On Thursday evening, February 4, Hayes Street Grill welcomed approximately fifty diners to a noticeably expanded Slow Food San Francisco Convivial Table. The dazzling spread of fresh, local, and sustainable seafood included Dungeness crab, sardines, squid, oysters, opah (moonfish), clams, and ling cod supplemented by outstanding local produce in classic preparations. Rather than focus on this wonderful meal, however, there was another, more important reason we gathered.
Halfway through the feast, Paul Johnson rose from the table and asked for our attention. Paul is a knowledgeable authority and respected advocate for sustainable seafood. He is the founder and proprietor of Monterey Fish Market, the prize winning author of Fish Forever, and an adviser to the “FishWise” program. When he speaks, it is with the heartfelt passion of a lifetime sea lover who has witnessed the tragedy of our oceans and waterways in steady decline. His message this evening centered on three specific points; rampant pollution of our waters (much of this by large scale confined animals operations in the meat and dairy industries-read Nicolette Hahn Niman’s Righteous Porkchop for more), over fishing (sacrificing long term sustainability for short sighted greed), and the increase of farm raised fisheries who simultaneously pollute waterways and endanger wild species. Like many sustainable food advocates, Paul suggested we ask more questions about where our food comes from. In particular, he implored us to support the dwindling breed of independent small boat fishermen-the seagoing equivalent of family run farms. His casual presentation was both enlightened and stimulating. Before returning to his seat, Paul introduced us to a leading local fisherman; Larry Collins.
Larry and his wife, Barbara, have fished out of San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf for a quarter century-primarily for Dungeness Crab and California King Salmon. He too is a passionate and articulate speaker who has sat before numerous government bodies to advocate on behalf of responsible fishing practices. He shared some of his experiences and lamented the sorry state of local salmon fishing (closed two consecutive seasons and counting). Sadly, there is a long list of ill-advised practices which has led to this predicament. The salmon, though, are simply a high profile example of the countless problems facing those dedicated to preserving the waterways and their inhabitants. Larry’s closing message was to remind us that the rivers, streams, oceans, and the many creatures who live therein, do not belong to the government-or to the corporations who selfishly pollute and abuse them. They are ours to protect-and he asked for our help in doing so.
There are numerous restaurants and markets who follow the guidelines of independent groups such as FishWise. We ask you to become more aware of which seafood choices have been caught in an environmentally conscious and sustainable manner. Please seek out the establishments who follow these guidelines-or ask more questions at your favorite businesses. If we don’t make better choices today, we won’t have them to make tomorrow.
Get the information you need to make those choices with fishwise.org.