New approaches benefit fishermen, coastal communities, consumers

Oregon Sea Grant Extension literally got its start working with commercial fishermen on matters ranging from at-sea safety to better fishing methods and navigating the increasingly complex waters of regulation and harvest limits. We've helped introduce the fleet to new gear that poses less risk of bycatch, to new technologies for keeping the catch fresh and safe, and to new practices and equipment aimed at bringing fishermen home alive.

Our recent efforts aim to connect fishermen to seafood consumers, coastal visitors and restaurants for their mutual benefit, and to highlight Oregon's working waterfronts as dynamic economic and social forces.

Toward Resilience and Sustainable Seafood Supply: Assessing Direct Marketing Approaches for the West Coast Fishing Communities

Funded jointly by the four West Coast Sea Grant programs, this project studied fishermen selling their product directly to consumers or food service operations through off-the-boat sales, e-commerce, community-supported Fisheries and similar programs, rather than through traditional market channels.  DMAs are widely believed to generate environmental, economic and social benefits, including more sustainable fishing practices, increased profits and income stability for fishermen, along with better consumer access to locally caught seafood and enhanced awareness of local fisheries and their management.

Led by Barbara Walker of the University of California, Santa Barbara, the effort involved Sea Grant programs in California, Oregon and Washington, including OSG's Jamie Doyle and Extension fisheries specialist Jeff Feldner (now retired). After evaluating the patterns, processes, and impacts associated with seafood DMAs, the team integrated this knowledge into practical tools which were tested and evaluated  in Coos Bay, OR and Santa Barbara, CA. The ultimate goal is to develop a toolkit that allows fishermen and resource managers to understand a range of DMA types, assess whether their communities are ready to launch such approaches, and provide concrete tools for implementing them.

One result of this project is Market Your Catch, a Web-based tool that helps fishing boat operators determine if direct sales make economic sense for them, and gives them tools and resources for learning more.