Off the Hook: A Maine Community Supported Fishery

How one Maine community puts Fisherman first!

Most of us have heard of Community Supported Agriculture or CSAs, but in one coastal region in Maine, fishermen, congregations and Seacoast community members are taking things to a whole new level.  In late July, two women from the Southern coast of Maine, Amy Richards and Marcia Gibbons, launched a new program by which customers from the Seacoast food shed may purchase shares of fish and lobster in one of the region’s newest CSFs, Community Support Fisheries. 

robillardThe fishing industry in the Seacoast region of New England has long struggled with the ups and downs of an unpredictable fishing economy. The fishing season is generally unpredictable and requires a boatload of upfront capital (pun intended) to keep the show on the road.  With this particular project, the aim is to bring a little peace of mind to fisherman in the region earlier in the season so they are poised for success throughout.  Instead of starting out playing catch-up, fisherman can focus more on the catch.  The idea is to collect money for fishermen at the beginning of the season so they have some capital to then invest in their fishing operations for the season be it boat maintenance, health insurance or equipment. 

The program works similarly to any typical fruit and vegetable CSA you may be familiar with;  community members sign up and pay in advance for a bounty of local seasonal produce, only with the Kittery/Portsmouth Community Sustainable Fishery program, the bounty will usually have four fins and scales.  For a full share, community members pay $192 to receive 2 pounds of fresh fish fillets a week during the 8-week CSF season.  Alternatively, individuals also have the option of purchasing half shares at $96 for one pound of fish a week for the 8-week season.  But that’s not all.   A lobster share is also available! Due to the fact that lobster must be sold by the whole unit, the lobster program works a little differently.  “Those interested in this program will pay up front for a set number of lobsters at an as-yet-to-be-determined price per pound. Then over the course of the eight weeks, customers can go to Lawrence’s Kittery wharf and pick up lobsters when needed.”  That’s right folks, fresh community supported Maine lobster is just a stones throw away for Kittery/Portsmouth CSF subscribers. 

Fishes and lobsters

The idea for this CSF was the result of an on-going conversation at Kittery Point’s First Congregational Church called “Fishes and Loaves: A Study of the Covenant between Land and Sea”.  The conversations, put together by the Maine Council of Churches and partially sponsored through a grant from the Presbyterian Hunger Program, varied in focus but revolved thematically around stewardship of the ocean and caring for our coastal communities both inside the ocean and out.  Ms. Richards and Ms. Gibbons are active members of the Kittery Point Congregational Church and were inspired to organize the program after the final lecture of the series welcomed a visitor speaking about CSFs in Rockland, ME. “I’m very familiar with CSAs because we came to Kittery from Madison, Wis., two years ago,” Richards said. “I thought it would be a great thing for members of the church to do.” As staunch believers that everyone should have access to fresh, local food, setting up the CSF seemed like an obvious move.

Fish shares are delivered to the First Congregational Church each week and are distributed in the spirit of sustainable food systems and camaraderie.  It is a powerful food systems project that requires the investment of people in other people.   Supporting local fisheries, connecting consumers with fresh food and building community in the coastal economy are just a few of the great things this project is accomplishing.  Great work to the Kittery/Portsmouth Community Sustainable Fishery, we wish you a successful season and many more thereafter!

Photo of Ari

For more information about the Kittery/Portsmouth Community Sustainable Fishery Program or to ask about purchasing shares, contact: or

And if you need helpful ideas on how to get your own Food Justice project off the ground please email or call our National Food Security Coordinator: or (502) 569-5818.