A groundbreaking international movement is underway that is reforming the marketplace for small-scale fisheries by directly reconnecting artisanal fishermen to leading chefs and local communities through independently managed cooperative programs. The celebrated model that is driving the movement is known as a Restaurant-Supported Fishery (RSF), and was engineered by commercial fishermen and sustainable seafood advocates in North America using a new membership-based, supply-driven system of sourcing and distribution. Since the first RSF deployment in 2013, these programs have experienced a rapid proliferation throughout multiple seaports and working waterfronts along the coasts of the United States and Canada.
The new Costa Rican RSF program is an extension of a larger international Dock to Dish movement that is successfully reconnecting chefs and communities to their nearest fisheries by using a modified organizational blueprint which was derived from the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) concept. After adapting the CSA model and applying it to local fisheries, Dock to Dish programs have become broadly recognized in North America as having pioneered the most promising ‘next generation economic model’ for sourcing and distributing wild seafood sustainably. At the core of the marketplace evolution that the Dock to Dish RSF programs are advancing is a radical adjustment to wild fisheries access that is centered upon issuing limited subscriptions to the local resource; coupled with a methodical ‘harvest-share distribution’ format.
Having repeatedly demonstrated a unique capability to restore community access to fresh, traceable, local finfish and shellfish in a highly organized and manageable system, these programs have initiated a paradigm shift in the wild seafood marketplace.
Existing Dock to Dish programs elsewhere are now effectively providing a steady, reliable and sustainable supply of nutrition to communities in their respective regions, and empowering local fishermen to build their capacity and stabilize their income. Because the fishermen are paid by cooperative members in advance in exchange for set shares of future hauls, dramatically less fish are harvested from the wild and much less impactful methods can be used in the capture. This supply-driven system makes the fishermen better stewards of their ecosystems and able to prudently conserve the natural capital of the fishery.
The original Dock to Dish RSF program of Montauk, New York, was co-founded by well-known farm-to-table chef and author, Dan Barber, at his restaurant Blue Hill at Stone Barns. That program now consists of over two dozen premier restaurant members in New York City and numerous forward-thinking institutional level members, including the Google Corporation at their Manhattan campus. Since its inception on the Atlantic seaboard, subsequent Dock to Dish programs have been established on the Pacific Coast by Chef Michael Cimarusti and Chef Niki Nakayama in Los Angeles; and Chef Ned Bell in Vancouver, British Columbia.
At a time when the need to restore access to sustainable domestic fisheries and support community-based fishermen has never been more dire, Hans Pfister of the Cayuga Collection agreed that the Dock to Dish RSF program holds the potential to solve many problems. Speaking on the objectives of the new program today, Pfister predicted that, “By introducing a cooperative membership model for local seafood sourcing into Costa Rican culture, we are basically going to revive a tradition where the local artisanal Costa Rican fishermen will again be recognized as providers of healthy, delicious seafood and as the protectors of our marine ecosystems. That part of our culture has all but disappeared here over the past few decades, unfortunately. Now is time to bring the long-lost flavors, textures and health benefits of locally harvested seafood back to our communities in Costa Rica; and there is no better way to do that than by establishing an innovative program like this at the Cayuga Collection, along with the help of the world’s most respected seafood chefs.”
Jeremy Allen, co-owner of the Arenas del Mar Resort where the initial Dock to Dish program is being headquartered, believes the launch of the Dock to Dish program will be a critically important piece to the overall puzzle of long-term sustainability that he has been trying to solve in the region for decades. “Sustainability as a model for development establishes the need to satisfy the requirements of today’s society without making it impossible for future generations to satisfy their own. The development of a country cannot be achieved by the unrestrained exploitation of its natural, cultural, and social resources to the point of eradicating or destroying them. It is paramount to the livelihoods of local community members that the needs of the present population be fulfilled as far as food, housing, health and work; but that must be done in a way that ensures future generations will also be able to carry on these traditions. The Dock to Dish initiative stands to help make that vision a reality and the timing of this launch could not be better.”