Seafood for the Seasons

Brie Mazurek, CUESA Staff
June 14, 2013

As a farmers market fishmonger, Larry Miyamura of Shogun Fish Co. has heard his share of strange questions. “One time a customer asked me if our wild shrimp was hook-and-line caught,” he says with a laugh. “Another customer asked me where we get our Alaskan halibut, and somebody else asked what part of the fish halibut cheeks come from.”

With so much murkiness around sustainable seafood choices, it’s no wonder seafood eaters are confused. Pacific or Atlantic? Wild or farmed? Long-lined or gill-netted, trolled or trawled? A former fisherman himself, Larry often refers to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch guide in making selections from Monterey Fish Market and other sources he trusts, but such guides are only a starting point. “You have to know who’s catching this fish, whether it’s really from that source, and whether it is harvested and managed sustainably,” he says.

To add to the confusion, factors like ocean and weather conditions can limit and complicate our choices at the market, not only for local wild-caught fish but also for fish that are transported from miles away. “It’s a lot different selling wild fish than it is farmed fish,” says Larry, who sells some sustainably farmed varieties. “We see signs that say ‘weather permitting’ at places that sell farmed salmon, and our joke is, that must mean the airports in Chile or Vancouver are fogged in or snowed in!”

In order to prevent overfishing and maintain wild fish populations, fisheries are managed by quotas and other catch limits. In California, for example, King salmon season is regulated through predictions based on the size of the population and other factors, as well as catch patterns from previous years, Larry explains. This year, salmon season, which opened on May 1 and will run through September, is closed June 9 through 20 and again July 1 through 14 to protect and sustain local populations.

Like many salmon lovers, Larry is eagerly awaiting the reopening of the season on June 21. “This year, the local salmon have been unusually oily and tasty for this early in the season,” Larry says. “Fish are what they eat. Early in the season, the salmon eat a lot of krill. The meat is red, but it’s not usually high in oil. Later in the season, when they start eating oilier fish like anchovies and sardines, their meat has more oil and omega-3s.”

While local salmon is on a brief hiatus, there are plenty of other delectable fish in the sea. Fresh, local, and sustainably harvested catches include black cod, white seabass, sardines, anchovies, halibut, squid, rockfish, and albacore tuna.

Ferry Plaza Farmers Market rules for seafood vendors specify that all fish sold must be sustainably harvested by properly licensed boats from a well-managed fishery, or sustainably farmed.Sustainable harvesting methods, as defined by CUESA, include active techniques such as trolling, jigging, trapping, and use of encircling seine nets or hook-and-line technologies.Species that are overfished, as identified by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, cannot be sold. Farmed salmon and products made from farmed salmon are also prohibited.

To help you navigate local and seasonal choices at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, we’ve developed a new Seafood Availability Chart in partnership with our seafood vendors, which include Shogun Fish Co., H & H Fresh Fish Co., Hog Island Oyster Co., and Cap’n Mike’s Holy Smoke (smoked fish).

Learn more about local and sustainable fish tomorrow at the CUESA Classroom at our Seafood Celebration, 10 am to 1 pm.

Topics: ,