Community-supported Fisheries- Gloucester and beyond

As written for Grist.org

Beyond red lists: The power of community-supported fisheries

By Twilight Greenaway

Advocates of community-supported fisheries say eating locally caught fish from small boats might just be the best way to protect the oceans. See the seven principles.

Seafood lists, such as the popular one from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, have been the subject of quite a bit of criticism lately. This spring, the lists came under fire by fishermen after Whole Foods pledged to stop selling “red-listed” fish. Then Ray Hilborn, professor of aquatic and fishery sciences at the University of Washington, and co-author of Overfishing: What Everyone Needs to Know, went on record implying the lists were too narrow, saying: “You can have fish that are overfished for decades but still be sustainable.”

As I see it, seafood lists — like many food labels — have a clear, useful function. For the majority of the population, learning that a product is, say, certified organic or certified humane is an important first step. But more and more of us are choosing go deeper, and taking the time to learn about the farmers and ranchers who produce our food (asking them questions, visiting their farms, perhaps signing up for a share in their farm as part of a community-supported agriculture share, or CSA). Once you’ve started taking these extra steps (i.e. really geeking out), the labels carry much less weight on their own.

That said, it’s much harder to get up close and personal with the people who bring us the fish we eat than, well, most other foods. For one, about 86 percent of the seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported and comes to us through a nearly opaque system of production and trade. What is caught in the United States is generally made available through a series of middlemen and we have no idea who catches it, what their practices are, and whether or not they’re able to make a living doing it.

That’s why I was intrigued when I was handed a little card at a conference recently that read: “Who Fishes Matters.” The card came from the folks at the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (NAMA) — an organization that helped launch the nation’s burgeoning Community-Supported Fisheries (CSF) movement. That’s right, we’re talking CSAs for fish. And — just like farm-based effort that took hold in the ’90s — CSFs might just be a game changer for both eaters and the environment.

It all started with Maine shrimp

A New England shrimp boat. (Photo by Tony Hisgett.)

Back in 2007, the fishermen near Port Clyde, Maine, were in dire straights. They were only getting around 30 cents per pound for the shrimp they caught, and the only way to make a living would have been to catch as much as possible, as quickly as possible, until the local shrimp stocks were essentially wiped out.

So, with the help of NAMA and a local church, the fishermen in the area came together to cut out the middlemen and sell directly to consumers through a CSF called Port Clyde Fresh Catch. Interested community members could sign up, pay in advance, and get their very own box of fresh, seasonal seafood every week. The price was reasonable and much more of the consumer dollar went directly to small-scale fishermen.

One year later, says NAMA organizer Brett Tolley, the Port Clyde fishermen were getting a dollar a pound for their shrimp. “It was a make-or-break adjustment for them,” he adds.

Since the Port Clyde CSF pilot program appeared five years ago, nearly 30 similar CSFs have come to life across the country. As Tolley sees it, the movement — to support fishermen who want to fish smarter when the industry tells them to fish harder — couldn’t have come about at a more crucial time. He sees a clear comparison between what has gone on in the consolidation and industrialization of agriculture over the last half-century and changes that are afoot on the ocean.

The website for Cape Anne Fresh Catch, another pioneering CSF that delivers fresh fish to over 700 households in the Boston area, sums it up like this:

[Lobster] can fetch up to $50/lb on the west coast and across Europe. What was once considered peasant food and fertilizer 300 years ago is now the epitome of fine dining and “haute-cuisine” world-wide. It’s remarkable how market forces influence a food’s perceived value.

… [but] for the local lobsterman things haven’t changed much in the last 20 years … Boats are still, on average, receiving the same price per pound they got for their catch 20 years ago. Yet, across that same time frame, lobsterman’s labor, fuel and bait costs have tripled.

“We’ve been really seeing a squeeze on the small- and middle-scale fisherman to be replaced with large aquabusiness,” Tolley says. In the same way that Big Ag drove the majority of small-scale farmers out of farming, he says, “we’re seeing a big push toward industrialization in the ocean — a model that really rewards the folks who can catch the most fish at the cheapest cost and operate on the lowest margins.”

Clams were an early example (the East Coast fishery is technically called “surf clam/ocean quahog” because both types of clam are caught by the same boats). It was the first fishery to transition to a quota-based system (called “individual transferable quota” or ITQ), and that meant that small-scale fishermen could lease or sell their quotas of the clams. “It was a matter of 10 years before 90 percent of all the quota was controlled by four operations,” Tolley says.

As you may guess, boats run by big corporate fishing operations pay less attention to things like preserving the aquatic environment and reducing bycatch. They also usually engage in industrial scale trawling or “dragging,” an unsustainable practice. And the conditions for fishermen — who become crew members on big boats — have also gotten progressively worse.

“I’ve heard from fishermen who used to be involved in the surf clam/ocean quahog fishery about how the conditions have been impacted [by consolidation]. Wages have been driven down, and crew members are often forced to go out in more dangerous conditions — there’s also been an increase in the number of deaths in the fishery.”

The result is fishermen who can barely make a living, even in places like New England, where the tradition is deeply embedded in the culture. Tolley comes from a fishing family and says he was warned by his father not to go into fishing. (NAMA has also collected an interesting series of video testimonies with small-scale fishermen speaking about consolidation in their industry.)

A trusted source

By contrast, a CSF can keep small-scale fishermen in business, because shareholders buy into the business in advance. According to Tolley, they also help fishermen land other direct marketing opportunities, like sales to restaurants and farmers markets, and there’s even a burgeoning “fish to school” program in new England inspired by the growing farm-to-school movement.

CSFs appeal to many of the same people who shop in farmers markets and do things like buy cow shares, says Heather Fraelick of Cape Anne Fresh Catch. “It’s that pocket of the general population who care about what corporations are behind their food,” she says. But there’s also a culinary appeal.

“Even living on the ocean, the general public has a hard time purchasing really good quality fresh fish,” she says. “And a lot of the fish species we catch here get packaged and sold overseas.” Likewise, a huge portion of the fish available in stores comes from elsewhere (especially if it’s farmed), and Fraelick points out that while fishery management has improved in this country, imported seafood “is not undergoing any of the strict regulations that our fisheries are here.”

Most weeks Cape Anne Fresh Catch offers a “whole fish option” for shareholders. “A lot of people what to buy a whole fish as opposed to filets and they want to eat their protein cooked on the bone with the fat because they know it’s really healthy for them. Many of them want to use the whole animal and make stock, as part of the whole urban homesteading movement,” she says.

Fraelick believes programs like hers can educate eaters about under-appreciated fish (once called “trash fish” because they once commanded such a small price) that are still plentiful in their local waters. In Massachusetts that has meant re-introducing people to “Red fish” or ocean perch and Hake. The existence of CSFs can also “educate the public about what are the fish they should be asking for in grocery stores, at restaurants,” she says.

Which brings us back to seafood lists. As proponents of CSFs see it, if you are intimately familiar with the fish in your region — and know what’s plentiful and local, and how the fisherman catches it, you may not need to spend a lot of time consulting a list run by a big, national organization.

“Not that if your local fisherman says ‘eat this, who cares about whether it’s red, yellow, or green,’ that’s the way to go,” says Tolley. “What we’re saying is: Learn about who your local fishermen are, when they go, where they catch it, what is seasonal. At the end of the day if you’re not hearing what you like, then don’t buy it. But that relationship helps paint a much larger picture of the sustainability pie than any national list would.”

Want to find a community-supported fishery near you? See a full list of CSFs in North America and Canada.

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Posted in cape ann fresh catch, community supported fisheries, nama, northwest atlantic marine alliance, red-listed fish, sustainable fisheries | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

North Shore to be Hit Especially Hard by Sea Level Rise

The following article was in today’s Salem News.

June 26, 2012

Study: Region’s sea levels rising faster

By Jesse Roman, Staff Writer The Salem News

If you think there are flooding problems in the North Shore now, just wait — it’s going to get a whole lot worse, according to a study released Sunday by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Scientists have found that the North Shore is part of a unique, 600-mile-long “hot spot” along the Atlantic Coast where sea levels are rising at a significantly faster rate than the world as a whole — three to four times faster. The hot spot stretches down the Atlantic Coast from north of Boston to North Carolina.

“Flooding right now is an annoyance, but it will be more of an annoyance and bad enough that you’ll think twice about parking your car in the driveway if there’s a storm coming and it’s the spring tide,” said Peter Howd, a co-author on the study and a contracted oceanographer with the U.S. Geological Survey.

Since about 1990, sea-level rise in the 600-mile hot spot has increased 2 to 3.7 millimeters per year; the global increase over the same period was 0.6 to 1 millimeter per year, according to the study. As a result, scientists predict that sea levels in the northeast Atlantic will rise 8 to 11.4 inches more than the global average by 2100. That is over and above the 2- to 3-foot rise in sea level that many scientists expect to occur globally over that span.

Although north of Boston is “on the low end of the range we’re talking about,” the North Shore is still facing a dramatic increase in the number of significant flooding events, Howd said.

“That additional 1 foot of water could be enough so that smaller storms cause chronic coastal flooding, as opposed to an acute event like a hurricane,” said Howd, who has family on the North Shore.

A quick poll of a few coastal cities and towns from Beverly to Marblehead found that there isn’t much going on in the way of planning or preparing for rising seas.

That’s not unexpected or unreasonable, said Martin Pillsbury, director of environmental planning at the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.

“Most communities don’t have the chance to dig in and take stock of this because they are more focused on the short term, the budget crunches and all of the other things you have to get done on a local level,” Pillsbury said. “There are so many short-term problems and pressures that if you can put it on the back burner, that’s what will happen.”

About a month ago, the planning council received authorization to use $80,000 from a federal grant to develop what it calls the Regional Climate Change Adaptation Strategy. The purpose is to help communities figure out what they can and should be doing to prepare for the changing environment and rising seas.

“We frame the issue through the concept of resiliency: What can you do to become more resilient to the impacts?” Pillsbury said.

Part of the program will be to conduct a vulnerability assessment using existing data to determine more specific implications of higher sea levels and climate change for eastern Massachusetts. The MAPC will also research best practices and policies from cities such as Boston and New York City — which are further along in preparing for higher sea levels — and adapting them to fit smaller communities on the North Shore.

Boston, for instance, is already taking inventory of low-lying areas, is inspecting thousands of sewer and storm drains, has instructed departments to take rising water levels into account during planning, and has taken measures to help businesses prepare for higher seas.

Eventually, many cities and towns along the coast may have to adjust their own land use and development regulations, invest in reinforcing existing infrastructure, and set aside money to identify areas that are most at risk, Pillsbury said.

“We envision distributing publications, sort of a tool kit or how-to guide to get a community started. This will be a long-term process, because it is a long-term issue,” he said. “Most communities are concerned with this and know it’s out there and know it is getting more urgent. We’re just trying to find a way to help them get started.”

Ocean levels do not rise at the same rate in every part of the world. A number of variables, including strength of ocean currents, water temperatures, ocean circulation and salt levels, play a part, according to the study.

Unfortunately, it seems the rate the ocean is rising is only expected to keep increasing in this region.

“Based on what our models are saying, there is pretty good agreement that the signal (fastest rates of acceleration) is moving north,” Howd said.

In lay terms, the sea-rise rates are tied to the speed of circulation in the Atlantic Ocean. As more ice melts in Greenland, the water becomes colder, slowing down circulation even more and increasing the rate in which ocean levels rise around the northeast coast, he said. June 26, 2012

Study: Region’s sea levels rising faster

By Jesse Roman, Staff Writer The Salem News

If you think there are flooding problems in the North Shore now, just wait — it’s going to get a whole lot worse, according to a study released Sunday by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Scientists have found that the North Shore is part of a unique, 600-mile-long “hot spot” along the Atlantic Coast where sea levels are rising at a significantly faster rate than the world as a whole — three to four times faster. The hot spot stretches down the Atlantic Coast from north of Boston to North Carolina.

“Flooding right now is an annoyance, but it will be more of an annoyance and bad enough that you’ll think twice about parking your car in the driveway if there’s a storm coming and it’s the spring tide,” said Peter Howd, a co-author on the study and a contracted oceanographer with the U.S. Geological Survey.

Since about 1990, sea-level rise in the 600-mile hot spot has increased 2 to 3.7 millimeters per year; the global increase over the same period was 0.6 to 1 millimeter per year, according to the study. As a result, scientists predict that sea levels in the northeast Atlantic will rise 8 to 11.4 inches more than the global average by 2100. That is over and above the 2- to 3-foot rise in sea level that many scientists expect to occur globally over that span.

Although north of Boston is “on the low end of the range we’re talking about,” the North Shore is still facing a dramatic increase in the number of significant flooding events, Howd said.

“That additional 1 foot of water could be enough so that smaller storms cause chronic coastal flooding, as opposed to an acute event like a hurricane,” said Howd, who has family on the North Shore.

A quick poll of a few coastal cities and towns from Beverly to Marblehead found that there isn’t much going on in the way of planning or preparing for rising seas.

That’s not unexpected or unreasonable, said Martin Pillsbury, director of environmental planning at the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.

“Most communities don’t have the chance to dig in and take stock of this because they are more focused on the short term, the budget crunches and all of the other things you have to get done on a local level,” Pillsbury said. “There are so many short-term problems and pressures that if you can put it on the back burner, that’s what will happen.”

About a month ago, the planning council received authorization to use $80,000 from a federal grant to develop what it calls the Regional Climate Change Adaptation Strategy. The purpose is to help communities figure out what they can and should be doing to prepare for the changing environment and rising seas.

“We frame the issue through the concept of resiliency: What can you do to become more resilient to the impacts?” Pillsbury said.

Part of the program will be to conduct a vulnerability assessment using existing data to determine more specific implications of higher sea levels and climate change for eastern Massachusetts. The MAPC will also research best practices and policies from cities such as Boston and New York City — which are further along in preparing for higher sea levels — and adapting them to fit smaller communities on the North Shore.

Boston, for instance, is already taking inventory of low-lying areas, is inspecting thousands of sewer and storm drains, has instructed departments to take rising water levels into account during planning, and has taken measures to help businesses prepare for higher seas.

Eventually, many cities and towns along the coast may have to adjust their own land use and development regulations, invest in reinforcing existing infrastructure, and set aside money to identify areas that are most at risk, Pillsbury said.

“We envision distributing publications, sort of a tool kit or how-to guide to get a community started. This will be a long-term process, because it is a long-term issue,” he said. “Most communities are concerned with this and know it’s out there and know it is getting more urgent. We’re just trying to find a way to help them get started.”

Ocean levels do not rise at the same rate in every part of the world. A number of variables, including strength of ocean currents, water temperatures, ocean circulation and salt levels, play a part, according to the study.

Unfortunately, it seems the rate the ocean is rising is only expected to keep increasing in this region.

“Based on what our models are saying, there is pretty good agreement that the signal (fastest rates of acceleration) is moving north,” Howd said.

In lay terms, the sea-rise rates are tied to the speed of circulation in the Atlantic Ocean. As more ice melts in Greenland, the water becomes colder, slowing down circulation even more and increasing the rate in which ocean levels rise around the northeast coast, he said.

Posted in climate change, north shore, sea level rise | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Significant Rebates Available NOW for boiler replacement

This message from MassEnergy Consumers Alliance

Is your boiler at least 30 years old?
You may qualify for a limited-time rebate!

Is your boiler at least 30 years old? National Grid and NSTAR are offering qualifying customers a limited-time rebate of $1,750 – $4,000 to replace their boiler. Take the first step toward your rebate by signing up for a no-cost energy assessment right now.

Your new boiler must be installed by July 31, 2012 to take advantage of the rebate (Click here to learn more about the steps toward claiming your rebate). In addition, your old boiler must be:
30 years old, or older
currently functioning
fueled by natural gas, propane, or oil
The rebate is NOT for:
replacing furnaces
converting to another fuel
fixing or replacing broken boilers
Act quickly! REBATES ARE LIMITED. There are several steps you must complete to qualify, but your first step is to sign up for a no-cost energy assessment. We can help you schedule your assessment quickly through our partners at Next Step Living (Mass Save qualified vendors). Sign up online, or call us at 1-800-287-3950.

A new boiler could save you hundreds of dollars in heating costs each year, as well as prevent hundreds of pounds of carbon and noxious pollutant emissions. If you have any questions, contact the rebate’s general hotline at 800-480-7472, and ask about the “Early Boiler Replacement Rebates.” Thanks!

Sincerely,

Larry Chretien
Executive Director

P.S. Once again, in order to qualify for this rebate, your new boiler must be installed by July 31, 2012! Act quickly!

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When the Sea is Knocking at Your Door

The issue of climate change is a political hot potato, but there is one climate-related reality we must face as it unfolds right before our eyes- that of the rising seas.

Ocean waters have risen by about a foot per century for the last 5,000 years. But virtually all climate scientists say that the pace of sea level rise is increasing precipitously. They estimate at least a two-foot rise and as much as a six-foot rise by the end of this century alone.

Assuming the low-to-middle end of this spectrum and no action taken, a two-foot sea level rise would mean that by 2100, many of Gloucester’s low-lying areas will be flooded much or all of the time. Rogers Street, businesses in east Gloucester’s Rocky Neck, some areas of Magnolia and west Gloucester would all be under water; Good Harbor, Wingaersheek and Niles beaches would be gone. Add in damage from storm surges and you’ve got an even gloomier scenario.

But, you might say, why should we worry about a situation that will occur 80 years from now when we can hardly afford our basic municipal services today?

The economic impact of not planning for sea level rise will be felt much sooner- in fact, we’re already feeling it. Each year, we must pay to repair increasing damage to seawalls. The more than century-old seawall in Lane’s Cove got hit with nearly $500,000 in damages from a 2010 nor’easter. And the Stacy boulevard seawall incurs increasing expenses as it ages and sea levels rise. Some homes near Good Harbor beach are hit with repeated storm damage; backshore roads must repeatedly be rebuilt after intense storms; and storms regularly cause water to overtop the Goose Cove Causeway so that the bridge is beginning to collapse.

We need to figure out how to protect our city infrastructure, coastal homes and businesses so that we can prevent more of these costly scenarios.

Our smartest east coast neighbors are leading the way. The traditionally conservative city of Portland, Maine, is looking hard at economic analyses that show how an investment of $100 million in sea-level rise infrastructure now could save the city as much as $400 million by 2050.

To our south, the town of Hull is part of a pilot project that creates three-dimensional images of flood events and sea level rise to help plan for flooding. Residents there have already taken it upon themselves to fix and pay for the publicly owned seawall barriers. As reported last year in The Boston Globe, Hull resident Gary Bloch said, “It was that or lose our homes.”

Gloucester City planners will soon have access to much improved topographic information, making it possible to more accurately identify the greatest sea-rise-related threats to our community.

But because funding for planning and design of city infrastructure is so miniscule, we’ve all got to be involved in finding creative and cost-effective solutions to this problem. Doing so now will translate to a livable community for us all in our lifetimes.

As residents, our first step is to know what to expect. You might start by reading the most recent Climate Central report called Surging Seas (http://sealevel.climatecentral.org/research/reports/), which describes the biggest sea level rise and storm surge threats to Massachusetts. Massachusetts’ Coastal Zone Management web site (http://www.mass.gov/czm/) has a wealth of information and links to other organizations addressing this issue. The Metro Area Planning Council is doing good work to help northshore communities prepare for rising seas (www.mapc.org)

And last but not least, you can also subscribe the Clean Energy blog at www.gloucestercleanenergy.wordpress.com.

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Change in status for this blog

Blog posts have been sparse these last few weeks, but you will soon see more posts about energy and sustainability issues that affect us on cape ann and beyond.

Also, we have decided to change the status of the blog so that it is no longer officially a blog of the city’s Clean Energy Commission. This blog will still keep you up to date on accomplishments of the commission and of neighboring communities, but it proved logistically complicated to make it an official City blog.

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How much energy is used to deliver your electricity?

As you may know, one reason electricity is costly is because it’s only about 33% efficient by the time it gets to you. If you are interested in knowing the proportions of which fuel is used to generate your electricity by ZIP code, the EPA can tell you:

http://www.epa.gov/cleanenergy/energy-and-you/how-clean.html

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Author, Environmentalist, Bill McKibben to Speak at Endicott College

Author Bill McKibben to speak at Endicott

BEVERLY, MA –  Bill McKibben  believes that we have changed the planet in such a fundamental way that it is no longer the same planet.  On Thursday, February 9th  at 7:00 pm in the Wax Academic Center Auditorium, Endicott College, 376 Hale Street, Beverly,  he will explain why he called his new book Eaarth.   The lecture,  “Eaarth, A New Planet”,  is free and open to the public.  McKibben’s dire message is mixed with optimism.   In a message to his readers he writes:

We’ve built a new Eaarth.  It’s not as nice as the old one; it’s the greatest mistake humans have ever made, one that we will pay for literally forever.  We live on a new planet.  But we have to live on it.  So we better start understanding what is going on.

Bill McKibben is the author of a dozen books about the environment, beginning with The End of Nature in 1989, which is regarded as the first book for a general audience on climate change. He is a founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org, which has coordinated 15,000 rallies in 189 countries since 2009. Time Magazine called him ‘the planet’s best green journalist’ and the Boston Globe said in 2010 that he was ‘probably the country’s most important environmentalist.’ He is the Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College and holds honorary degrees from a dozen colleges.

Endicott’s President, Richard Wylie said, “We are excited to welcome Mr. McKibben to campus to discuss a topic that is of utmost importance to our students and to our collective future. “   In addition to the public lecture, Bill McKibben will meet with student, faculty, and campus leaders.  The lecture is sponsored by Endicott’s Office of the President, Endicott’s  Community of Learners Program, a program to engage the Endicott community in important issues, and the Endicott Sustainability Initiative, a college-wide commitment to increasing sustainable practices and education.

For more information, please contact Sarah Hammond Creighton at 978-232-2238 or screight@endicott.edu.

Posted in 350.org, beverly, bill mckibben, climate change, eaarth, endicott college | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment