With the advent of farmers' markets, community supported agriculture and urban gardening, getting fresh local produce has never been easier. Some CSAs even include meat and dairy making a trip to the grocery store almost unnecessary.
But what if you want fresh local seafood that hasn’t been frozen and flown thousands of miles to sit in a display case for a week? Enter “community supported fisheries.” Modeled after community supported agriculture, community supported fisheries in the Bay Area provide members with a weekly or monthly supply of fish and shellfish from the California Coast.
Participants pay a “share” in a CSF, which goes directly to the fishermen. By funding the fishermen upfront it guarantees they have a steady supply of work and are able to run their fleet. It also means subscribers have a chance to meet the person who caught their food and ask questions about where it came from.
Kirk Lombard runs Sea Forager, a community supported fishery in San Francisco, and even offers to take members on guided fishing tours in San Francisco and Half Moon Bay to catch fresh fish and shellfish.
“People wanted to know where their food was coming from,” Lombard said. As a former fisheries observer for the California Fish and Game Commission he was uniquely positioned to provide a behind the scenes look.
I did these tours and then people wanted to get fresh seafood on a regular basis so I had the a-ha moment of, ‘hey I can make that happen.’”
For as little as $24 a week you can pick up a box of sand dabs, sardines and Dungeness crabs that were caught that same day. Which is a major feat considering 91 percent of the seafood consumed in the U.S. comes from overseas. It’s frozen, shipped and is at least three days old before you buy it said Siren Fish Co. founder Anna Larsen.
“How often do you get fish 24 hours out of the water?” Larsen said. “Freshness and temperature maintenance are huge for seafood which is why our salmon doesn’t taste fishy.”
“It has this lovely savory quality and it it’s like eating a steak almost. Our sardines also have a meaty umami flavor.”
To keep the seafood fresh, most CSFs charge a few extra dollars to deliver fish straight to your door. Or you can pick up your shipment at several locations around the Bay Area. If you’re a lucky Facebook or Google staffer, Sea Forager delivers directly to your workplace.
For anyone who thinks CSFs are just a passing trend, the nearly 200 CSFs in North America suggest otherwise. With four in the Bay Area and more popping up each year, we’ve listed what you get from four local CSFs, how much it costs and where to sign up as you contemplate your dinner plans:
Bay Area Community Supported Fisheries
Sea Forager Location: San Francisco, CA Membership fee: $24 or $47/week What you get: About a pound of seafood. Weekly deliveries include fresh fish like sand dabs, salmon, lingcod, albacore, smoked trout, halibut, sablefish and rockfish. Neptune’s Delight is a surprise box of fish and shellfish like clams, Dungeness crab, coonstriped shrimp, spot prawns and mussels. Each delivery provides dinner for two. Pick-up or delivery: Both. Ten pick-up locations in San Francisco Delivery fee: $8, 20 pick-up locations in San Francisco Available as fillets: Yes Benefits: Owner Kirk Lombard will take you out on seafood foraging tours in the Bay Area to show you how local fish and shellfish are caught. More info:seaforager.com
Siren Fish Co. Location: San Francisco, CA Membership fee: $20 or $40/week What you get: $20 for a pound of fresh fish or $40 for two pounds.
Dover, rock cod, herring, salmon, oysters, crab, sardines, squid, mussels, crayfish; Dungeness crab, sable fish, albacore tuna, lingcod, sand dabs, California halibut. Standard package contains a mixture of everything. Pick-up or delivery: Pick-up. Available as fillets: Yes Benefits: Siren Fish Co. offers prepared fish like smoke house, lox, smoked albacore, hot smoked salmon and beer-brined hot smoked salmon with whiskey. They also offer home smoking and curing classes. More info:sirenseasa.com
Fair Share CSF Location: San Francisco Membership fee: $22 or $25/week What you get: For $22 you get 3-4 pounds of seafood like salmon, halibut, sole, sardines, sablefish, albacore, and shrimp, as well as farmed mussels and farmed rainbow trout. Fair Share CSF occasionally offers processed items such as smoked albacore and cured anchovies. For $25 the same selection will be delivered. Pick-up or delivery: Both. 10 pick-up locations throughout the Bay Area. Delivery fee: $3 Available as fillets: Yes Benefits: Each order includes recipes related to the seafood provided. Members are offered discounted tickets to the annual Dungeness Crab Feed and benefit dinner in December. More info:fairsharecsf.com
Local Catch Monterey Bay Location: Monterey, CA Membership fee: $22 or $26/week What you get: For $22 you’ll get a range of different seafood like salmon, sablefish, Dungeness crab, ling cod and squid. For $26 you’ll get the types of fish you see on most restaurant menus. Each packages contains 1-1.5 pounds of fish. Pick-up or delivery: Pick-up. 27 locations in San Francisco and Monterey. Available as fillets: Yes Benefits: Meet and greet events with Local Catch fishermen and chefs including cooking demos. More info:localcatchmontereybay.com