By Mara Certic
Jeremy Samuelson is the executive director of the Concerned Citizens of Montauk, a grassroots environmental organization. Here he discusses issues that will come up in an upcoming panel discussion CCOM is hosting on Saturday, September 20, about sustainable fisheries.
Why is CCOM concerned about sustainable fisheries?
For the last couple of years CCOM has been working on sustainable fisheries issues to try to find a way to move past some of the old conversations that don’t really seem to define where we need to go with striking a balance between fishing families making a living wage and a need to ensure the fisheries resource is sustainable. The old conversations didn’t serve the need going forward in identifying solutions. So we’ve partnered with Dock to Dish, members of the fishing community, fisheries scientists, the slow food movement, to try to find a way to have a new conversation that focuses on solutions.
As you said, CCOM has partnered with Dock to Dish. Do you think it’s better to get your fish from a CSF than from a local fishmonger?
The real change we are hoping to see is customers knowing where their fish is coming from, and getting it as directly as possible. That can be a model that is supported through any distribution network. You don’t have to be a member of a CSF to engage around sustainable fisheries issues. It’s just one model. So really what we’re hoping here is that no matter how somebody gets their seafood, whether that’s in a shop or a restaurant or from a wholesaler, we all are asking the same questions. What is my fish, where did it come from, was it caught sustainably, am I a part of the solution, or am I a part of the old business? If we are successful in our work, in a few years’ time, customers will always be asking themselves what is my fish, where did it come from, did the fishing family that landed this fish get paid a fair price? If people are asking those questions going forward then this movement will start to take hold, and we will see some changes in the industry that will benefit all of us.
There are many who say current landing regulations are outdated and must be revisited, where do you stand on that?
It’s true that the United States has the most regulated fishery in the world, but regulation is not the same thing as effective management. We need to collectively determine what are the best management strategies that allow fishing families to stay in business while we make sure we have robust fish stocks. There’s a balance that’s needed here and until we strike that balance it won’t be possible for us to have fish in the sea and for fishing families to make money. And if either one of those things fail, we’ve all failed.
What are some of the things you are looking forward to about Saturday’s panel discussion?
I think it’s going to be very interesting to see if we can all focus on the road ahead. The assumption for the last couple of decades has been that conservationists, scientists, fisheries, producers, regulators can’t have a unified approach to managing fisheries. I believe firmly that if we’re going to have honest science-based conversations that account for human need and strike that balance we’re seeing, there’s a way forward. And I’m really hoping that Saturday focuses on identifying and fleshing out what that way forward looks like.
“American Catch: Sustainable Fisheries, Getting it Right” is a series of panel discussions moderated by bestselling author Paul Greenberg. The free event will feature conversations on sustainable shellfish, sustainable seafood in the restaurant industry and creating sustainable fisheries. The event, which will be held at the Coast Restaurant, 41 South Euclid Street in Montauk, will also feature sustainably caught seafood prepared by the restaurant and a cash bar. Reservations are required. To make a reservation e-mail Deborah Klughers at firstname.lastname@example.org.