Every Friday afternoon, New Hampshire mom Kate Politano opens her garage door and rolls out a fridge. Starting at about 3 p.m., local residents trudge up her driveway and pick up their weekly allotment of fish—plastic bags of various weights and sizes—from the fridge’s three compartments labeled Quarter Share, Half Share, and Full Share. Some weeks it’s pollock. Other times it’s haddock. And sometimes it’s a lesser-known but plentiful species, like redfish.
Politano is a member of New Hampshire Community Seafood (NHCS), a cooperative of fishermen and consumers who have joined together to support the state’s disappearing small-scale fishing industry and its sustainable harvesting practices. The community-supported fishery (CSF) movement emerged from the industry’s well-known environmental and economic woes. The industry’s demise went like this: modern industrialized fishing turned the sea’s bounty into a commodity, with prices that fluctuated in response to the market rather than in response to the environment. And after decades of market-driven overfishing by large commercial fleets, the stocks of cod and other popular species collapsed; stringent regulations and plummeting prices followed, pushing many small-scale fishermen out of business. In all of New Hampshire, there are only nine privately owned ground fish boats left.