Nova Scotia

Ecology Action Centre creates system to distribute local seafood

The Ecology Action Centre in Halifax is designing a seafood hub to get locally caught product to consumers in Nova Scotia and across the country.

Small scale fishery and consumers will benefit from better distribution, says Dave Adler

The Ecology Action Centre plans to create new distribution system for seafood in Nova Scotia. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

The Ecology Action Centre in Halifax is designing a seafood hub to get locally caught product to consumers in Nova Scotia and across the country.

Dave Adler, with the marine team at the Ecology Action Centre, said it's part of their overall mandate to help coastal communities become more sustainable.

"It's surprisingly difficult to buy local seasonal seafood, even though we're surrounded by incredible fisheries here. So that's a big problem from the consumers end and in the same way, if you talk to fishermen, they have a really hard time finding markets that will pay a fair price for what they're doing," said Adler.

"Our seafood industry is aligned to the export market which is good on a large scale, but what ends up happening is the small scale fisheries, the owner-operator fisheries, get out-competed by the large scale, big volume, low value fisheries. The price gets driven to a point where they can't make a go at it."

The Ecology Action Centre is working with a food hub in Massachusetts called Red Tomato to come up with a better distribution system that will get seafood to consumers and pay the producer a fair price.

"This problem is not that different than problems facing small scale farms," said Adler.

"That's what Red Tomato and groups like them have been able to create: aggregation distribution systems that can organize that supply from small scale farmers in a way that it's accessible to several market segments and that's what needs to happen in the fisheries here."

The seafood hub is the first of its kind and will serve individual consumers across the province.

There are also plans to connect with a food hub that will begin in Cape Breton this summer, which will supply customers across the country including chefs, retailers, universities and hospitals.

There are a variety models to use for the hub, but Adler said the infrastructure already exists to make it work.

"We don't need to reproduce what we already have, we've got great processing facilities, we've got great trucking companies and things like that," he said.

"We just need to realign them so that it works for our small scale fisheries."

The Ecology Action Centre hopes to launch the seafood hub this summer and Adler said it's already working with Dalhousie University and some hospitals on the South Shore on a pilot project.

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