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Part CSF, part seafood buying club

It’s a given that people who live on the ocean have easy access to a treasure trove of fresh fish.

Or it should be…..but most area catches get hauled to Boston’s big wholesale markets before we get a chance to buy any.
So, flounder caught in Scituate, say, ends up in the city in a heap with flounder from other places. And, later, when local fish markets make their purchases, the swimmers that grew up in your neighborhood aren’t likely to be among their take.
Which is why Scituate fisherman Larry Trowbridge [shown sitting in the truck] and partner (and former chef) Adam Fuller have started a small co-op of local fishermen who want to sell their fish directly to people.
With help –- mostly from one dedicated volunteer — the partners in March began making a weekly seafood delivery out of their refrigerated truck in Cohasset. All the fish they sell comes from day boats, so it’s never more than hours from the water.
“We’re tired of people controlling local food resources that local consumers haven’t been able to access,” said Trowbridge, who blames the loss of local control, in part, on excessive governmental regulation and the influence of large fish wholesalers.
The fledgling fish-selling business has been connecting with buyers via e-mail sent by Cohasset’s JoAnn Mirise, a young mother who’s passionate about sourcing high-quality local foods.
For several years, Mirise has been part of another informal food buying group comprised of about a dozen Cohasset families who share the work.The group’s bulk purchasing power allows them to buy a whole grass-fed cow, for instance, and gallons of maple syrup, bushels of organic cranberries, or pounds of grains and flours directly from a gristmill.
“It’s far cheaper to buy this way,” said Mirise.
Thus far, Mirise has been orchestrating the fish-buying effort online, sending out an e-mail blast on Wednesdays listing the fish choices for the week. Buyers e-mail back their orders, then pick them up from 4 to 6 p.m. on Friday afternoon – usually in Cohasset Village.
With people forwarding the e-mails to friends, the group of buyers is different, and growing, each week. This makes administering it harder than if it were a static group committed to regular buying.
“We are not a true CSF [community supported fishery] or a co-op — we don’t have a yearly membership or member-owned shares,” said Mirise. “The closest structure we could be considered is a buying club – a group of people with like-interest in a particular product – in this case, seafood.
“All the work we’re doing is necessary but it’s not sustainable because the group keeps getting bigger and bigger, so we’ll have to cap the numbers at some point.”
For now, Trowbridge and Fuller tack $2 onto each order in lieu of an annual membership fee — to help cover administrative costs.
“Woops, I forgot the add the $2,” Trowbridge said after one sale last Friday as he, Fuller, and Mirise coordinated various tasks to get a line of buyers their fish: checking paper orders; weighing and packing fish; computing total costs; making change; taking checks.
The partners, doing business under the name Snappy Lobster, also sell to many top-tier Boston restaurant chefs that Fuller knows from his days as executive chef of the city’s Great Bay seafood restaurant in the Hotel Commonwealth, which closed last year.
“As a chef, it’s almost impossible to get high-quality, fresh fish,” said Fuller. “I love food, that’s why I’m doing this.”
Together, the partners have been educating people about what’s in season and what’s fresh.
“Lobster and scallops are pretty much year round, and everything else fluctuates,” said Trowbridge, who traps lobsters in summer on his 31-foot boat Dilligaf and fishes from his father’s boat, Night Moves, in winter.
So, what was fresh last week?
Whole little mackerel, cod, scallops, yellowfin flounder, bluefin tuna, and lobster.
I bought cod and yellowfin flounder, filleted by Chef Fuller. (The cod, at $9.75 per pound, was $3 a pound cheaper than cod at a well-known fish purveyor in Hull.)
The slippery little flounder filets were wonderful seasoned simply with salt and pepper, dredged in flour, and quickly pan-fried in a butter and olive oil mix. The larger cod fillets were great baked.
I’m all in: I like the freshness of the fish, the cost, the business model. And there’s something perfectly right about being able to buy seafood that was caught where I live.
For more information, contact Trowbridge and Fuller through their website or call 781-635-0072.
Follow Joan Wilder on Twitter.