Extension / Research / Sea Grant News

CA Sea Grant Specialist to study local seafood

California Sea Grant's Theresa Talley

California Sea Grant’s Theresa Talley
Credit: C. Johnson

The farm-to-table movement is here in San Diego. Just look at the popularity of weekly neighborhood farmers markets, the new crop of “slow-foods” restaurants and all the road-side, mall-side produce stands – not to mention the explosion of community-supported agriculture programs (CSAs).

Edible San Diego, which celebrates the abundance of local food, season by season, lists 35 local CSAs, offering members everything from heirloom berries to grass-fed pheasants.

Notably absent is any seafood. San Diego has no community-supported fisheries and not a single fishermen’s market, where people can buy fish and shellfish directly from those who catch or culture it. Many of us may not even know what species are caught locally.

California Sea Grant Coastal Specialist Theresa Sinicrope Talley and University of San Diego sociology professor Adina Batnitzky have been awarded a grant from Collaborative Fisheries Research West to study whether a fishermen’s market –  a sort of farmers market for seafood – could make it as a viable business in San Diego.

The study, which begins in May, will begin by examining the demand for local fish and shellfish among “locovores,” already on board with the slow-foods movement, and the city’s East African community, which is interested in reconnecting with its traditional, healthy, halal dietary habits.

The scientists will also survey fishermen and shellfish growers on the species they catch (or raise), their amounts, seasonality and cost – to assess whether they can truly supply consumers with the seafoods they want.

“Our goal is to facilitate a diverse, local, sustainable fishing industry by raising public awareness and leveraging San Diego’s ethnic diversity and desire for healthier diets,” Talley, who is based at UC San Diego, said.

Batnitzky and Talley recently completed a focus group on dietary habitats of East Africans in San Diego and found a diet heavy in meat and lacking in seafood. The researchers believe that the East African community may offer great potential in diversifying demand for locally caught fish and shellfish.

The 1-year project is a collaboration with local commercial fishermen who have begun selling seafood straight off their boats in Tuna Harbor in San Diego Bay and the Port of San Diego, which has proposed establishing two direct-seafood markets to help revitalize the commercial fishing industry. Driscoll’s Wharf, also a partner, is in the early stages of renovating for a farmers and fishermen’s market.

Findings from the project will help inform the planning and implementation processes for the port, fishermen, community groups and resource managers, Talley said.

Other groups who are making the project, “Testing the feasibility of urban coastal direct seafood markets,” possible include the nonprofit Slow Food Urban San Diego, Moby Dick Fish Market and Grill, and United Women’s East African Support Team.

Written by Christina S. Johnson, csjohnson@ucsd.edu

5 thoughts on “CA Sea Grant Specialist to study local seafood

  1. Pingback: CA Sea Grant Specialist to study local seafood - California Aquaculture Association

  2. Some of the information in this blog post is not exactly correct.

    If you define a “Community Supported Fishery” (CSF) as a “pre-purchase micro-seafood-distribution service” (and as an alternative to Catalina Offshore Products, a dominating seafood processing/ distribution outlet in San Diego that spans multiple national borders in imports and exports, as well as catering to the the glitz of local seafood functions) then Poppa’s Fresh Fish Company fits this CSF description–“Fishcription” services are available through his San Diego farmers’ market presence (he routinely attends 5 or 6 markets?) as well as through his website. Poppa’s Fish DOES purchase seafood directly from local fishermen, but he is also known to carry imported “local” Mexican fish (so, it’s important to ask the location of the catch because California fishermen are highly regulated and taxed and micro-managed compared to Mexican fishermen).

    Another super cool route to accessing local seafood is paying a visit to El Pescador Fish Market in La Jolla. This restaurant/ market buys quite a bit of local seafood at prices that help keep fishermen in business–you can buy their tasty seafood sandwiches or walk out with a fish filet or whole fish! Even more local seafood options are available if you actually do and ground-truth your research….

    And if you want to find any local marine harvesters and discover what they catch, you can encounter them at Tuna Harbor, Driscoll’s Wharf, and the Sportsman’s Seafood Dock at Mission Bay. There aren’t many commercial fishermen left; so, they are not that hard to find.

    There already has been a half-million dollar “seafood market feasibility study” of sorts conducted a couple of years ago, so I am not sure how this upcoming survey/study would be different, though it seems very interesting to engage various ethnic communities with the local seafood movement. Two masters students (from Bren and Scripps) are floating around this year, engaged in local seafood studies as well, which makes me wonder about the redundancy of research effort.

    Honestly, I think seafood lovers would be more interested in the actual EXECUTION of a fishermen’s/ farmer’s market rather than studying what already exists, or the “potential” for such a market. Then again, academics are not exactly practitioners of “marketing campaigns” because marketing and propaganda are against the principles of being “objective” and “unbiased.” So it be, we are institutionally imprisoned by the arbitrary cultural philosophies of our own ivory tower minds.

    And I do find it ironic that the Port of San Diego is willing to help the local seafood market while simultaneously allowing the Driscoll Wharf infrastructure to gradually fall apart for the past few decades (how can fishermen catch fish when they don’t even have a safe place to work and dock their boat?). I heard through the seafood grapevine a fishermen-oriented Farmer’s Market will open at Driscoll’s Wharf (where we might see local seafood along with local lettuce), and I hope this all works out… without charging the fishermen an arm and a leg to sell their fish… after all, a half-dozen other government agencies are chasing after local harvesters for a piece of their pie, charging and taxing fishermen out of financial existence… and soon enough… ALL of our “fresh and local” seafood will be “cheaply” imported from … the first world’s shady international underbelly… don’t ask where… (now globalization makes sense!).

    Good luck… and I hope someone actually does something about this “local seafood” hubbub for once.

  3. Pingback: Seafood lovers wanted for San Diego tasting event | Our Ocean

  4. (and as an alternative to Catalina Offshore Products, a dominating seafood processing/ distribution outlet in San Diego that spans multiple national borders in imports and exports,

    This is a little off base dont ya think? I would like to know just where it is you got this information.

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