A CSF, or Community Supported Fishery, is a great way to enjoy high-quality seafood while also supporting local fishermen. Here's what we learned when we joined!
Have you ever wondered why fish at a restaurant tastes so much better than the fish you cook at home?
There are probably a few things going on.
For one, the restaurant might have a brilliant chef who can make everything taste fabulous. Probably by adding lots of butter.
But also, that restaurant just might have access to higher-quality fish than you can find at your local grocery store. Quality makes a difference.
What is a Community Supported Fishery?
A CSF is typically made up of one or more fisheries working together to sell seafood directly to the consumer.
In other words, you become part of the community that is supporting their fishery.
If you've ever joined a Farm CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), the idea is similar. But this time you're getting seafood instead of vegetables.
Why Join a CSF?
For me, the pros definitely outweigh the cons!
When you join a CSF, you gain access to some of the best seafood out there. Seafood that's nearly impossible to find at a big box grocery store, such as King salmon, Alaska spot prawns, lingcod and sablefish (black cod).
The spot prawns our CSF sent us are a tasty delicacy. They really shine in the butter garlic shrimp pictured below!
There are no questions about mislabeled seafood or a mishandled seafood supply chain. You can also feel all warm and fuzzy inside, knowing that hard-working fishermen are directly benefiting from your purchase.
Sometimes our CSF sends us fish that's already been prepped for use, like the smoked Coho salmon shown below!
How Does a CSF Work?
Each CSF has its own setup, but in general, you're paying in advance for a share of the seafood.
Sometimes it's a monthly share, sometimes yearly, and some CSFs offer a no-commitment, buy as you wish option.
There are usually projections about what fish they expect to send (and when).
That said, sometimes things don't go as expected. The ocean doesn't always provide what we expect it to, just like your garden doesn't always produce as expected.
When that happens, the CSF may swap a different seafood option. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, though, because it can give you a chance to try out fish you might not otherwise have bought.
My first CSF box was full of black cod, also known as sablefish. I made the black cod teriyaki shown below!
Can I Just Order One Specific Type of Fish?
Sometimes! Some (but not all) Community Supported Fisheries sell one-time-purchase fish separately from the seafood shares, allowing you more control over what you get.
Just keep in mind that if you purchase a seafood share, your delivery will likely change according to what the fishermen actually catch.
How Can I Find a Community Supported Fishery?
What If I'm Land-Locked?
As you might expect, many CSFs are located in coastal areas. This works well if you're nearby, because it's less complicated than shipping fish across the country.
However, if you're land-locked (like me!) you can still order from a CSF! You just need to find one that ships their seafood.
In the past, we used Sitka Salmon Shares and were thrilled with their fish. More recently (as of June 2022), Sitka Salmon Shares has moved away from the CSF model and is no longer working directly with the fishermen. They still provide some really delicious fish though!
We've also enjoyed raw oysters from Island Creek Oysters, and are eyeing their Oyster of the Month club.
There's no question about it: being part of a CSF has inspired me to learn more about the fish I'm getting and the behind-the-scenes story of how it gets to me.
And, of course, it's prompted me to test out new recipes and discover new favorites.
One of my favorite gourmet meals is the honey bourbon salmon shown below, made with decadent King salmon from our CSF.
It's been a definite win for our supper table.
So if high-quality seafood is a luxury you'd like to have in your life (and not just when you eat at a restaurant), a Community Supported Fishery could be the way to go!