Can North Carolina’s Local Seafood Movement Help Save its Fishermen?


By Christina Cooke
Civil Eats

A group of forward-thinking fishermen are appealing to the local food scene by marketing the nearly 50 types of fish across four seasons to their community.

North Carolina’s commercial fishermen—who work primarily in independent, small-scale operations—landed 66 million pounds of fish last year, but rather than ending up on North Carolina plates, the majority was whisked out of state to markets where it could fetch a higher price.

“I think more New Yorkers eat North Carolina seafood than North Carolinians,” says Ann Simpson, who grew up in a small town on the coast and currently directs North Carolina Catch, a partnership of smaller organizations working to strengthen the state’s local seafood economy.

To fill the void created by the export of its catch, North Carolina—like most states—ships in seafood from abroad. Today, around 90 percent of the seafood Americans eat has been imported from places like China, Thailand, Canada, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Ecuador, and the average fish travels more than 5,400 miles between the landing dock and point of sale.

“People come to the coast looking for fresh seafood, and for the most part, they’re getting seafood from halfway around the world, which they’re eating in a local setting,” says Noelle Boucquey, assistant professor of environmental studies at Eckerd College, who studied North Carolina’s fisheries while at Duke University. Patronize a vendor at the Outer Banks Seafood Festival in Nags Head, and you’ll face the same conundrum.

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