Sustainable Fisheries Trusts

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Eric J. Siy:

"Sustainable fisheries trusts were born of the mounting need for new ways to aid community-based fishermen who stand as frontline stewards of the fisheries they have depended on for generations. Trusts now emerging in selected U.S. ports provide footholds for transforming the act of buying fish into a direct investment in the health of the fisheries where they are caught and the livelihoods of the fishermen who catch them. For example, calling it the “best investment you will ever taste,” Alaskans Own seafood “is harvested by independent fishermen whose commitment to conservation is supported by the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust.”

This marriage of mission and marketing represents a bold strategy for confronting the threats to Alaska’s wild fisheries and coastal communities—from industrial fishing practices, inadequate regulation and lack of financing—by empowering the very interests most at risk. Over time, proceeds from the sale of Alaskans Own ™ seafood will enable the Trust to provide increasing support for community based programs to improve fisheries conservation and local fishing economies. Profiles of the fishermen and examples of their hands-on conservation work are highlighted on the website. As promoted, “Through Alaskans Own the Trust offers a better choice for consumers that benefits coastal fishermen, their communities and the marine resource that sustains us all.”

As now being explored by fishing interests on the U.S. East and West Coasts, sustainable fisheries trusts in Alaska, Cape Cod, and other locations could be coordinated as a network—in the U.S. and beyond—that connects wild fisheries and fishing communities to each other and to markets hungry for their value-added products. Europe seems especially primed to become a partner in such a venture. Faced with similar threats and opportunities, “small-scale fisheries represent the overwhelming majority of fishing activities in all EU Member States; provide the most employment; are highly adaptable; and lend themselves readily to integration into the diversity of regional particularities across Europe” according to a recent blog. As in the U.S., deliberate actions aimed at engaging and empowering these fisheries by strategically harnessing demand would contribute directly to resource and community health. Reaching across regions and continents could also induce a significant multiplier effect, delivering a diverse array of community- and conservation-based seafood products while expanding benefits to fishermen and fisheries.

Among the defining elements of a responsive, integrated business model to accommodate this strategy are: guaranteed product quality and traceability; state of the art distribution from supplier to buyer—cutting costs, reducing food miles and carbon footprints, creating efficiencies and ensuring better prices for fishermen—accurate cost accounting; direct support of fishermen conservation programs; and sustainable fishing of fish sourced from healthy stocks." (