Working for Good, Clean, Fair Food for All - Slow Food Urban San Diego Convivium of Slow Food International

In San Diego, local seafood is limited to the coast

We are very pleased to share the following guest blog from California Sea Grant on local seafood in San Diego:

Most of the seafood consumed in the United States is imported. Even in California, it is likely that less than ten percent of the seafood consumed is domestic. With our coastal location, why aren’t San Diegans enjoying locally caught seafood?

A new study shows that just eight percent of the city’s 86 seafood markets consistently carried San Diego-sourced seafood. Fourteen percent of markets carried it on occasion. The majority of markets that did carry local seafood were located within a mile and a half of the coast.

“Locally landed San Diego seafood isn’t that accessible to San Diego consumers,” said researcher Nina Venuti. “Few seafood markets in the city sell San Diego-sourced seafood.”

To buy locally-caught fish in San Diego, many shoppers have to visit the Tuna Harbor Dockside Market in downtown. It is one of few seafood markets that consistently carry local catch.

To buy locally-caught fish in San Diego, many shoppers have to visit the Tuna Harbor Dockside Market in downtown. It is one of few seafood markets that consistently carry local catch.

San Diego-based commercial fishermen Luke Halmay and Nathan Perez see the Port of San Diego redevelopment as an opportunity to reevaluate how space is distributed

One of the potential limitations to local seafood access identified by the study was a lack of waterfront workspace, including space for docking boats, maintaining gear, offloading and refrigerating catch, and for selling catch directly to the public. To maintain local seafood systems and the fishing heritage of many waterfront cities, reliable waterfront infrastructure is needed. With the Port of San Diego reviewing plans for a radical redevelopment of Central Embarcadero. San Diegans have an opportunity right now to fulfill this need.

The study also pointed to a lack of urban infrastructure as a potential barrier to establishing and supporting a local seafood system. Unlike agriculture, seafood production is limited to the coast. Therefore, local distributors may play a larger role in increasing community access to local seafood, bridging the gap between the waterfront and the city’s restaurants and markets.

“Urban infrastructure like seafood processing, packaging and transport facilities, as well as markets and restaurants to sell our locally sourced catch are all needed to increase access throughout the city,” said study author Theresa Talley. “This will ensure that more of the fish landed by our fishermen ends up on more of our plates here in San Diego.”


A version of this post first appeared on the California Sea Grant website

Keep San Diego Seafood Local

On August 24th, stakeholders of San Diego fisheries began meeting with Protea Waterfront Redevelopment about their plans to redevelop the Downtown waterfront. This meeting was important. That the fishing community is meeting at all with the likely developer may affect whether our local and sustainable seafood industry will persist, diminish or flourish in the redevelopment.


Fukushima and son, San Diego commercial fishing family.

Learn more about good, clean & fair seafood in San Diego.

The Port of San Diego envisions redeveloping the “Central Embarcadero” an area that includes Tuna Harbor, where the majority of San Diego’s active commercial fishermen dock their boats. “Tuna Harbor is central to San Diego’s cultural history as a fishing community,” says Pete Halmay, San Diego sea urchin fisherman. “It was the hub of San Diego fishing for a 100 years and is central to our local industry today.”

Today, San Diegans have little access to locally-caught seafood, even though we are a waterfront city. The U.S. imports over 90% of its seafood and San Diego fishermen are hard pressed to sell their catch locally. The redevelopment represents an opportunity to invest in our local fisheries and reconnect with our local seafood system. It’s up to the San Diego to commit to this.

Want to help? Write a letter to the Port of San Diego in support of local commercial fisheries and sustainable seafood. Go here.  


Jordyn, holding 2 San Diego species, red sea urchin and red crab, is from a San Diego fishing family.

While it is still early in the planning process, it is important that we let the Port (and City and County) know now that San Diego wants to support a thriving commercial fishing industry by keeping Tuna Harbor solely as a working fishing harbor. One of the early draft alternatives presented by Protea for Tuna Harbor shows a mixed use harbor, combining fishing with another yacht club. This would reduce the number of slips and total space allocated to fishermen, and create unsafe conditions with little room to maneuver boats and allow for daily boat traffic. Plus, “Creating a mixed-use marina conflicts with the Port Master Plan which delineated this area, among others to commercial fisheries,” says Halmay. The preliminary plan also reduces the size of the on-site processor and sets it back from the water behind retail stores and a taco shop. “Santa Monica Seafood provides vital services to the fishermen: ice, loading dock, crane, etc. We need these things to operate and keep our seafood fresh.” While this plan is only one of several draft alternatives, it reveals the extent to which commercial fishing could again be reduced in San Diego. Setting commercial fishing as a priority in San Diego needs to happen now.

Local red sea urchin, or uni, a delicacy harvested in local waters.

At the 2nd meeting in September, facilitated by Dr. Theresa Talley of SeaGrant California, stakeholders chose Mike Conroy, of the American Albacore Fishing Association, to Chair future meetings. They also presented their vision of Tuna Harbor, which is a single use harbor for commercial fishing vessels only, including necessary infrastructure like cranes, squid pump, freezer and net mending space plus, signage illustrating San Diego’s fishing history and present, and an open-air fishermen’s market. The vision maintains Santa Monica Seafood and their infrastructure, as well. All intended to support the current and likely future local fishery.


Sketch of fishermen’s vision for redeveloped Tuna Harbor

Click here for larger version of fishermen’s sketch.

San Diego needs fishermen to harvest our seafood. It’s not much further for us to get to importing 100% of our seafood. The redevelopment of the Central Embarcadero represents an opportunity for San Diego to invest in its fisheries, in its local seafood system, in community. We can make room for more yachts and chain restaurants or we can invest in Good, Clean & Fair Seafood for All. The success of Tuna Harbor Dockside Market, the popularity of restaurants serving local seafood, and the move to eat locally, all point to the potential of our local fisheries.


More than 40 species of rockfish live off our coast.

Maintaining and improving the fishing infrastructure at Tuna Harbor will keep locally-caught sustainable seafood in San Diego. Keep San Diego Local. Support your local fishermen, and fresh, tasty local seafood.

Watch this video to learn more about the value of San Diego commercial fisheries.

Want to help? Write a letter to the Port of San Diego in support of local commercial fisheries and sustainable seafood. Go here.  


This man wants you to eat local crab.

Save San Diego’s Sustainable Seafood

San Diego’s sustainable seafood needs your help. San Diego’s fishermen need your help. Our good, clean & fair seafood system needs your help.

The Port of San Diego plans to redevelop our Downtown waterfront, but the proposals they are considering, by and large, fall short of sustaining our local fishing industry. You can speak up and let them know that we support our fishermen and need a fishing harbor. No fishing harbor means no local fish. You can do two things to help:

  1. Send a letter to the Port of San Diego and ask them to support a healthy, local seafood system and a distinctly local Downtown waterfront. More details below.
  2. Attend the Port of San Diego meeting to review the proposals October 13th. Provide public comment in support of our local fisheries. Details here.

Read San Diego fishermen’s Downtown waterfront vision

giacamonick dan_m






Support good, clean & fair seafood for all San Diegans.

Help maintain our access to some of the most sustainable seafood in the world by sending a letter to the Port of San Diego. Points to include in letters and contact information for Port Commissioners and staff are below and downloadable here.


Points to include in letters:

  • A world-class community fishing commercial fishing harbor on the Embarcadero is a crucial and beneficial part of the fabric of the waterfront and the San Diego community. Our fishing harbor and the people within provide food security, economic value, legal consistency, and strengthen connections to our history and culture.
  • We encourage the Port to work with the San Diego fishing community to ensure that their needs are incorporated into the redeveloped waterfront. Please ensure that San Diego fishing will have the infrastructure, visibility and community involvement it needs in order thrive.
  • San Diego fishermen provide food security. San Diegans want access to safe, secure and healthy food. While 90% of the U.S.’s seafood is imported, with most from unknown origins, San Diego fishermen provide a local source of traceable seafood. This seafood is a safe, secure, healthy and affordable option for the community, and is some of the most sustainable seafood in the world.
  • San Diego fishermen contribute economic Value. The San Diego fishing industry has an extensive economic value to our community and this should be maintained. The San Diego fishing industry supports 130 commercial fishing vessels, including crew members and their families. In the San Diego area, 2.3 million pounds of seafood were landed in 2014, at a value of $10.3 million. Our commercial fisheries bring other values to San Diego including: networks, stewardship, lifestyle, income, fishing expenses, gifting and trading seafood, culture and tradition, education, spiritual, intergenerational, and transportation.
  • The Port should maintain legal consistency. The Port should redevelop the waterfront in a manner consistent with local and State plans and acts that protect the coast and its people and consider proposals for Central Embarcadero development. Redevelopment should meet the requirements of the Unified Port of San Diego Master Plan and the Commercial Fisheries Revitalization Plan to maintain a working fishing harbor at this location; the State Land Commissions Public Trust Doctrine that holds the waterfront in trust for the people of California; and the Coastal Act that states that fishing harbors should be maintained.
  • We want to maintain our history and culture. San Diego wants fishing operations in sight. Downtown San Diego is the cultural and historical home of San Diego fishing. Young San Diegans need the opportunity to view fishing and consider it as a viable line of work in order to keep our food sources secure. Once fishing is not visible, it will disappear along with the food security, economic stability, jobs and local identity it provides.
  • Please keep our local sustainable seafood system within reach. San Diego deserves a thriving local food system, of which fishing is an integral and respected part. We want access to fresh, healthy, sustainably sourced seafood, that we can afford. A thriving fishing industry in Downtown San Diego is critical to this future.
  • Downtown San Diego, like many other downtowns, has its share of large hotels, chain and non-local retailers and restaurants, and a lack of fresh, locally sourced food. Redevelopment represents an opportunity to highlight San Diego’s local treasures and create a beautiful, unique, accessible, and purposeful world-class waterfront.
  • San Diego deserves a world-class, working waterfront. To accomplish this, we need a thriving fishing industry. Downtown San Diego can be known for its healthy, sustainable seafood; its strong fishing heritage; and its beautiful, fully operational fishing harbor accessible to all.

Support food security, economic value, our cultural identity. Support local fisheries. 


Email the San Diego Port Commissioners
Marshall Merrifield (Chairman)- City of San Diego
Robert “Dukie” Valderrama (Vice-Chairman)- National City
Rafael Castellanos (Secretary)- City of San Diego
Bob Nelson – City of San Diego
Ann Moore- Chula Vista
Dan Malcolm – Imperial Beach
Garry J. Bonelli – Coronado

Email the Port Staff
Jim Hutzelman
Randa Coniglio
Wendy Ong
Penny Maus
Sofia Bayardo

Red Sea Urchin