A panel of experts talk about sourcing quality local seafood and why it’s so important
When it comes to seafood, there’s really no reliable way to know where it comes from unless it was caught off California waters and even that may not often tell the whole story, said a panel of local seafood experts recently at the Santa Monica Public Library.
Moderated by Nick Fash, a biologist for Heal the Bay, the discussion was part of a series at the library.
Ben Hyman, owner of Wild Local Seafood, said the best way to find sustainably caught California seafood is to buy direct from farmers markets. Even California squid caught by large factory vessels are often shipped overseas for processing, he said.
“As a consumer, we’re often asking the wrong questions,” Hyman said. “We should be asking for a local product.”
Along with selling to farmers markets, Hyman sells a portion of the company’s catch to distributors like Community Seafood, which caters to customers looking for reliable local sources throughout Southern California.
Magna Sundstrom said the company’s mission is to eliminate as much as they can the middleman to pay fisherman more and bring quality seafood to their customers at a reasonable price. With every fish purchase comes a label detailing how and where it was caught.
“You know you have this traceable product and that it was caught in a sustainable way,” Sundstrom said.
Michael Cimarusti, co-owner of Providence and Connie and Ted’s restaurants in Newport and West Hollywood, specializes in wild seafood caught off U.S. waters.
“I feel we have a responsibility to support American seafood,” he said. “I know that’s hard when you see Chilean sea bass next to a piece of wild caught Alaskan salmon. My suggestion is to buy half as much and eat more vegetables.”
Today the future of seafood is threatened by unsustainable fishing methods throughout the world. Panel members agreed that regulations in California are some of the strictest on the planet and anything caught overseas, especially in parts of Asia and South America, could not be verified in the same manner. The bottom line, they said, comes down to price and whether consumers are willing to vote with their feet to affect change and protect the oceans.
“The most intimate relationship you can have is with your environment and to eat from it,” said Fash with Heal the Bay. “With seafood we sort of disconnected ourselves. We get that back by being educated, asking questions and buying responsibly.”