Fishing For Food: Piloting An Exploration Of The Invisible Subsistence Harvest Of Coastal Resources In Connecticut
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Fishing For Food: Piloting An Exploration Of The Invisible Subsistence Harvest Of Coastal Resources In Connecticut

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  • Journal Title:
    Agriculture & Food Security
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    Background: In Connecticut, the subsistence harvest of coastal and marine resources, with the explicit goal of consuming what is collected or caught, is counted and regulated as recreational fishing. Little information exists regarding the harvest and use of these resources. It is not known how the catch is distributed, processed, how much is consumed or by whom. This research was conducted as a service learning opportunity for students in an undergraduate course on Marine Fisheries Economics and Policy offered at the University of Connecticut. This research was produced for fisheries managers at the Marine Fisheries Division of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CTDEEP) who desired more information on the nature of subsistence fisheries including a characterization of participating harvesters and the extent of harvesters’ knowledge regarding a new enhanced shore-based fishing program that allows higher catch limits for certain species. Within the framework of the course, students developed and executed a survey of coastal fishermen to assess the extent of subsistence harvesting and consumption of coastal resources, including fish, shellfish, algae and plants, demographic information on harvesters and the extent and source of their knowledge regarding fishing regulations and health advisories.

    Results: The majority of respondents consume their harvests and also share it with others. None sold their harvest. Of those who consumed their harvest, most consumed at least one meal a month. An overwhelming majority of respondents share their harvest with people living in their household. Despite high levels of consumption by Connecticut harvesters, less than half of respondents had heard of the term “subsistence fishing.” The dissemination of information within the fishing community appears to be largely successful, as nearly all respondents were aware of the fishing regulations and health advisories and how to obtain the information if they needed to find it. The main sources of information are signs at fishing sites and the CTDEEP Web site. However, only half of respondents were aware of the new Enhanced Opportunity Shore Fishing Program, perhaps because of its newness. Most surveying was conducted in southeastern Connecticut and captured little demographic diversity.

    Conclusions: Harvesters of Connecticut’s marine and coastal resources appear to lack familiarity with the concept of subsistence, and few consider their activities to be subsistence-based. However, most consider the provision of food to be an important reason driving their participation, either directly consuming or sharing their harvests with others to consume. The harvest of marine resources for subsistence may not be labeled as such, counted rather as recreational catch. It may not be quantified or visible to regulators, but it certainly exists. It fills a provisioning role within the overarching cash-based economy and also affords individuals the opportunity to engage in a pleasurable and relaxing activity that reinforces familial relationships. Continued and expanded surveying will be conducted to better assess the nature and magnitude of subsistence harvesting of coastal resources in Connecticut.

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  • Source:
    Agric & Food Secur 6, 12
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    CC BY
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