The oceans (or the ocean, singular; depending on your perspective), are (is) big.
To paraphrase Douglas Adams’s Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, “You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is” (Mr. Adams was actually referring to the universe, but seeing as we can swim, dive, and fish in the ocean, but – unless we’ve missed something – one cannot yet have that kind of fun in space, we’ve redirected the quote’s meaning).
Any small corner of a small part of a small section of the global ocean (e.g., the U.S.’s Mid-Atlantic Bight) can have hundreds of species of fish, and hundreds of species of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and bacteria living in and around it – depending on its bounty.
Compared to the planet’s landmasses, the oceans are significantly more huge; Arthur C. Clarke famously (and we think accurately) noted “How inappropriate to call this planet Earth when it is quite clearly Ocean.” On land, species are constrained to tall trees and deep caves – added all up, it’s a very small space (called “livable volume”). Animals of all stripes live throughout the ocean, from the coastal estuaries to the deepest trenches – the 3-D ecosystem that far outmatches land’s relative 2-D-ness.
Despite this oceanic hugeness, the oceans are local – they are your backyard; they dictate the weather in your city; they generate half of the air you breathe. The oceans are also a significant source of food.
In our neck of the woods, the aforementioned Mid-Atlantic Ocean – and, specifically, the waters around New York City – provides food for millions. Several hundred years of commercial and recreational fishing out of the ports of New England, New Jersey, New York and points south have brought seafood from clams and scallops to swordfish and black sea bass to markets all along the coastline.
Historic New York City was full of fish markets. Fishmongers were shucking clams and slicing bluefish along the Battery and Brooklyn waterfronts – providing the people of the City with fresh, local seafood. But over the years, as property values and development increased, the fishmongers were pushed farther and farther afield, and locally sourced seafood options became less and less accessible.
Now, as you’ve undoubtedly read here, here, and last week in the New York Times, across the nation Community Supported Fisheries (or community sourced fisheries…more on that next week) are growing in popularity. The way it works is like Netflix – members sign up for a few months in advance, and they receive local, responsibly harvested seafood each week. The dock’s daily landings determine what fish are delivered, meaning that we’re not creating a market for any one species, we’re making use of all of the seas’ bounty.
Here in NYC, we’ve formed Village Fishmonger and the Village Fishmonger CSF to bring local, responsibly harvested seafood from the docks, ports, and fishermen from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to the consumers of NYC.
We’ll be blogging here regularly (aiming for once a week), to create a forum for discussions about local fisheries, urban economies, and the future of fish. Check us out online, share your thoughts below, or contact us to chat more on these issues!