Seafood is important to California and its residents. Studies show that Californians consume far more seafood per capita than the national average, making the our state one of the most important seafood markets in the United States. The economic value of this industry to the state is estimated at more than $800 million annually.
Why buy local seafood? Maybe the better question is why not. Keeping your dollars local, whether purchasing in a restaurant, grocery store, or off the boats, is good for our community as well as our environment. Today, local fishermen must compete with imported seafood that may not have been caught or farmed according to federal health or environmental regulations. And seafood bought locally helps our coastal economy thrive. Also, when you buy local, you are also reducing our food system’s massive carbon footprint. And finally, lets face it, fresh is best!
Making Better Choices:
It is more important that ever to know which seafood to buy or avoid, selecting items that are fished or farmed in ways that have less impact on the environment and support our local fishing community. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program produces a very handy guide, available also as mobile app for your phone. But there are a few key rules to follow that will help keep it simple.
When you go to the market or to a restaurant, buying only what is in season is a good place to start making better choices. We have been trained to expect salmon any time of the year for example, but when it is not in season here, it has either been farmed (often harmful the environment and your health) or frozen (likely traveling long distances to get to your table). Much like with local produce, we need to retrain ourselves to eat what’s coming in through the harbor. Refer to the chart below before you buy:
Science shows that consumption of fish is good for our health, contributing rich in omega-3 fatty acids to our diet. We believe the health benefits from seafood far outweigh the risks, but it is important to know the risks, especially concerning the accumulation of toxins. Old timers will tell you never t0 harvest mussels from the rocks during months without the letter “R” to protect against paralytic shellfish poisoning and domoic acid poisoning (the quarantine is now from May 1- October 31), caused by natural biotoxins. The Department of Public Health regularly posts all active health advisories and it is always a good idea to check this site before you go out.
Furthermore, fish that are at the top of the food chain also bioaccumulate atmosheric toxins such as mercury and consumption of these fish should be reduced for certain populations (pregnant women and young children for example). Tuna is the big lesson for us. The graphic below explains this issue, showing the relative risk to various seafood, and providing the recommended guidelines for consumption.
Buying Local Seafood
Did you know Harvest Market hires someone to fish for them out of Noyo Harbor? Or that Wild Fish features fresh local seafood whenever possible? Did you know Sunrise Seafoods, a local commercial fishing business, will notify you when they bring in fish and even deliver it to you? Visit the harbor and purchase fish directly from Noyo Fishing Center (or better yet, charter one of their trips to go out and catch your own!) or Ocean Fresh Fish Market.