Community Fisheries Network holds annual meeting in Portland, Maine

March 12, 2013

While much of the Network's members' joint work takes place via conference calls and e-mail, the group convenes annually to share insights and learn from each other. This year, the third annual meeting of the Network was held in Portland, Maine, March 7-10. The annual meeting provided an opportunity to hear from other fishermen, learn new skills, and advance the Community Fisheries Network as an organization. Participants in the meeting included current Network members as well as prospective new members and invited guests.

Several members of the Maine lobster industry who joined the meeting during the first day to describe how lobster cooperatives work. The Network is currently exploring cooperative business models as a potential approach to a national fisheries distribution and marketing strategy. The open dialogue with leaders of the Maine lobster industry provided an excellent opportunity for Network members to hear directly about the benefits and risks of creating a cooperative structure. There was a lively conversation and everyone benefitted from the discussion.

Positioning the Network to transition to the next phase of organizational development was an important focus of the meeting. The Network members agreed on an overall process for attaining membership and designed a plan for finalizing the recruitment strategy and membership application. A draft membership agreement was presented and member organizations are expected to review and sign the agreement by May 31, 2013. If you would like more information about becoming a member, contact us.

The Network members also advanced their thinking about defining and tracking metrics for the sustainability standards. At the last CFN meeting in San Diego, California, the Network members worked through a draft set of sustainability standards that were subsequently approved by the membership. Click here to review. During the Maine meeting, the group worked on the first steps of defining a set of metrics to measure CFN member performance toward reaching the standards. Through a series of smaller group discussions, the Network members began to characterize what types of metrics could be used and designed draft metrics for each of the three categories of the sustainability standards: social equity, economic equity, and environmental equity. An Accountability Working Group will continue to work on developing ideas for metrics and methods to track progress toward achieving the sustainability standards.

The annual meeting also provided an opportunity for the group to get an update on national policy issues and talk about the potential role the CFN could play in the policy arena. Representatives from NOAA's Office of Policy talked with the Network members about work they have been doing on a draft guidance document to further define the use of 'regional fishing associations', 'fishing communities', and 'community fishing associations' under the Magnuson Stevens Act. The meeting also covered the Marine Conservation Network's (MCN) role in national policy development and synergy between the work of MCN and future policy efforts of the Network. The Policy Working Group will follow progress with national policy and develop a plan for how best to engage the CFN and its member organizations.

John Jordan of Calendar Islands Maine Lobster at Boston Seafood Show
John Jordan, of Calendar Islands Maine Lobster, at Boston Seafood Show
The meeting agenda also included information on specific topics of interest to Network members. Members of the Cape Cod Fisheries Trust (CCFT), with their partners, presented background information on Fish Hub as a platform for information exchange and talked with participants who were interested in learning more about CCFT's experience with permit banking and quota sharing. Small group discussions also focused on the use of social media to communicate and tips for telling your story through video. Finally, the scheduling of the annual meeting deliberately coincided with the Boston Seafood Show and several Network members took advantage of the option to visit one of the country's largest seafood shows and see the wide array of seafood products being marketed.

The third annual Community Fisheries Network meeting created opportunities for sharing information while providing a platform for moving forward with key organizational issues and development of a national distribution and marketing strategy. Although the agenda was ambitious, the Network members accomplished their objectives and finished the meeting having made important progress and renewed commitment to the value of the collective work of the Network.

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