Get Fresh, Local Fish Caught Sustainably Delivered To You Weekly

Local I‘a’s community-supported fishery program returns this December, with plans to expand to restaurants, too.


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Subscribers to Local I‘a’s community-supported fishery program pick up their weekly delivery. The program, which delivered its last catch of fish in January, is planning to start up again in December.
Photos: Courtesy of Local I‘a

 

Last June, Local I‘a, a seafood-based distribution and subscription business, started delivering fresh, local, sustainably harvested fish to O‘ahu consumers, much in the same way community-supported agriculture subscription boxes—or CSAs—deliver fresh, local produce. Members paid in advance for a share of locally caught or raised seafood, which were delivered to five pick-up sites on the island.

 

That program, started and funded by Conservation International Hawai‘i, had 76 subscribers when it delivered its last catch of fish in January. And now, nearly a year later, the program, which was on hold due to funding and a transition in management, is gearing up to start deliveries again.

 

But with a twist.

 

Instead of solely relying on members—consumers like you and me—Local I‘a is working with restaurants, too, to get commitments from them to purchase local, sustainably harvested fish. This model has worked for similar programs, namely Dock to Dish, a supply-driven seafood sourcing program that provides chefs and members with direct dock access to fresh, wild seafood, including bluefish, haddock, striped bass, mahimahi and wahoo. The program, which started in Montauk, New York in 2013, has now expanded to Los Angeles, British Columbia and Costa Rica.

 

Chef Ed Kenney, who has not only subscribed to Local I‘a in the past but provides a portion of his catering kitchen in the back of Kaimukī Superette for the team to store and process fish, invited dozens of chefs and restaurateurs to Mud Hen Water last week to learn more about ways restaurants could benefit from this new program (called restaurant-supported fishery, or RSF). Representatives from about a dozen eateries—including Sansei Seafood Restaurant and Sushi Bar, Vino, 12th Ave Grill and the soon-to-be-open Senia in Chinatown—turned up to see how this program could work for their restaurants. (In the program’s first incarnation, eight restaurants, including Koko Head Café, The Pig & The Lady, Grondin French-Latin Kitchen and Mission Social Hall & Café, were subscribers.)

 

“I love this idea,” says Robynne Mai‘i, who owns Fête in Chinatown with her husband, Chuck Bussler. “I think it’s brilliant and we’re definitely interested. We just don’t have time to go to the [fish] auction, so this is so convenient.”

 

The goal of the program is the same for both consumers and restaurants: to connect us directly with suppliers—meaning the fishers and aquaculturists—to provide transparency in how our seafood is sourced. According to Conservation International Hawai‘i, 63 percent of the seafood sold in Hawai‘i annually is imported. And many of us have no idea from where it comes.

 

There are also lingering concerns about the health of our fisheries, which are impacted by overfishing, invasive species, pollution, habitat destruction and climate change.

 

Local I‘a only works with fishers who commit to pono, or sustainable, fishing practices, which include harvesting fish from replenishing populations and species, eliminating or minimizing by-catch (the unwanted fish or other marine creatures caught while fishing for another species), handling seafood in a safe and proper method and not taking fish during spawning seasons. (There’s really no formal monitoring of the fishers, and Local I‘a has to rely on observation, word-of-mouth and the honor system. But these fishers do have to sign contracts agreeing to these terms.)

 

“We want people to be aware of what they’re eating and where it comes from,” says Local I‘a’s Ashely Watts, who spent seven years as a fishery observer for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

 

Here’s how the CSF works: You choose either the Kau Share ($25 for one and a half pounds of fish) or the ‘Ohana Share ($45 for three pounds of fish). The minimum order is four shares, which can be delivered every week, every other week or once a month, depending on what you want and need. The fish you get will be processed—cleaned and gutted—and comes with recipes. You could get anything from ta‘ape (bluestripe snapper and an invasive species) to ʻōpelu (mackerel scad) to even high-value pelagic fish including mahimahi and ‘ahi. You can also add on, for an additional charge, oysters from Kualoa Ranch and limu from He‘eia Fishpond.

 

You’ll know who caught your fish, where it was caught, how it was caught and what methods were used. Restaurants will also have that data and can include a QR code on their menus so that patrons can access that same information. Mud Hen Water already does it with its fresh, local fish. Order the preserved ‘akule (bigeye scad) in a sardine can and you’ll get a QRC that links to a website—managed by Local I‘a—that provides all that information and a link to email the fisher.

 

“I know people use it, too,” says Kenney, who receives a blind-copy of the email customers send to fishers. “One time, I was on the expediting line and my phone buzzed. The customer at table 14 was emailing the fisherman!”

 

Watts says she hopes to start deliveries again in December, adding more pick-up sites on the North Shore, in Kapolei or ‘Ewa and in Hawai‘i Kai.

 

To sign up or get more information, visit here.

 

READ MORE STORIES BY CATHERINE TOTH FOX

 

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