System Change: A shift in the current pattern of relationships, interactions, or resources.
The community of Ocean Shores, WA has a beautiful seaside location, a modern convention center, and a problem shared with many other coastal towns: businesses have a short tourism season from June–August and struggle to sustain themselves in the off season. This leads to many businesses having a short lifespan, and a lack of income for the community. A working group supported with facilitation and participation in the Innovation Network has been researching these issues and developing potential solutions for supporting a resilient community.
Community Catch is aiming to create a complete fisheries market, local to the Washington Coast, that increases the economic impact of “not-yet-popular” sustainably-caught species, to increase the resiliency of coastal communities. By marketing species that are currently undervalued, such as sustainably-managed groundfish we hope to net better profits for local fishermen and help provide more sustainable seafood options to communities.
Keeping catch local allows additional revenues to come from local sales and the local consumption of seafood caught of the Washington coastline. Not only does the presence of local markets open opportunities for fishermen to innovate and bypass certain “normal” steps in the value chain (e.g. by distributing their own fresh or processed fish), but it also means an increased, local fisheries workforce. By increasing the amount of processing by landing more under-valued species for example, more processing staff are needed to process this additional catch. If more small-scale processing facilities are available, it will provide more opportunity for fishermen to innovate an experiment with their own value additions, providing longer-term possibilities of processing, value adding and distributing their own catch. This will increase revenue generation for local fishermen but also improve the reputation and branding of Washington’s local seafood products once consumers are made aware, they are consuming local produce from small-scale, cottage industry operations. All of this, however, requires marketing – something that was noted as distinctly lacking among Washington’s fishermen.
Over the past year and a half, The Nature Conservancy held several community input sessions, leading to the formation of a Community Forest Working Group. A community forest model would present a “third way” to manage forests for community benefit, in between management for conservation and revenue for shareholders. This group is informed by community forest lessons learned from across the United States, and is interested in the potential for a community forest to serve the communities of coastal Washington.
This project is looking into opportunities to increase the benefits realized from alder and other hardwood trees in local forests. These benefits could be ecological and economical, holding a focus on how those benefits transfer to the community. Alder trees play a role in the life of the temperate rainforest as fast growing nitrogen-fixers. The relative short life (<50 years) of local red alders also makes them a great candidate for strategic harvest. You may see alder used for cabinet doors, window construction, interior doors, trim, guitar blanks, and toys. Much of the current alder stock is on small privately owned parcels. There may be prospects to work with landowners to help them improve their forest management while creating financial benefit.
Washington Coast Works is an emerging group from along the Washington Coast that shares a vision of resilient communities based on a triple bottom line economy and sustainable natural resources.
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