Ocean to Table

Terry Manier
by Chris Dixon - South Carolina - Feb/March 2011

A fresh approach to commercial fishing

The day before Mark turns for shore, he calls Kerry on the satellite phone, and she sends out e-mail alerts to clients. The next day, the Marhefkas are at Mount Pleasant’s Shem Creek on the deck of the thirty-nine-foot Amy Marie, showing them how to fillet their fish and sharing stories about the sea or the state of the grouper fishery. They’ve been amazed at the level of flexibility from their customers, who are as willing to eat triggerfish or white grunt as they were the now off-limits red snapper. “We have a waiting list with about twenty-five families,” says Kerry. “We only lose maybe two, three families a quarter. Once you’re in, you’re in. We’re like the Mafia.”

Though CSFs have yet to reach the popularity of their agricultural counterparts, the idea is gaining ground. “I’ve had lots of requests from fishermen about the concept of CSFs,” says Amber Von Harten, a fisheries specialist with Clemson University who worked closely with the Marhefkas. She also sees a rising engagement among consumers. “With different folks taking an interest in the local foods movement, they want to know where their food comes from. They want to meet and put a face to that fisherman, and that builds community connections.” Beyond the economics, that’s something the Marhefkas appreciate as well.

“Our customers’ kids, they get on the boat too,” Mark says. “It feels so good when a parent comes up and says, ‘My kid eats fish because of you.’ It’s like, all right, all the bad just went away from the day.”

 For more information, go to abundantseafood.com.