Can you believe that even in coastal towns, most of the “fresh seafood” on restaurant menus isn’t even from this country, much less the county? Some 80 percent of seafood served in America is imported and much of it is harvested under conditions that would not meet U.S. environmental standards. Diners are unaware either because they assume it’s local or they’re told it is when it’s not. Or they just don’t care.
The shrimp we sauteed the other night were recently caught in Carteret County, NC, about 200 miles east of our home in Durham. So were the clams we steamed two weeks earlier. And the flounder and jumping mullet we grilled? Yep, all from Carteret. Towns there include Atlantic Beach, Beaufort, and Morehead City.
We got all that seafood through Walking Fish, a subscription seafood service organized by Josh Stoll and other students at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. They’ve joined with Carteret fishermen/women to launch our region’s first community-supported fishery to sell locally caught seafood to the public. The name is a takeoff of the more common CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture. The CSF is coordinated through Bill Rice, owner of Fishtowne Seafood, a small Beaufort-based processing facility.
The composition of each week’s portion varies according to season and weather. We were told ahead of time that we’d likely get clams, shrimp, triggerfish, spot, mullet, flounder, and black drum. I really appreciated that we had choices — weekly vs. biweekly, half-share vs. full share, filleted vs. do-it-yourself. We chose biweekly, half-share and filleted, for $79. Each share is enough for two people with a little leftover, and we’re getting six weeks of fish, so about $13 a meal-for-two for really fresh seafood. And we’re helping our fishing friends in Carteret.
Duke students said they weren’t sure how the program would go over, but I could have told them it would sell out, which it did (at 400 members!). We’re situated in locavore/foodie/eco central. You should see the Prius drivers pull up at the pickup point at Duke Gardens with their farmers’ market and Obama bumper stickers.
While we’re on the topic, there’s also a wonderful program called Carteret Catch. When you see that label in a Carteret restaurant or seafood store window it signifies that the seafood labeled as local comes directly from the county. Those fish don’t have to walk far.