Thursday, April 29, 2010

Nourish me with Sustainable Fish

I had the privilege of attending Nourish Restaurant's Sustainable Local Fish Dinner on April 20th. Karen Masterson, Nourish's Owner collaborated with the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance to "Celebrate the earth, its ocean and those who bring us food from the ocean". Six local fishermen & women shared dinner to help us learn about why they fish, what inspires them, what fishing means to them, and how they are working to make sure they put food on our table while leaving the smallest possible impact on the ocean.
The guests of honor were:
- Ed Barrett of Marshfield, Massachusetts
- B.G. Brown of Gloucester, Massachusetts
- Shareen Davis of Chatham, Massachusetts
- Carolyn Eastman of Seabrook Beach, New Hampshire
- Paul Metivier of Salisbury, Massachusetts
- Lou Frattarelli of Bristol, Rhode Island
I shared the table with "Mom, Educator, & Fish Lady" Carolyn Eastman of Eastman's Local Catch Community Supported Fishery (CSF) in New Hampshire and Carole Ferguson of Organic Renaissance (another new organization working on some great things for the Northeast Regional food economy).

I'm terrible at remembering the specifics about dishes served at events like this, but I do know that we had monkfish, which for some people is not a favorite...I found it quite nice (though once I saw a picture of what they actually look like...yuck!). I was more interested in the ideas that we'd chew on relative to commercial fishing...and there was plenty to digest.

I do not claim to be in any way, shape, or form well-informed on fishery management and ocean stewardship. My preconception was that we're over-fishing and (like most other natural resources) depleting the resource. What became clear to me from listening to the conversation that evening was the wholehearted belief that in the fisheries these fishermen & women are familiar with that is not the case. There is a wide disconnect between the people doing the fishing and the people doing the regulating. The people doing the fishing think there's plenty to go around and the people doing the regulating think differently. I'm wagering that the "truth" lies somewhere in the middle. I couldn't help but admire the passion for their vocation, their communities, and their responsibility for maintaining the fisheries. It's hard work, and adding a new CSF on top of an already tough profession is something I respect.

I remember some comments about the fact that the people doing the regulating of fisheries have never even cast a line into the surf, never mind clambered aboard a fishing boat for the day. In other words, they do not seek to understand the market they affect with their decisions, and in many cases treat the fishing community in off-putting fashion..."lording" a bit with their smarty-pants PhDs and tweed jackets (OK, I added the tweed jacket comment for effect). It appears that they're on very different sides of the table. Of course, no regulators were there (that I met anyway) to "defend" themselves or contribute to the conversation. I wonder what that would have been like.

I'm sure the angst between the "regulated" and the "regulators" happens in many industries...though they each have their unique idiosyncrasies. And, no matter the best intentions and whole-hearted belief in an industry's/market's ability to self-regulate, I believe it is an exceedingly rare occurrence.

I'm glad I attended and supported the work of the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance and the growth of Nourish. If you make it to Lexington, MA, try the falafel sampler appetizer and then go across the street for a cup of coffee and a custom bike fitting at the newly opened Ride.Studio.Cafe; a collaborative effort between the founders of Diesel Cafe and Seven it'll be good.

Full disclosure: I'm an unabashed fan of Nourish and Diesel and a former employee of Seven that so wrong?

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