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By Michelle Greenwood, Slow Money SoCal, Slow Food Orange County

If you live in California, especially a coastal city, nothing says terroir like a local fish market. Or perhaps, more precisely, merroir!

From Monterey to San Diego, California celebrates a re-emerging fishing industry with a lineage that traces back to the 20th century. Today, understanding a broader mandate of environmental concerns and stakeholder inclusiveness, California ports are creating admirable advances toward an industry revival.

Work to re-create our fishing industry means finding ways to re-engage a public in a modern commerce. Fish markets at Monterey, San Diego’s Tuna Harbor, and Santa Barbara are a few places where fishermen sell directly to the public. Zoning laws and modern aesthetics can be hurdles to a holistic approach for this industry. For example, who today knows how to clean a fish? In some ports like Half Moon Bay, a shop in the port is offering the service for a small price while community members shop and brunch. In other ports, like Tuna Harbor, a volunteer does the work for a small tip. But, the results are the same: fishermen selling their catch and consumers taking home fresh, local fish for their next meal.

Our purchase decisions direct financial resources to the places where they matter most. Just as farmers working through farmers markets and CSAs take home a greater portion of the dollars we spend, our local fishermen gain an improved standard of living when they sell directly to the community. Purchases at fishermen’s markets and through Community Supported Fisheries (CSFs) offer fishermen better and more consistent cash flow.

Both Slow Food and Slow Money respect the ‘investment’ nature of purchase decisions. However, folks interested and able to move more money can go further through loans or investments. While working with the fishing industry, we don’t want to lose sight of the fact this industry is a collaboration of individual fishermen backstopped by local ports, canneries, and other necessary infrastructure.

At heart, Slow Money is community members learning about their local small food businesses, getting to know local business owners and moving at least some of their money to these main street ocean businesses.

Dollar amounts don’t have to be large In aggregate, small, individual investments can add up to serious money. We can organize ourselves in a number of ways from lending circles to LLCs. Folks might: fund a cooler, front working capital towards net repair, or even find the money to increase a fleet. Dollar amounts vary by project and each one of us, with input from fishermen, should be able to determine a venture or a business where our dollars, from $500 to $500K, might make a difference.

As activists interested in good, clean, fair (sea)food, our financial resources empower these local businesses and keep them sustainable – financially and environmentally. Fishermen’s markets are a great place to start conviviality and investment fun. Or, we can engage more thoughtfully for greater impact. We need to open both our imaginations and our pocketbooks. We need to have fun, but we can also be mindful of our financial power and to use it wisely. We need to know today is a good day to start.

Photo credit:  Buchanan/Shoffler