We are delighted to offer this guest post from Monique Coombs, a fisheries-focused member of The Maine Food Strategy team.
Seafood is part of a food system, but it is often not included in local food system discussions, usually simply because it is overlooked, or perceived as not easily accessible. In Maine, we are trying very hard not only to include it in our Maine Food Strategy, but make it an integral part of the process, planning, and future action around strengthening our food system and food-based economy.
It’s unfortunate that seafood has not become more central in our food system discussions in the United States. Its exclusion is likely because we import over 80% of the seafood consumed in this country. A lot of this seafood can be found in restaurants, but in our homes as well; though, the amount of seafood in the home is far less, because people to do not have the access to local seafood, nor the confidence to cook it.
Thankfully, this is changing. Programs that offer information on fish species and cooking methods are available to the public, restaurants are highlighting lesser-known species, consumers are asking from where their seafood is coming, and more fishermen are identifying new and innovative ways to directly market their catch, such as community supported fisheries and joining farmers at farmers’ markets. This is beneficial for the fisherman, the consumer, and the environment.
The Maine Food Strategy is completing direct outreach to individuals in the fisheries world in order to understand the intricacies of the seafood system in Maine. Our goal is to learn about the system as well as work with fisheries people to identify obstacles, solutions, recommendations, and highlight innovations. We hope that we can create a practical model for incorporating seafood into food system discussions, and that other states might follow our lead.
For more information, or to discuss seafood in food systems in your area, please contact Monique Coombs.