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We want to make sure independent fishermen can make a living; we want to grow infrastructure to make sure they can freely get product to market; and we want to ensure that the state and industry are taking care of fish stocks for the long term.
—Larry Collins

man stands with hand on rail with bay in background

Larry Collins is the president of the San Francisco Community Fishing Association. Photo by Jason Houston

A growing San Francisco fishing cooperative is successfully demonstrating a new model for fishing, by delivering strong financial, community, and environmental returns. The San Francisco Community Fishing Association (SFCFA) doubled its revenue sharing with members in its second fiscal year, which ended December 2012. As of mid-2013, the co-op had risen to 19 members. SFCFA has also been matching “dock price” — the price per pound paid to the fishermen — and often paying more for members. The co-op has lately been buying a huge run of Sacramento River salmon; it has also moved crab, tuna, and black cod in past seasons.

In addition, the co-op is advocating for stronger state water policies to support healthy fisheries. “We’re really establishing fair trade on the docks of San Francisco,” says Larry Collins, the president of the San Francisco Community Fishing Association. “Fishermen benefit when they own their product further up the distribution chain. We want to make sure independent fishermen can make a living; we want to grow infrastructure to make sure they can freely get product to market; and we want to ensure that the state and industry are taking care of fish stocks for the long term.”

“This is fair fish in every sense,” Larry adds.

To date, SFCFA’s milestones include:

  • Leasing a warehouse at Pier 45, as well as a hoist and freezers, with the support of Ecotrust and a grant from the California Ocean Protection Council
  • Allowing members open access to hoist, freezers, and fork trucks for free
  • Providing reliable ice to the entire port fleet
  • Returning revenue shares to members at the end of 2011 and 2012
  • Hitting 19 members at the end of May 2013
  • Sending roughly 70 percent of harvest to local restaurants and caterers, via local distributors
  • Lobbying for more freshwater allocations in the Sacramento River delta, for improved salmon returns
  • Successfully advocating for crab pot limits in Northern California waters, via affiliate San Francisco Crab Boat Owners Association
  • Securing permits for three SFCFA boats to perform low-impact, vertical hook-and-line rock cod fishing, as part of a demonstration approach for avoiding bycatch

Restaurateurs in the Bay Area are taking notice of the SFCFA’s new business approach, as well as the product they are shipping. Kenny Belov, who runs the restaurant Fish in Sausalito and the wholesaler TwoXSea on Pier 45, is working closely with the co-op.

“Our values align well with what they’re doing, and most importantly they are delivering some of the best tasting salmon and crab around,” Kenny says. “We are cultivating an artisanal, crafted approach to fishing, focused on quality and fairness in harvest. That’s increasingly what eaters want.”