The terms we use to talk about sustainable fisheries, from the people to practices, can be confusing sometimes. Thankfully our friends at North American Marine Alliance (NAMA) worked with the fishermen and fishing businesses that make up the Fish Locally Collaborative and the Local Catch Network, and together they created these definitions for us all to use.
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: They live and work in the communities where they fish, and 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.
Privatization: An act of transforming fishing access rights and the ocean itself 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, and commodification of the ocean through leases for mining, extraction, and construction known to have adverse impact on the ocean ecosystems. 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.
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.
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