On their way: Alan Lovewell works to rebuild fisheries out West

Alan Lovewell poses in front of a California coastal sunset.
Photo courtesy of Alan Lovewell

Alan Lovewell poses in front of a California coastal sunset.

On Their Way is an occasional series in which The Times introduces people who grew up on Martha’s Vineyard and have moved on to establish themselves in careers on or off Island. We are looking for young people who have distinguished themselves by their accomplishments in the arts, business, in social services, in the military, in academics, in fact in any meaningful way. We welcome your suggestions.

Alan Lovewell grew up in Edgartown with a love for the waters that surround Martha’s Vineyard. Now a young adult, he is fashioning a life built on his affinity for the ocean.

Alan is a co-founder and manager of Local Catch Monterey Bay in California, a community-supported fishery group (CSF) that is modeled on an East coast CSF and community supported agriculture (CSA) groups that have sprung up around the country. The model is based on the sale of shares that provide capital to produce food that is then distributed back to share holders.

After attending the Edgartown School, Alan graduated from Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School in 2000. He was a member of the acclaimed Minnesingers choral group, and he ran cross-country and track. “I really had a good time,” the 31-year-old said of his high school days.

He was a self-professed Island beach-bum who dabbled in art during his childhood. “Summer was about spending as much time on the beach as possible,” he said. His dad taught him how to sail. He surfed and sailed, worked as a lifeguard on South Beach and fished, sometimes with his dad.

His father is Mark Alan Lovewell of Vineyard Haven, a longtime reporter and photographer for the Vineyard Gazette. His mother is Teresa Yuan of Edgartown, a landscape designer, gardener, and painter. His younger sister, Emma, is a model in New York.

“My mother and father both had a great influence on my art,” Mr. Lovewell said. He created environmental-public sculpture while in college. He has since moved to a more mobile art form, photography, something he is finding ways to integrate with his Local Catch work.

The lure of the California coastal weather enticed him to attend the University of California at Santa Cruz (USSC). “I had severe Island fever at the time, growing up pretty sheltered,” he said. “My love for surfing and the ocean and better weather brought me out here.”

He received a BA in studio art, with a minor, in East Asian studies in 2005. He also earned a Mandarin Chinese language and culture certificate from the Beijing Normal University during his junior year. He managed to find time to surf and he rode on the school’s cycling team.

After graduating, he worked as a bicycle mechanic in San Francisco and on a sailboat that took out tour groups on Lake Tahoe. He then went south to Baja, Mexico, where he taught sailing for several years on the Sea of Cortez with the National Outdoor Leadership School. “My interest in environmental studies was cultivated by all the time I spent on the water in Mexico,” he said.

He returned to school and earned a Masters in international environmental policy with a concentration in marine conservation from the Monterey Institute of International Studies, Graduate School of Middlebury College, in December 2010.

While working on his masters Alan had an internship with the New England Fishery Management Council in Newburyport, and he spent six months working in Indonesia with the Nature Conservancy and Conservation International working on small-scale fishery issues.

Following graduation, he received a West Coast Sea Grant to work with the West Coast Governors Alliance on Ocean Health where he continues to help develop engagement plans for the California Current Integrated Ecosystem Assessment program.

In 2012, Alan lead a business development team that established the first Community Supported Fishery (CSF) in the Monterey Bay area. He had discovered a similar group while working in Newburyport and wrote a business plan for the project while in graduate school.

Asked to describe Local Catch, which he and his partner, former Bostonian, Oren Frey, began in January of 2012, he said, “It is an innovative distribution system that delivers local seafood from fishermen’s boats to the community, by-passing the middle men and insuring that the group members receive the freshest local seafood.”

The group works with 25 fishermen. Mr. Lovewell said they process between 800 to 1,200 pounds of fish a week. Mondays they pick up the fish in the Local Catch truck from the boats. The catch goes to a processing facility and then is delivered to 16 host pickup locations around the Monterey area on Tuesdays.

For $20 a week, share customers receive a box of seafood that is enough for a meal for about four people. Half shares are available. The selection of seafood varies from week to week with the catch, allowing people to try things they might not have tried otherwise.

The Monterey CSF has recently turned into a full-time job for Mr. Lovewell. Local Catch began with 146 founding members and now has a membership base of 386 members, and they continue to grow. He spends some of his time on local outreach projects educating the community about the value of local fisheries and local food, speaking to schools and local groups. He works with his girlfriend, who is the director of nutrition with the local schools, to improve the quality of the seafood used in their lunch programs.

Alan said the Local Catch project is not only about supporting sustainable fisheries, but also about fostering sustainable fishing communities, i.e. the fishermen.

“More and more people want to know where their food and fish are coming from and whether it’s safe to eat, ” Alan said. “By working directly with the fishermen, we’re trying to slowly correct the unhealthy and decimated fishing industries in America’s coastal communities.”

Last week, Mr. Lovewell learned that the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation had awarded Local Catch a $100,000 grant to expand beyond the Monterey Bay area.

For more information on Local Catch, go to www.localcatchmontereybay.com.