Catching customers: New website helps fishermen explore alternative marketing

Commercial fishermen can learn about alternate sales channels
May 11, 2015
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A new website has launched to help commercial fishermen sell their catch directly to the increasing number of customers seeking high quality, local seafood. Created by researchers at California Sea Grant, UC Santa Barbara and UC Santa Cruz, Market Your Catch provides resources to help fishermen understand alternative marketing, drawing on lessons learned from fishermen across the nation. Infographic: How to Determine if Direct Seafood Marketing is For You

Alternative or direct marketing refers to fishermen selling directly to consumers, institutions, restaurants and retail outlets that will use their catch. It includes strategies such as off-the-boat sales and community supported fisheries (CSFs).

“Our goal is to provide fishermen the resources to decide if alternative marketing is the right fit for their interests and business – it isn’t for everyone – and to succeed if they decide to take that step,” said Carrie Culver of California Sea Grant, one of the lead investigators.

Carrie Pomeroy, also of California Sea Grant, says interest in direct marketing has grown significantly. “Thanks in part to the local food movement, there is a lot of interest in different marketing strategies and a lot of possibilities out there,” said Pomeroy, “But they all require particular skills and considerations.”

To help fishermen explore their options, Culver and Pomeroy teamed up with Sea Grant affiliates Ashley Stroud, Jamie Doyle and Amber Von Harten as well as UCSB researchers Barbara Walker and Kimberley Selkoe, to gather information from fishermen and buyers around the country. The website includes user-friendly guidance on the marketing options available, the resources required, business plans, and advice from successful sellers. It also serves as a clearinghouse for related materials developed by other groups.

Culver emphasizes that the website is not intended to advocate for direct marketing. “There are pros and cons to any approach for marketing seafood, with some approaches working better for certain types of fisheries, fishing businesses and individual fisherman,” said Culver. “Alternative marketing often is used in combination with traditional markets, all of which help to get seafood to consumers.”

The website is the result of a three-year project with input from fishermen, buyers, harbor managers and others with knowledge and experience relevant to seafood alternative marketing.

“Our national Sea Grant network, along with fishermen and buyers from both the West and East Coasts, contributed in many ways. It took a village,” said Pomeroy. “We hope the information and resources available through this site are useful to fishing communities throughout the U.S.”

This research was funded by the National Sea Grant Social Science Research Initiative.

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About California Sea Grant

NOAA’s California Sea Grant College Program funds marine research, education and outreach throughout California. Our headquarters is at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego; we are one of 33 Sea Grant programs in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Department of Commerce.