Cheap, Fresh, Nutritious and Delicious: Why Fishers’ Markets Have the Best Fish

The Water Workshop “HOW WE SELL – Can Fishers’ Markets Offer Zero Nautical Food Miles?” held on Saturday at Slow Fish 2009 offered a new perspective on how fish is bought and sold, suggesting that the model of farmers’ markets could also be applied to fishermen and fish consumers.
Stefano Masini, Professor of Agricultural Law at the Tor Vergata University of Rome and head of Coldiretti’s Environment, Territory and Consumption Office, moderated the discussion, He started by looking at some of the standard supply chain’s problems: “Just a few cents go to the fisherman, and the consumer or restaurant pays too much. In Italy, 17% of the cost of a product goes to the producer, 23% to industry and the rest to the distributors. Direct sales interrupt that fragmentation.” Direct sales mean fishermen are selling their catch directly to consumers. As Masini explained, locally caught fish might not offer the same variety as a supermarket with fish from all over the world, but it is cheaper, and, he said, “quality, freshness and tradition are the new values, not selection.”
“Zero-kilometer fish is a more ethical, respectful product, and it can help construct the identity of a territory,” he continued. “We need to return to a dialog with the consumer.”
Further benefits of “kilometer-zero fish” were explained by Alberto Felici, Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Camerino in Macerata, in the Marches region. He displayed the results of research on local and imported mussels, which showed that the local mussels had higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, phytosterols and antioxidants. Likewise fresh narwal shrimp, found around the Sicilian island of Ustica, have much higher levels of the powerful antioxidant astaxanthin. “There is an asymmetry of information between producers and consumers,” concluded Felici. “We need communication, and most importantly education for children.”
Guido Doz, regional chairman of AGCI Pesca (the Italian association of fishing cooperatives) in Friuli-Venezia Giulia then described a project his organization had set up in Trieste for direct sales, bringing locally caught fish straight to the consumer through farmers’ markets, at much lower prices than those set by retailers.
“We must support these local economies,” concluded Masini. “This is how we will fight the economic crisis. This is the real economy.”

Carla Ranicki

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