A Community Supported Fishery (CSF) for Williamsburg?

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A Community Supported Fishery (CSF) for Williamsburg?

With its proximity of the Chesapeake Bay, Williamsburg is an obvious location for a community supported fishery to thrive. To further investigate the potential for a CSF in Williamsburg, an interdisciplinary student and faculty team conducted a feasibility study. This study can be separated into three major sections: market research, organizational design, and supplier research.

Fresh, local seafood

Local seafood could make its way to a Williamsburg CSF. ©Will Sweatt/VASG

By Tracy Brinkerhoff

Williamsburg area residents may soon feel even closer to the Chesapeake Bay—and get more access to its seafood. A study led by Virginia Sea Grant and the College of William and Mary found that there is a sizeable demand for a community supported fishery (CSF) in the greater Williamsburg area, and almost 400 residents who were interviewed or surveyed provided their contact information and asked to be informed when a CSF launches.

“We were entrusted with the names and emails of these folks who were excited about a Williamsburg CSF,” says Susan Park, Assistant Director for Research at Virginia Sea Grant, “and we’re taking this responsibility very seriously.”

Fulfilling that responsibility means not only getting out the results of the study but finding the right person to launch a CSF.

“When we talked to CSFs across the U.S., we found they were each very different, with one exception: They emphasized the importance of an enthusiastic coordinator,” says Park. Usually an enthusiastic individual, coordinators in other CSFs have been community members, fishermen, processors, or organizations. “The market is promising, but the key is to be motivated by more than profit.”

The research team is planning a meeting this fall to talk with potential coordinators and suppliers about the challenges and opportunities to starting a CSF in Williamsburg.

A CSF is the seafood equivalent of community supported agriculture (CSA)s, in which farmers sell a share of their crop directly to consumers. In CSFs, community members purchase a share in a fisherman’s harvest for the season, usually by paying upfront. In exchange, shareholders receive regular deliveries of seasonal seafood products. Although the CSF concept is still relatively new, an estimated 70 CSFs operate in the U.S. today.

To find out whether a CSF would work in the Williamsburg area, the research team talked to residents, representatives from CSFs across the country, and members of the seafood industry.

The study was a collaborative effort among students and faculty at the College of William and Mary’s Mason School of Business, Marshall-Wythe School of Law, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, and Virginia Sea Grant. The research was funded through the College of William and Mary’s 2011 Green Fees Program, which supports initiatives to make campus more sustainable.

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