Kokomo Private Island launches the world’s first Dock to Dish®
Community Supported Fishery and Foraging program in Fiji
Lang Walker and the visionary team at Kokomo unveil the future of sustainable fishing, dining, and advanced coral reef restoration within the celestial Kadavu Island Group and Great Astrolabe Reef
Taking a major step to advance his mission of creating an environmentally and culturally sustainable sourcing system for wild seafood that will concurrently preserve the serenity and longevity of the Great Astrolabe Reef, renowned Australian real estate developer and preservationist, Lang Walker, together with his culinary and marine biology teams at Kokomo Private Island Resort, launch a comprehensive new Dock to Dish® Fiji program, several months in the making. Under the leadership of Kokomo’s local Fijian fisheries expert, Jaga Crossingham, resident marine biologist Cliona O’Flaherty, along with Kokomo’s Executive Chef Anthony Healy and Chef Caroline Oakley, the pioneering initiative is a first in the Southwest Pacific and part of a broader global “Dock to Dish movement” that is bringing sweeping reform to small-scale fisheries and seafood supply chains around the world. Walker’s new wave of conservation efforts include the creation of a unique coral reef nursery and restoration program, that collectively aim to preserve and protect important elements of both the local culture and the surrounding ecosystems for years to come.
Almost two years after Cyclone Winston caused an estimated $1.4 billion in damage, Fiji is back on its (bare) feet, with sustainable luxury resorts such as Kokomo paving the way for eco-tourism and travel all over the archipelago.
At a time when the need to restore access to sustainable domestic fisheries and support community-based fishers in Fiji has never been more dire, Walker agrees that the Dock to Dish CSF program holds the potential to solve many problems. Speaking on the objectives of the new program, Walker predicts that, “By introducing a hybrid cooperative model for local seafood sourcing into Fijian culture, we are basically going to revive a tradition where the local artisanal Fijian fishers will again be recognized as providers of healthy, delicious, seafood and as the protectors of our marine ecosystems. That part of Fijian/South Pacific culture has all but disappeared here over the past few decades, unfortunately, as cheap frozen seafood from Asia has flooded local markets. Now is the time to bring the long-lost flavors, textures, and health benefits of locally harvested seafood back to the communities in Fiji while protecting the surrounding reef and ecosystems; and there is no better way to do that than by establishing an innovative program like Dock to Dish at Kokomo.”
At the center of the new system is the Dock to Dish® model, known internationally as a Community Supported Fishery (CSF), which is a celebrated saltwater adaptation of the land-based Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) concept. Dock to Dish® CSF programs were originally engineered by commercial fishermen, marine biologists, and sustainable seafood advocates in North and Central America, who began using a new membership-based, supply-driven system of local sourcing and distribution for wild seafood. After adapting the CSA structure and applying it to local fisheries, Dock to Dish® programs began to receive broad-spectrum praise and loyalty from leading ocean conservation organizations and award-winning chefs, all of whom unanimously view the innovation as being a “next-generation market model” for sustaining both wild seafood resources and small-scale fishing communities. In June 2017, the United Nations Foundation identified Dock to Dish® as a “breakthrough innovation” that is putting participating members “on a path to healthy, valued and understood oceans.”
“This is the first Community Supported Fishery (CSF) program in the world to be established for an all-female cooperative of small-scale fishers. The native ‘Bussa-fisherwomen of Buliya’ are a cultural treasure whose wisdom and sustainable harvesting practices could soon be lost to the ages if not for Lang Walker’s new Dock to Dish initiative at Kokomo Private Island Fiji. ”
– Sean Barrett, Dock to Dish Co-founder and Chairman of the Board at GreenWave Ocean Farms
Chef Healy adds, “We are setting a new standard in Fijian cuisine (at Kokomo) by using a truly restorative approach that was designed with future generations in mind. The new Dock to Dish Fiji initiative enables our team to support and preserve important elements of the native culture with a sourcing philosophy that balances our seafood offerings through an integration of both sustainably foraged wild sea greens and abundant local finfish. The result is a culinary celebration of the unique ingredients and flavors that are exclusively available here in these pristine island ecosystems surrounding us.”
The flagship Dock to Dish® CSF program of Montauk, New York, was originally co-founded in 2012 by well-known farm to table chef and author, Dan Barber, and his brother David, co-owners of Blue Hill at Stone Barns; along with chef Eric Ripert of the famed Le Bernardin. Since the inception of the model, subsequent Dock to Dish® CSF programs have been established in Washington D.C., by chef Kyle Bailey, and across the Eastern Pacific coast of North America under the leadership of chef Michael Cimarusti in Los Angeles; chef Thomas Keller in San Francisco; chef Ned Bell in Vancouver, British Columbia; and throughout the Cayuga Collection of sustainable luxury resorts and award winning ecolodges along the Southeastern Pacific coast in Central America.
Now in 2018, across the western hemisphere, Dock to Dish® programs are now directly reconnecting artisanal fishing communities to leading chefs through unique cooperative programs that are steering inshore fisheries towards a more sustainable future. The programs eliminate any ‘chain of custody’ for wild seafood and bring the travel distance, or “food miles,” for fish down to double- and even single-digits in some cases, generating the smallest carbon footprint of any other sourcing system in their class. Through a partnership with Pelagic Data Systems® of San Francisco, all new Dock to Dish programs come equipped with the most sophisticated live-tracking technologies for wild seafood that have ever been introduced to small-scale fisheries.
Kokomo’s Dock to Dish Fiji CSF initiative was designed to focus on small, abundant, low-trophic (and rapidly reproducing) local forage fish, known as Bussa. Beginning last month, forward contracted hauls of Bussa are now being steadily supplied to Kokomo by an indigenous tribal community of all-female fishers from nearby island of Buliya who use traditional handline methods of fishing from shore for harvests. Prior to the launch, the forage fish focus of the program first received the prerequisite blessing of regional tribal leader, Chief Ramalo. Under his advisement, the Bussa focus will be balanced by limited spearfishing for larger fish, such as spanish mackerel, to avoid placing heavy harvest pressure exclusively on one specific species. The Dock to Dish® code of conduct for participating spearfishers strictly prohibits targeting of any threatened regional species, such as coral trout, kawakawa, kasala, and donu.
Sean Barrett, co-founder of the original Dock to Dish programs in North America was brought in from New York to work intensively on-site with the Kokomo team. “Adapting and evolving the structure of these programs has proven to be a strong point for Dock to Dish in the past, because the core values of the movement are shared by many prominent leaders in both the culinary and environmental space. This allows us to be flexible and really find out what works for a specific region,” Barrett notes. “The fundamental philosophy of Dock to Dish is about care and gratitude towards nature and our environment – a shared priority that is completely in line with that of traditional Fijian culture and has been Lang Walker’s singular focus in all our conversations to date. The existing sourcing program here was already very responsible and impressive, which made building the Dock to Dish Fiji system a rather natural next step for everyone involved. Kokomo Private Island is literally a perfect fit for this initiative.”
In a new integrated approach, Kokomo’s Dock to Dish Fiji initiative also includes a first-of-its-kind “wild sea green foraging program” for local kelps and ocean vegetables, led by the private island’s resident marine biologist Cliona O’Flaherty. Various species of abundant Fijian marine flora, such as sea lettuce and sea grapes, locally known as “nama,” are now being harvested by O’Flaherty and included as a focal point in multiple courses by Kokomo’s Chefs Healy and Oakley. The integration of sea greens is part of what he believes is a “Reimagining of what we categorically consider to be ‘seafood’ and a redesigning of the historical seafood plate. We are moving sea greens to the center and finfish towards garnish. There are over ten thousand species of edible plants and sea greens in the ocean, this is a whole new culinary frontier for us.
“This is the first time we have ever blended a wild kelp and sea greens foraging program into a Community Supported Fishery operation, while establishing a coral reef nursery and restoration initiative all in one amazing location. On numerous levels, Dock to Dish Fiji at Kokomo provides a crystal-clear snapshot of what the future of sustainable seafood sourcing looks like,” adds Barrett.
In coordination with the Dock to Dish launch, O’Flaherty has also just established the first cor al reef nursery project in the shallow waters and tidal pools surrounding Kokomo Island. Using small samples of living coral borrowed from the outer reef which have been affixed to submerged steel cages, she has begun the process of incubating them in protected coral gardens where they can be monitored and fortified with appropriate sunlight and nutrients. In the coming months, these samples will be transplanted back into the outer reef en masse to the areas where healthy living coral restoration is most needed.
Later this year, Lang Walker and his team at Kokomo intend to create a new day trip option for families staying at Kokomo, in which parents and children can visit the local Bussa fishers of Buliya, learn about ancient Fijian fishing techniques – and possibly even catch their own dinner for a genuine Dock to Dish® experience in Fiji.
Adds Walker, “Our Executive Chef Anthony Healy’s philosophy and training, paired with his passion and talents for sourcing and cooking with local, seasonal and sustainable ingredients, make him the ideal culinary ambassador to introduce a Community Supported Fishery program to Fiji. I believe that after we successfully launch the Dock to Dish program at Kokomo, this revolutionary and necessary concept will catch on very quickly in South Pacific region and soon spread to other forward-thinking resorts and restaurants across the area. With Fiji as the gateway, it won’t be long before Dock to Dish CSF programs begin to form in countries like New Zealand and Australia, where this kind of traditional sourcing philosophy also has very deep cultural roots and heritage.”
Dock to Dish has had a string of successes in North America and recently established itself in Costa Rica. Now, it’s Fiji’s turn – and Kokomo Private Island Fiji is housing the launch of its next international chapter across the unchartered waters of the Great Astrolabe Reef in the South Pacific.
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About Kokomo Private Island Resort
Kokomo Private Island is Fiji’s most exclusive resort, a stunning property nestled within a beautiful private island sanctuary. Built by renowned Australian property developer Lang Walker and opened in 2017, Kokomo Private Island Fiji is an all-inclusive private escape for the intergenerational traveler. Located in the pristine Kadavu Islands, south of the Fijian mainland, Kokomo Island is encircled by the Great Astrolabe Reef, the fourth largest on the planet and famous for its world-class diving, fishing and snorkeling. An undisturbed paradise, the island is spread across 140 acres dotted with pockets of lush rainforest and is one of the few rare islands in Fiji with stretches of stunning white sand beach.
Kokomo Private Island is the realization of its owner Lang Walker’s dream: to create the ultimate island resort, a place of unrivalled but relaxed luxury, at one with the natural beauty of the landscape. Having lived and breathed property development for 50 years, Lang in his first island venture intertwines traditional Fijian design with modern contemporary living, a concept that flows throughout the entire island. He and his family have created a true island paradise for those in search of unique experiences; a retreat for families and haven for honeymooners where everything is taken care of, from the spectacular sea plane arrival to exceptional dining and stunning accommodation, all with an array of adventures and sea of activities at hand.