Featured Organization: Local Catch Network

In this Featured Organization piece, we speak with Jordan Richardson, the Local Catch Network Coordinator, to learn more about how LCN is strengthening regional seafood systems across the country.

Prior to joining the Local Catch Network, Jordan spent over 7 years working to promote healthy food habits and local food systems. She believes that local and regional food systems play an integral role in combating food insecurity and ensuring that all people have access to nutrient-dense, high-quality, and fresh (sea)food.

Let’s get started!

First up, Local Catch Network’s (LCN) mission: 
Build a network of fishermen, researchers, organizers, technical assistance providers, and consumers to strengthen local and regional seafood systems through the promotion of small-scale Community Supported Fisheries (CSFs) and direct-to-consumer models.  

Give us your elevator pitch! 
Seafood is an important source of nutritious food, yet it has been largely left out of discussions about local and regional food systems. At the same time, seafood is among the most widely traded global food commodities. The Local Catch Network (LCN), formed in 2011, aims to reconnect consumers to local and regional food systems. What started as a handful of fishermen determined to build community-based seafood systems, has since grown to a 200+ network of members across North America committed to providing local, healthful, low-impact, and sustainable seafood to communities.  

What is one thing that makes your organization unique? 
The Local Catch Network is a values and community-based network driven by its members. LCN is based at the University of Maine with additional backbone support from the North American Marine Alliance and is the only entity specifically focused on strengthening local and regional seafood systems at a national level. 

Systems Leadership Approach

How does LCN partner with others to catalyze systems change? 
The LCN works closely with various partners to better understand how to fill gaps and meet the needs of small-scale fishermen and communities across North America. We align ourselves with other values-based organizations to build connections across sectors and highlight the important work of fishing communities and the role of fish as food, when it is often overlooked. 

How has COVID-19 impacted your community and how has LCN responded?
Since the onset of COVID-19, alternative seafood models have experienced an influx of interest and many new and existing members of the Local Catch Network have pivoted their business models to meet the demand by providing seafood directly to the members of their community. LCN supports its members by facilitating of peer-to-peer conversations and technical assistance that provide opportunities for members and experts to share information about COVID-19 updates and policies pertinent to small-scale fisheries, lessons learned, and best practices.   

The pandemic has caused many regulations to be loosened and new partnerships to be formed. Of the changes you have seen and made, which would you like to maintain moving forward? Are you seeing steps that food systems leaders can take to ensure lasting change?
Fisheries management and regulations vary by state, county, and water bodies. In the last several years, we have seen a range of regulatory changes to allow local and direct-to-consumer seafood sales, including the “Pacific to Plate” bill that was enacted in 2015, which led to new seafood markets such as the  Tuna Harbor Dockside Market in San Diego. Similar markets have also emerged during the pandemic, such as the Bellingham Dockside Market. During the pandemic we have also observed regulatory changes that have helped fishermen connect to consumers, including the temporary off-the-boat sales licensure passed in Rhode Island. There is a tremendous opportunity to replicate, expand, and implement initiatives like dockside markets and direct/off-the-boat sales policies throughout North America to create lasting change. 

The country has seen ongoing protests around systemic anti-Black racism in 2020, and a violent fascist coup attempt at the start of 2021. Systemic racism is not new, but there are more conversations happening around dismantling racism at the local, regional and national levels.. How does LCN work to create a more equitable and explicitly anti-racist food system?
LCN is structured around nine core-values  in which seafood harvesters are paid a fair price for their catch, communities have access values-based seafood, and the individuals who produce, distribute and consume seafood are the voices that drive LCN’s work. Many of LCN’s members are working to combat and dismantle systemic racism through food advocacy. For example, Fishadelphia, a Philadelphia-based community supported fishery, is working with diverse inner city schools to increase access to fresh and local seafood. Meanwhile, in Alaska, Alaskan’s Own, has been working to address issues of food insecurity and hunger during the pandemic by creating a seafood donation program in Alaska and the Northwest. We recognize that there is much work to be done by LCN as we continue to build relationships with and elevate the work of BIPOC fishing communities.

LCN Learnings

What is one challenge you’re facing right now? Anything your fellow FSLN members might be able to help with? 
LCN is entering an exciting period of growth. As we continue to build our network and programming, we look to others for inspiration and welcome opportunities to collaborate with organizations who want to build bridges between land and water-based food systems. We want to instill the role of fish as food within local and regional food systems and ensure that our strategies are inclusive and impactful.  

Have you created any useful processes/resources that you’re particularly excited about? If so, please share!
One way LCN facilitates relationships between fishermen, the general public, and values-based seafood is with the Seafood Finder tool. Additionally, much of LCN’s work is research-based. We invite FSLN members to leverage our direct marketing resources and research to incorporate seafood into their food systems conversations;  

Any quotes or words of wisdom that you’d like to share with fellow FSLN members? 

It is important to remember the bounty of the sea and its many gifts to us! As Christie Whitmore, a First Nation member in British Columbia, reminds us: “Let us pause to reflect on what is really important: the health of our communities, our families, our people.”  

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