Slow Fish 2016 – Building a Better Seafood System

by Sarah M. Shoffler, SFUSD Seafood Liaison

In March 2016, over 200 fishermen, fishmongers, chefs, scholars, activists, students and community leaders gathered in New Orleans for four days of stories, food, art and music. Slow Fish 2016 was glorious. We shared our successes and our challenges in striving for good, clean & fair seafood for all. Sarah tells us more about this event and how San Diegans can apply good, clean & fair values to our seafood consumption. 

“The world’s fisheries are in trouble. 70% are either exploited, overexploited or have already collapsed” is what media tells us. This leaves the impression that we manage our fisheries so poorly that we’ll soon empty the oceans of seafood. Not so.

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Slow Fish 2016 attendees at the Seafood Boil and Boucherie on Docville Farm, where Slow Fish met Slow Meat. Industrial agriculture is significantly affecting Louisiana wetlands, which are critical to healthy fish populations. Photo: E. Buchanan

In the U.S. at least, our fishermen are among the most stringently managed. If they catch too many fish or harm protected populations (e.g. dolphins or endangered turtles), we have to do something – shut down the fishery, or change fishing gear, season, location, etc. The number of fish populations overfished in the U.S. is decreasing, not increasing.

Here’s a more thorough treatment of the issue that explains why the doom-and-gloom narrative is wrong and destructive.

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Tuna canning demonstration at Slow Fish 2016. Photo: E. Buchanan

What can we do? How can we wade through the misinformation and support a healthy seafood system? Enter Slow Fish, a grassroots international campaign to promote good, clean & fair seafood. We do this while bringing joy to the efforts to restore marine ecosystems and support fishing communities. That’s a deep order, so how do we do it?

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UCSD student volunteer Catherine welcomes us to Slow Fish 2016. Photo: E. Buchanan

In March 2016, over 200 fishermen, fishmongers, chefs, scholars, activists, students and community leaders gathered in New Orleans for four days of stories, food, art and music. Slow Fish 2016 was glorious. We shared our successes and our challenges in striving for good, clean & fair seafood for all.

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Boiled Lousiana crawfish. Photo: S. Shoffler

Local attendees included:
Sea urchin fisherman and community leader, Peter Halmay, who shared how a fishermen’s market in San Diego was created;
Chef Drew Deckman of Deckman’s en el Mogor, a Slow Fish advocate who cooked and shucked his weight in oysters for us;
Scripps Institution of Oceanography student volunteers: Flora Drury, Kate Masury and Catherine Courtier, who’s masters projects focus on fishermen’s markets, value chains and sustainable seafood;
SFUSD member, Eric Buchanan, who volunteered as official event photographer;
SFUSD’s vice chair and seafood liaison Sarah Shoffler, who was on the event planning team with partners from across the U.S. plus Canada and Italy.

Performers of "Cry You One," opening Slow Fish 2016 with the story of Louisiana's disappearing wetlands, so critical to fisheries. Photo: E. Buchanan

Performers of “Cry You One,” opening Slow Fish 2016 with the story of Louisiana’s disappearing wetlands, so critical to fisheries. Photo: E. Buchanan

I met family fishermen from Florida to Alaska, who continuously adapt their practices to changing management and ecosystems. They fish in small boats. Or large. They use the most up to date gear with turtle excluder devices and pingers (to avoid dolphins). They fish weirs, fishing gear whose origin dates back to before the emergence of modern humans. They are young – I met a 20 year old woman named Erica from Nova Scotia, who fishes weirs with her father. They are not so young – San Diegan sea urchin diver Pete Halmay joined us and shared his story of starting San Diego’s first fishermen’s market – where fishermen sell their catch directly to the public.

Pete Halmay, San Diego sea urchin diver, at the Slow Fish 2016 day 3 venue – a food museum. Photo: E Buchanan

These people love the ocean and what it brings us.

Fishmongers from Moss Landing shared how they started a community supported fishery (CSF) and a “Bay-to-Tray” program where they provide bycatch from the black cod fishery to school lunch programs –animals that would otherwise be wasted. Another fisherman shared his story of building a business where he takes people fishing on San Francisco Bay and teaching them to cook what they eat. We heard so many big and small ways of supporting a healthy food system, one based on good, clean & fair seafood for all.

Slow Food Urban San Diego member, CHef Drew Deckman and Louisiana fishermen, Lance Nacio shucking oysters -- Baja Kumiai and Louisiana. Photo: S. Shoffler

Slow Food Urban San Diego member, Chef Drew Deckman and Louisiana fishermen, Lance Nacio shucking oysters — Baja Kumiai and Louisiana. Photo: S. Shoffler

I was buoyed to learn that efforts in San Diego to support our small-scale fisheries are seen as successes elsewhere. And that by supporting local fishermen with my business, I invest in families and the local economy as well as give hope to folks who are so often portrayed as the enemy to our marine ecosystem, when in fact they offer many of the solutions to sustain it.

SFUSD Slow Fish Plans

(1) Now: Connect local chefs directly to local fishermen – this is the best way to get the freshest most sustainable seafood on our restaurant plates. If any chefs would like to meet our local seafood producers, please get in touch.

(2) Soon: Collaborate with local chefs, fishermen, fishmongers and others to bring you Seafood Saturdays – a campaign to promote local US-caught seafood in San Diego and to teach San Diegans how to prepare, cook and enjoy the local bounty. Check us out at the Tuna Harbor pier starting April 16th.

(3) Future: Research barriers to keeping local seafood local. Why is the local catch sent outside the City, County and Country? How can we keep it here? Why should we?

(4) Future: Keep our waterfront a working waterfront. How can we maintain our cultural heritage as a fishing community? How can we revive it? How do we keep the harvest of this healthy and delicious resource in our community?

What’s a seafood lover to do?

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Slow Fish 2016 opening reception at the Mardi Gras Krewe du Vieux club house. Photo: E. Buchanan

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Young fishermen, Amanda and Spencer, sharing their story of bringing seafood to youth. Photo: E. Buchanan

Slow Fish 2016 fisherman and young winner of the rock, paper, scissors contest being lead by Slow Fish USA leader, Kevin.

Young Alaskan fisherman lead by Slow Fish USA leader, Kevin Scribner.

Baja Kumiai oysters. Photo: S. Shoffler

Baja Kumiai oysters shucked by Drew Deckman. Photo: S. Shoffler

Slow Fish 2016 attendees listening raptly to a discussion of fishery policy in one of our ever-changing venues. Photo: E. Buchanan

Slow Fish 2016 attendees listening raptly to a discussion of fishery policy in one of our ever-changing venues. Photo: E. Buchanan

Slow Food members from Austin, San Diego and New Orleans talking fish. Photo: M Lothrop

Slow Food volunteers from Austin, San Diego and New Orleans talking fish. Photo: M Lothrop

Fisherman Lance Nacio's Loisiana shrimp. Photo: E. Buchanan

Fisherman Lance Nacio’s Loisiana shrimp. Photo: E. Buchanan

Bringing the Table to the Farm – Deckman’s en el Mogor

by Sarah M. Shoffler, SFUSD Board Member

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Drew Deckman at work.

In the heart of the Valle de Guadalupe wine country, up a hillside you’ll find the sensate joy of Deckman’s en el Mogor. Set on Mogor Ranch, this restaurant aims to “bring the table to the farm.” It delivers a Slow Food feast.

The extensive Mogor Ranch and winery grows or produces all the wine, vegetables, herbs, lamb and eggs that the talented Drew Deckman uses in his outdoor-served cuisine. Not only is the food fresh, you get to experience the terroir in which it was grown while you eat it. Sipping Mogor’s wine in the place its grapes were grown and the wine vinted, nibbling produce grown not feet away from where you sit opens the senses to a place. Drew sources all his seafood and other ingredients, from salt to cheese to beef, as locally and as responsibly as possible. He knows his food producers.

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Deckman, son, and oysters. Photo credit: S. Shoffler

This all means that the menu is seasonal, ever changing and made to order. I’m no food writer, but I can tell you his food is delicious, cooked with care and creativity. Deckman is also passionate about oysters. So if you love these bivalves, you’ll find a friend at Deckman’s.

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Deliciousness at Deckman’s en el Mogor.

Deckman’s is an outdoor restaurant, sometimes equipped with haybale walls and a makeshift roof, but outdoors nonetheless. It overlooks the Valle. You see wineries for miles from your table. You smell the warmth from the Ranch rising as the sun sets. Deckman, who refers to himself as an ingredient facilitator not a chef despite his Michelin star, cooks on an outdoor grill. He chats with guests as they come and go. It’s altogether convivial. The Ranch dog, Pyrenea, might make a pass through the restaurant for a few scritches if she’s off duty from guarding the flock. All to say, it’s a magical experience rooted in the place.

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Refined rustic dining at Deckman’s en al Mogor.

Slow Food Urban San Diego is pleased to welcome Deckman’s en el Mogor as one of our newest Member Benefit Partners. SFUSD members get 10% off their entire Deckman’s en el Mogor bill. We encourage you to make time to visit the winery, as well.

Magic night at Mogor Ranch. Photo credit: S. Shoffler

Magic night at Mogor Ranch. Photo credit: S. Shoffler

Deckman’s en el Mogor
Km. 85.5 Highway 3 Tecate-Ensenada
San Antonio De Las Minas, Baja California, Mexico
Contact them at mogor@deckmans.com / telephone: 646-188-3960

Board Members Sought

FEATURED

Are you organized, passionate and willing to help with the nitty gritty of accomplishing Good, Clean & Fair? Then we want you! Seeking detail-oriented energetic folks to round out our board. All positions are voluntary. Send a resume or bio and letter of interest to volunteer@slowfoodurbansandiego.org with subject header “Board Application.”

Members of the Board serve up to two two-year terms in any one position. To be eligible, you must have or obtain a Slow Food membership. Open positions described below.

The Great American Slow Food Revolution

Good Food Community Fair Chair 
Slow Food Urban San Diego is seeking an organized event planner that is passionate about building community around good, clean & fair food for all. The Chair will run committee meetings and organize/manage logistics, fundraising opportunities and special programming for the 4th annual Good Food Community Fair. The Good Food Community fair is a gathering of good, clean & fair organizations and a celebration of local food and craft drinks with cooking demos, art, discussion panels and more. For more information visit: http://goodfoodfair.com/. Also seeking Co-Chair to train up into the position.