Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs are growing in popularity in Southern California because, proponents say, they are the best thing for busy Americans since sliced bread. When you join a CSA, farmers receive a flat rate in advance to cultivate your weekly organic produce and, in many cases, deliver it to your doorstep. Representatives often explain that not only are CSA programs convenient, affordable, local, and organic, but they also strengthen the bond and transparency between farmer and shopper — taking the mysteries of “what” and “where” out of food shopping.

Recognizing the health, social, and environmental benefits of such programs, UCSB think tanks are expanding the “support your local farmer” concept to include fish with a newly proposed Community Supported Fishery (CSF) program.

With $12,400 in funding from the Associated Students Coastal Fund, Santa Barbara residents may soon see the launch of a CSF program in full force. Project coleader Carrie Culver said, “CSFs are a win-win situation for the entire community. Citizens will learn more about fishing activities occurring in their own backyard and be able to make informed decisions about the seafood they consume and the management of local marine resources. Local fishermen and businesses involved with the CSF will benefit from the support provided through the program.”

To date, over 95 percent of the seafood consumed by the community of Santa Barbara is imported. Additionally, at least 95 percent of the seafood caught locally is exported. The decentralization of aquaculture and fishing industries can not only lead to reduced carbon emissions, but it will also allow shoppers to “cut out the middleman” as they can purchase fresh-caught fish directly from the source.

Stephanie Mutz, a commercial fisherman and Research Coordinator of Commercial Fishermen of Santa Barbara added, “California fisheries have some of the most stringent regulations and well-managed fisheries in the world, and [fishermen] embrace those regulations if it protects our marine ecosystem while providing food for the community. A CSF provides an opportunity for us to fish less and make more money to support our families.”

The Coastal Fund hopes to launch the CSF in 2012 and expects that students and other members of the campus community will play a major role in running the program. The grant provides two quarters of support for groundwork planning and an undergraduate internship.

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