Community-supported farms, or farm shares, have been around for quite some time: the notion that you can buy a share of farmland and reap the benefits (with delicious organic fruits, herbs, and vegetables) allows people to get closer to the source of their produce. But what if you could execute the same concept with fisheries? Sean Barrett had this exact idea when he created Dock to Dish, a community-supported fishery based in Montauk, New York. There, he has 42 fishermen bringing whatever is fresh, seasonal, and straight off the boat, to both chefs and consumers, with no middleman. Barrett has worked with both regular consumers, and leading chefs in the industry like Bill Telepan, April Bloomfield, and Dan Barber. The third and newest chapter of Dock to Dish is the brand-new sustainable fish market in the Florida Keys based on this community-supported fishery concept: the first of its kind in the nation.
“This could be the next big movement in America,” Sean Barrett told The Daily Meal in an interview. “The concept is that the chefs surrender their right to print what they want on their menu and demand that from fishermen. Essentially we are allowing our ecosystems to dictate what is on our plate. The chefs love it, the guests love it. It’s full transparency… of what, how, and why a fish was caught.”
Each fish caught by the Dock to Dish team is designated sustainable by the First Watch Sustainable Seafood program, and is caught using only “light harvesting pressure methods.”
Florida’s first-ever community supported fishery will be open for business this February, in conjunction with Key West restaurateur Chris Holland and the Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen’s Association. This is how it works: if you sign up to be a member of the Dock to Dish program in Florida, you will be able to download a mobile app. From there, Holland explained, you will be able to pick your preferred fish (are you more of a tuna or a swordfish person?). You’ll get texts whenever the ship with your fish is scheduled to arrive within an hour or two of scheduled dock time. Reserve your fish order, and pick it up within a few hours of the ship docking. When you pick up your fish, you’ll also get a baseball card that features the personal information of your fisherman, says Holland.
“You put food in your mouth, how intimate is that?” Holland said. “But you don’t know where it came from, and you don’t know how long it has been in the box or the back of the truck. In our situation, you know the person who caught it and everything. The antidote to anonymity is getting to know your fishermen.”
Here’s a tip for buying seafood from the folks at Dock to Dish: “You know how people say they hate that fishy smell, and that’s why they don’t eat seafood? Fish only smells that way when it’s going bad.”