Raising the Profile of Sustainable Fish and Seafood

When asked, many in our region would acknowledge that fish and shellfish play significant roles in the mid-Atlantic food system. But this industry is often overshadowed by the also critical issues faced by agricultural producers. In order to raise the profile of sustainable fish and seafood, as well as those who work in the industry, Slow Food DC is one of just a few Slow Food chapters with a designated Slow Fish Liaison.  

Board member Lauren Parnell is an enthusiastic advocate for eating local fish and shellfish, educating consumers about how to make ethical seafood choices, and supporting coastal communities and livelihoods. As our Slow Fish liaison, she helps our chapter apply a seafood lens to all activities, gives educational talks for consumers, and fosters our relationships with small-scale fishers around the region.

In early October, Lauren traveled to Portland, Oregon to attend the Local Seafood Summit, a gathering that celebrates the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of small-scale and community-based seafood businesses committed to strengthening their local, regional, and national food systems. The summit was hosted by The Local Catch Network, a community-of-practice made up of fisherman, organizers, researchers, and consumers from across North America that are committed to providing local, healthful, low-impact, and economically sustainable seafood via community supported fisheries (CSFs) and other direct marketing arrangements.

At the summit, Lauren led a workshop on Disaster Resilience, drawing on her professional experience in emergency management. Disaster resilience is a critical topic for fishing communities who are on the frontlines of climate change. Extreme weather events, rising ocean temperatures, and ocean acidification are adversely impacting fish and shellfish populations and pose increasing challenges for those who make their living on the water.  Small seafood businesses, like the ones Slow Food loves to support, are particularly vulnerable. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 40% of small businesses do not re-open after a disaster, 25% more fail within a year. Lauren’s workshop discussed recent disaster data and trends across coastal regions of the U.S. and identified best practices to increase the chances small fishers and seafood sellers are able to weather disaster-related business disruptions.

After the summit, Lauren and 15 other attendees joined well-known sustainable seafood advocate and owner of Forever Wild Salmon Kevin Scribner for a two-day tour of the Washington and Oregon coasts. They covered a lot of ground, visiting the new waterfront development area in Vancouver, WA, the historic working waterfronts in Garibaldi, OR, and an oyster hatchery in Netart’s Bay, OR.

Lauren recently joined the Planning Committee for the next Slow Fish gathering that will take place in Durham, New Hampshire March 19-22, 2020. This event is open to fishers, eaters, chefs, community organizers, and anyone else interested in joining a values- based community and learning more about sustainable seafood. We hope some of you will join us there!

In the meantime, you can get more involved in the Slow Fish virtual community by following the Slow Fish North America page on Facebook.

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