CA Sea Grant Specialist to study local seafood

April 30, 2013
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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

About California Sea Grant

NOAA’s California Sea Grant College Program funds marine research, education and outreach throughout California. Our headquarters is at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego; we are one of 33 Sea Grant programs in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Department of Commerce.