Village Fishmonger

New York, NY

Village Fishmonger is a sustainable seafood startup operating a Community Supported Fishery in New York City that seeks to reinvent how people select, prepare and eat fish.

Samantha LeeDennis O'Connor, and Sean Dixon are co-founders of Village Fishmonger, a NYC-based startup with a focus on local, sustainable seafood. Created with the traditional neighborhood fishmonger concept in mind, but with the added value of "boat-to-table" sourcing and a carefully curated seafood selection, the company operates a Community Supported Fishery in NYC and has plans to roll out brick & mortar, e-commerce, and direct-to-consumer channels. Village Fishmonger also launched the first Sustainable Seafood Week NYC. The successful week became a national series in 2015 produced by Village Fishmonger, Flip Labs and Future of Fish.


What is Village Fishmonger currently working on?

To start, Village Fishmonger has recently launched a Community Supported Fishery (CSF) program in NYC with pick-up locations in multiple neighborhoods as well as a similar program for workplaces. The Village Fishmonger CSF guarantees members a regular supply of fresh, local, sustainable seafood at a reasonable price. All of their product is traceable back to the boat it was caught on, the fisherman who caught it and the catch method that was used. The CSF offers higher quality, value and more transparency than traditional retail models and ensures the fair compensation of the fishermen they work with.

What is the current state of the sustainable seafood retail industry?

Even though the farm-to-table movement has been gaining momentum over the last 20 years, its message of eating locally and sustainably has not been as readily replicated in the consumer seafood arena. Many urban areas, especially, are lacking retail outlets offering residents access to a trustworthy supply of local and sustainable seafood. Even when there is a fresh seafood source in the area, there is oftentimes a lack of transparency as to how that seafood was sourced and whether or not it is truly local and sustainable. Instead, consumers have to settle for buying pre-packaged seafood, going to a big-box retailer, or travelling outside of their immediate neighborhood to find sustainable seafood. Faced with these options, many will forgo eating sustainable seafood and make do with what is easiest.

How do you ensure that your products are sustainable?

Our personal relationships with the fishermen that supply our seafood enable us to verify that the species being harvested are sustainable and are caught via methods that are kind to the environment. Another important piece to our sustainability mission is limiting our sourcing to local fish stock. By staying local, we encourage consumers to eat with the seasons. This keeps our carbon footprint small in order to minimize negative impacts to overall seafood sustainability.

How is Village Fishmonger’s relationship with fishers unique?

We work directly with local fishermen and negotiate prices that will compensate them fairly for the risk they take in fishing. This differs from the traditional model, in which a distribution company sits between the retailer and fishermen and which creates higher prices and less transparency. Working hand-in-hand with local fishermen, we can have positive impact on the fishing communities themselves, keeping them vital and ongoing as stewards of sustainable seafood in this region.

In addition, our direct relationships with local fishermen allow us to share knowledge with and educate our customers on a much more intimate level, which brings the consumer and the fishermen together as participants in the same local food system—as opposed to competitors that are selling to the mass market.

How did Village Fishmonger come about?

As longtime residents of NYC and lovers of seafood, we have always felt that it was more difficult than it should be to access quality seafood in a retail environment. With sustainability and traceability of seafood becoming greater issues, the need for a retail channel that is focused on bringing sustainable seafood to consumers from trusted suppliers has become even more apparent. Between the three of us, our team has proven expertise in fisheries sustainability advocacy, as well as robust experience in food and beverage operations and creating and building revenue streams for startup businesses. So we thought, "Why not put these complementary experiences, along with our shared interest in creating a better local food landscape, to good use by building a sustainable business that can also be an important platform for consumer education and advocacy?"

How do you envision Village Fishmonger’s role in the Future of Fish project?

We believe that a large part of achieving sustainability in the seafood industry is reaching the consumer. Ultimately, it is consumer demand that has driven the overfishing of many species. As a retail concept, we have the ability and the responsibility to educate our customers so that they make good choices, without sacrificing the pleasures of eating seafood.