Signs of the Tide: Searching for Sustainable Seafood in San Diego

san-diego-seafoodAt our recent Signs of the Tide, community members hankered to hear from our speakers about how to eat, serve and buy sustainable seafood here in San Diego.

But, where does our fish come from? What does sustainability actually mean for fish?

Our panel focused on the global and local problems within the fishing industry. And how some of the old notions of fishing are still at the basis of fishing thought – like, who can catch the biggest fish or the most fish? 

Peter Halmay, a local sea urchin fisherman and president of San Diego Fisherman’s Working Group spoke about rebuilding the foundation of the fishing industry – looking past the state and federal regulations right to the fishing community itself. Without the fisherman, there are no fish. Peter made it clear that people in the community who buy seafood need to have a relationship with the fishermen, so that the fish can literally go from “boat to throat.” Rebuilding this foundation of fishermen with new ethics in mind will help to continue a profitable business in the future. 

Local chef Chad White spoke of developing new markets for less common seafood items, such as sea urchin and fish liver. Making these items taste delicious will build a demand for them, and less of a demand for seafood that is shipped here from across the world. For Chad, sustainability means buying locally, from groups such as Catalina Offshore Products and asking questions about the fish he buys.

Our last speaker of the night Dr. Russ Vetter posed the question – is local wild-caught sustainable seafood even possible? And, will our grandchildren be able to experience the kelp forests of San Diego?  Our fisheries here in San Diego are actually doing very well when compared to fisheries in other parts of the world. Our Sustainable Fisheries Act has left no loopholes for overfishing. However, when we want to eat and buy sustainably, research shows that many people don’t even buy fish from our local fisheries. More than 80% of our fish is imported! We need to create more of a market for local fish. And when that happens, how do we increase supply while ending our addiction to imports? Dr. Vetter introduced the fact that sustainable U.S. aquaculture may be our solution to this problem, as our population grows, and there is a growing demand for local, sustainable seafood in this middle price range.

So, what can you do to make sure you are buying locally and sustainably? You have to ask questions:

  1. Is this a loca fish?
  2. Is it from a local fisherman?
  3. Is it sustainable?

You can read our other recent blog on where to buy your sustainable seafood in San Diego. However, the information is not easily accessed, which can make this process of buying sustainably very difficult. But, the more people asking where their fish is from and how it is caught, the more of a demand it will create, and the more sustainable seafood in San Diego will be available.