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Local seafood: rethinking the direct marketing paradigm

Joshua S Stoll, School of Marine Sciences, University of Maine
Bradford A Dubik, Duke University Marine Laboratory, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University
Lisa M Campbell, Duke University Marine Laboratory, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University


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Faced with strict regulations, rising operational costs, depleted stocks, and competition from less expensive foreign imports, many fishers are pursuing new ways to market and sell their catch. Direct marketing arrangements can increase the ex-vessel value of seafood and profitability of operations for fishers by circumventing dominant wholesale chains of custody and capturing the premium that customers are willing to pay for local seafood. Our analysis goes beyond a paradigm that understands direct marketing arrangements as solely economic tools to consider how these emerging business configurations create a set of conditions that can result in increased bonding and bridging capital among fishers by incentivizing cooperation, communication, and information production and organization. To build our case, we report on the economic value being generated for fishers in a cooperatively owned and operated direct marketing arrangement in eastern North Carolina. Over the course of 2 years, fishers participating in the Walking Fish community-supported fishery received 33% more revenue for their catch compared to the average monthly ex-vessel price of finfish and shellfish landed in the surrounding region, and an additional 14% to 18% more per dollar by way of year-end profit sharing. We argue that these economic benefits create an incentive to participate, resulting in cooperation among fishers and increased communication skills that foster bonding and bridging capital that put fishers in a position to identify and respond to challenges that threaten the social-ecological resilience of the systems within which they operate. We suggest that “institutional starters” like these can play a critical role in increasing the resilience of social-ecological systems, including fisheries.

Key words

community-supported fisheries; direct marketing; institutional starters; local seafood; resilience; social capital

Copyright © 2015 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087