Community Supported Fisheries

Start date:
January 2012
August 2013

Diversifying fish consumption and decreasing discards by thinking inside the box

The report is available for download here.

The need to catch and consume fish in a more sustainable way has risen both in the public eye and policy agenda in recent years. Fisheries, globally and in the UK, are a vital source of protein, employment and economic development. A focus in the mainstream markets on the ‘big five’ species (cod, haddock, tuna, salmon, prawns) has contributed to overfishing of these stocks, as well as the discarding of a number of species, which are of good quality, yet lack a stable and viable market. These species have become known as ‘under-utilised’ species, and now represent about 17% of the total English catch.

Brook Lyndhurst was contracted, alongside SeaWeb - an international NGO dedicated to communicating ocean sustainability issues - to undertake a piece of action-based research (ABR) on this issue.
The central aims of this ABR were:

  1. To learn more about current consumer behaviour and how best to influence behaviour which reduces the environmental impact of fisheries, in order to;
  2. Support the sustainability of fish populations and the local economies which rely on them

This intervention piloted and evaluated the creation of an alternative food network known as a Community Supported Fishery (CSF). Based on the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model, a CSF links inshore fishermen to local consumers. This model shares the risks and benefits faced by fishermen by allowing community members to become ‘shareholders or subscribers’ of the CSF by pre-paying for a fishing season and receiving regular shares of the catch in return (e.g. weekly fish box named 'Catchbox'). This approach had never before been applied to UK fisheries.

This action-based research project tested the CSF model in the UK context, both as a general proof of concept, and as a specific mechanism to create a market for under-utilised or discarded fish species. This happened directly, through the scheme, and it is hoped that indirect changes in knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours towards these species and towards ocean sustainability will continue in other contexts over the longer term.

Brook Lyndhurst, as evaluators on this project, explored whether consumers’ and fishers’ attitudes and behaviours around fish become more sustainable through their participation in a CSF model. The evaluation also looked more broadly at the processes and stakeholders involved, the types of participants involved, and the motivations and barriers for different groups. The main research questions which were addressed by the evaluation were:

  • Process: how do you set up a successful CSF in the UK?
  • Benefits: what are the benefits? (Economic, social, environmental, sustainable, business)
  • Behaviour: how do behaviours and attitudes change when taking part in a CSF scheme?

SeaWeb deliveried the project, with Brook Lyndhurst focused on the evaluation side of the project with a dual interest in impacts of the scheme (in terms of uptake of under-utilised species and in terms of attitudinal or behavioural change) and process (to help build an understanding of the engagement and development work which is put into delivering the business model).

Brook Lyndhurst activities included:

  • Delivering consumer research and message testing in three locations;
  • Ethnographic observation at community events, to find out about those who are not interested in taking part in the CSF model;
  • Designing baseline and follow-up questionnaires, and analysis of their results;
  • 9 focus groups;
  • 10 stakeholder interviews; and
  • Site visits with SeaWeb

For more information on the scheme please visit the Catchbox website:

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