First of all, I should admit that I’m super biased about this because I’m married to a commercial fisherman.
I hunt for articles about seafood and fishing every time I visit a food-centric website for the first time. There’s usually a couple of articles about sustainable seafood, one or two about aquaculture, maybe something about commercial fishing — but it’s usually pretty negative. There is always a large section dedicated to agriculture, and even better, there’s usually an entire category dedicated just to farmers. Lucky ducks. Or as we say here in Maine, “Must be nice.”
Even Heated, dedicated to “food from every angle” seems to be missing an angle. There are seafood recipes and a few articles about commercial fishing found on the site, but identifying a way to appropriately categorize commercial fishing articles is like fitting a round peg in a square hole. Or in other words, it’s wicked tough, bub.
Seafood and fishing are extremely valuable to the food system but they will never be as valued as they should be as long as they are separate from all of the other food narratives.
Negating the role of fishermen in the food system has severe unintentional consequences, too. It’s quite difficult to advocate for commercial fishermen when their role in the food system is diminished. It’s really hard to demand mental health resources for fishermen when it’s not easily understood that much like their fellow food harvesters in the agriculture industry, they are being severely impacted by climate change, sea-level rise, severe weather and changes to their industry that are outside of their control.
Major changes to regulations and quotas in the commercial fishing industry are not easily understood when consumers don’t recognize that these changes impact their access to local seafood and make life in coastal communities a bit harder for fishermen and their families.
Eating more domestic seafood (and less red meat) is one of the best choices that you can make for lessening your carbon footprint. It’s important for everyone to be more aware of seafood and fishermen’s role in the food system for the health of the environment, coastal communities, and the future of the fishing industry. Consumers have a hard time comprehending the importance of domestic seafood when narratives from local fishermen are not shared and imported seafood products dominate the headlines.
Commercial fishing in the United States is highly regulated. In fact, it is one of the most regulated industries in the US according to the McLaughlin-Shereuse List. (Check out this article from Edible East End who apologized for a previous article after speaking with fisherman and co-founder of Dock to Dish, Sean Barrett.)
Seafood and fishing need to be part of the food system narrative and a great way to make more progress in that direction is to give fishermen and seafood the space they deserve on popular food websites.