related mortality of species considered threatened or endangered. Engaging fishers in market-based solutions allows them to benefit directly from consumer demand for sustainable seafood. Our fishers make 3-4 times more per pound of fish than the usual price at the dock and are rewarded for good fishing practices. OTH is supported by its immediate community and creates a link between coastal communities, farming communities and urban centers. The CSF also provides a conduit for information sharing between farmers and fishers. OTH engagement with provincial regulators has resulted in a rethinking of how small-scale fisheries can be supported as social enterprises. The use of social media has resulted in a better understanding by customers of the conditions and uncertainty faced by fishermen. While the fishermen still sell part of their catch to traditional buyers, the engagement process with customers, government, media and the sustainable food movement has the power to transform both how we view wild fisheries and how coastal communities can benefit from the growing demand for sustainable seafood.
Human Well Being and Livelihood Impact: 
Our solution directly impacts two distinct groups, OTH fishers and their families, and OTH subscribers, Indirectly, we are also engaging in the larger conversation about local food and food security, which ultimately impacts a much broader sector of the population. Through OTH, fishers are paid $2.50 per pound for haddock, hake or cod. This is in contrast to the approximately $.85/pound they would receive if they sold the fish on the commercial market. The price on the commercial market (kept low by the industrial bottom trawl fleet) is not sufficient to cover the costs of a typical fishing trip, which is why most of the hook and line fleet has been forced out of the fishery. Because OTH fishers are paid in advance for their catch, if they cannot make it out to the fishing grounds because of bad weather, extreme tides, or mechanical problems, they aren’t forced to go out. OTH makes social, environmental, and economic sense, and empowers the fishers involved as well as creates a sense of pride in the community. OTH directly improves the well being of its subscribers (> 250 people over two years). We provide a constant and reliable source of healthy food in way that connects people to the food and the fishers. Subscribers get to meet the fishers who catch their fish each week, and learn about the issues facing coastal fishing communities. Many of our subscribers order whole fish, which enables them to learn about how to prepare and utilize the entire fish and not just the portions they would receive at the grocery store. // OTH believes that a sustainable solution must involve an alternative governance model that better reflects and protects the collective values small-scale fishing communities. OTH fishers decided to form a for-profit cooperative, which offered important advantages over traditional market approaches. Ensuring that decision-making power, as well as potential profits, remain in the community is central to the cooperative model and a key goal of OTH. It was viewed that resource sharing networks, bargaining power and lower transaction costs could allow the community to increase their collective financial efficiency and productivity. EAC also worked with OTH to facilitate the development of governance structures that could work to safeguard the goals of the co-operative, including a set of bylaws and a policy manual. A statement of objectives was created by the cooperative members to guide the future direction of OTH: “While providing quality products through meaningful work and sensible fishing, OTH strives to exemplify the cooperative spirit, foster community connections, and maintain a direct relationship with its customers, all without harming the environment.” OTH's unique governance structure contributes to sustainable fisheries solutions by anchoring engagement processes around the sustainable food movement in a local coastal community, creating a nexus where customers, government, media, and fishermen are working together to articulate and promote a collective vision for local sustainable fishing communities, a vision that can be shared all over the world.
How many years has your solution been applied 2 years // Have others reproduced your solution elsewhere? Yes // OTH has a three-year business plan, and at present the Ecology Action Centre, a community-based non-profit environmental organization provides coordination services for the OTH Co-operative. The Co-operative members meet regularly with the EAC staff to formulate businesss and communications plans as well as discuss research proposals and policy barriers. EAC was contracted by the co-op on a fee-for-service basis to conduct the marketing start-up and daily management for OTH. This strategic partnership has worked well because of the specialized skills and contacts the EAC could offer to the CSF, including building and marketing the CSF using various means, including events promotion, media engagement and financial management. Staff are also able to access a wide network of Halifax-based contacts, including groups actively participating in the food movement, sustainable fisheries reform, sustainable seafood marketing, local business development and marine conservation science.
In Atlantic Canada, the most significant human impact on the marine environment is fishing. It is well known that some methods of fishing are much more damaging than others, both to the target species, non-target species and to fish habitat. As compared to bottom trawling, which can permanently alter seafloor communities, catches large quantities of fish and can target spawning aggregations, hook and line fishing gear causes negligible damage to the sea floor (particularly in near shore areas where corals and sponges are in low abundance), and can be much more selective by setting at different depths and using selective bait. Because fishing is often done in fairly shallow water and lines are pulled in shortly after they are set, non-target fish can often be unhooked and released. Near shore fisheries use much less fuel than larger trawling vessels. OTH fishers are experimenting with using fish traps where all fish caught would be landed alive; non-target species as well as those deemed threatened or endangered could be released. OTH fishers are very aware of marine species needing protection and are also able to input information into the scientific process of developing species recovery plans and identifying spawning areas. An active, healthy and sustainable fishery is also the best protection against oil and gas exploration and drilling. It can also be argued that coastal communities are under threat of disappearing, and hook and line vessels employ more people per fish caught than larger trawl vessels. // Our fishing area (NAFO 4x) has an approximate area of 7,250,000 hectares. The approximate area on land where our solution is being applied is 360,000 hectares. Beyond the area that is directly affected by our solution, Off the Hook has had a broader influence through extensive media coverage: Globe & Mail , Chronicle Herald, CBC mainstreet, Radio Canada, CKDU, The Coast, Global TV, CBC Land & Sea. We have approximately 700 ƒ??likesƒ? on Facebook, 357 followers on Twitter, and our web page receives over 10,000 visit per month.

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