When I was growing up, it was a family tradition that my mom would cook any meal of my choosing for my birthday. I religiously alternated between clams, salmon or lobster tail for my annual birthday dinner until I left the house at 17.
Needless to say, I love seafood. I definitely eat too much seafood (often, sardines for lunch and shellfish or a fish fillet for dinner). And it’s no surprise—I grew up both in Maryland under the influence of the infamous blue crab, and along the North Carolina coast with fresh, local catches at my fingertips.
Admittedly, I took some time off of seafood in my early 20s when I really began to grow aware of what I was eating. Around the time I crossed off meat (largely in part from watching “Food, Inc.” around the same time I read Fast Food Nation), I became exposed to the concept of overfishing in one of my undergrad classes and remember being devastated after reading Dr. Daniel Pauly’s “Aquacalypse Now” story in the New Republic for class (interesting anecdote: we recently revisited this article for my Ocean Law class). I wasn’t sure if I was more disappointed in the current state of the world’s fisheries or in myself , a self-proclaimed marine conservation die-hard, for eating seafood so blindly without being aware of the consequences.
Needless to say, I became a vegetarian.
But, this phase didn’t last too long. I entered the environmental journalism world, found myself writing about seafood more often than not, and learned that it wasn’t all farmed-tilapia-or-giving-up-your-tuna-sushi-or-bust.
Handy guides like the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch or the nifty blue sticker from the Marine Stewardship Council helped me learn how to choose sustainable, local caught seafood and ask the right questions (Where is my fish from? How is it caught?) to ensure I was consuming a product safe for myself and the environment. And maybe I shout admit right now that I worked at Oceana at the time, which advocates that maintaining healthy ocean ecosystems and eating seafood is possible, if managed responsibly, through their “Save the Oceans, Feed the World” campaign.
Now, I am consuming more seafood than I ever have before.
Why is that, you may ask? And how am I getting the fish in land-locked Durham?
It’s all thanks to one of my absolute favorite things about Durham—a small community-supported fishery (CSF) called Walking Fish. Walking Fish, founded in 2009 (by a group of Nicholas School of the Environment alums!), follows the community-supported agriculture model (CSA), and helps connect local fishermen and their catches to seafood consumers in North Carolina. It’s an excellent tool for supporting the local economy and local, sustainable fisheries, and CSFs fortunately seem to be gaining traction around the country.
Making shrimp and veggie skewers and shrimp over spaghetti squash for dinner, one of the first deliveries from Walking Fish. The shrimp were trawl caught by a local fishermen in the Atlantic.
Every week, Walking Fish delivers fresh, local seafood caught off of North Carolina to residents in the Triangle area. So far, I’ve received several hulls of fresh seafood from Walking Fish, ranging from oysters, clams, King Mackerel, flounder and much more. Every week, I get an email from the folks at Walking Fish informing me of who caught my seafood for the week, where it’s from, and which gear was used to catch it, as well as a recipe tip for that week’s catch.
One of the best parts about Walking Fish is that their Durham delivery location happens to be on campus in the Sarah P. Duke gardens. So, not only do I get a nice haul of seafood each week, I also get an excuse to go for a weekly walk through the gardens.
Walking through the Gardens with a few pounds of shrimp. I definitely get some weird looks each week but it’s worth it!
Thanks to Walking Fish, I’m extremely proud and confident in the seafood I’m eating. It’s made me think about my personal seafood consumption more than ever before, and I hope that the rise of CSFs helps spur conversations about fisheries, aquaculture, and sustainable seafood across the nation.