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"From Fishing to Farmers Markets" & events, issues & ideas

Friday, April 30, 2004
Metropolitam Market and Squid Fishing
At the Wild Seafood Exchange, chefs, retail merchants, and fishermen put their heads together and discussed how to get the freshest seafood to the consumer. This forum discussed the role of distributors (they are necessary in Seattle) and how fishermen should try to pre-qualify for sustainability and quality assurance such as with HACCP or the Cold Trak Program for quality and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Lists for sustainability. John Foss introduced a fabulous idea to develop a Fair Trade Seafood Label which would include criteria similar to the fair trade coffees except in the context of seafood and the Pacific Northwest.

At this Exchange I met Jaques Boiroux and Rick Cavanaugh of Metropolitan Market who along with John Rowley, masterminded the advent of Copper River King Salmon into the Seattle area. Helicopters were used to airlift the first salmon caught, out of the boat to a waiting plane to airfreight them to Seattle. It was a wonderful marketing ploy and a lot of fun. Yesterday I visited the Metropolitan Market in the Admiral District of West Seattle to investigate. I found a multilevel airy market with artfully displayed bakery items inviting temptation. The deli section is extensive and offers a filet of poached salmon with slices to go. There are sumptuous ready made fresh looking salads to add and voila, you have lunch or dinner already made. I visited with Rick Cavanaugh who is their Senior Seafood Manager. His display of whole salmon, dungies, and shellfish was perfect. The Ikashibi caught Hawaiian albacore steaks looked very fresh. He explained to me that he likes to display a fresh fish with a picture of it being caught by the fisherman with an airbill attatched to confirm its next-day delivery. Now that is FRESH!
This attention to detail comes from thirty years in the seafood business. There are four Metropolitan Markets: Admiral:West Seattle, Queen Anne, Sand Point, and the Prior District:Tacoma. They will e-mail customers a sale sheet every week if you sign up.

Steve and crew are seining for squid this week in the Channel Islands, CA. The weather has been awful, however. Wednesday night it blew at least 50 knots and the Papa George anchored up in Beechers Bay to ride it out. It was soon after anchoring that Steve got a call from a lightboat nearby who lost his anchor. "Can I tie off astern" he asks. Steve will always help out another boat in trouble ( just ask his old Alaska salmon crew and they will groan). In return the lightboat agreed to set him last night.

An old story comes to mind speaking of salmon fishing in Alaska. On our way from Sand Point, AK to Seattle one August in the 80's (a 1250 mile journey) we began crossing Queen Charlotte Sound in Canada early one foggy morning. Soon after entering the Sound running South at 8 knots, we came upon a gillnetter dead in the water. We circled it once to see if anyone was aboard. Soon a man popped his head out of the cabin door and waved. H e then called on the radio and said his engine quit and could he have a tow to Scarlet Point....clear across the Sound towards the entrance to Johnstone
Straits. I tied the bowline to the winch and off we went. The gillnetter told Steve he was going to work on his engine on the way across, but he actually laid down and went to sleep. When we arrived off Scarlet Point in thick fog we let him go and waved goodbye. He started up his engine and sped away. We realized we'd been had by one of the oldest tricks in the book.....he wanted to save fuel and get a nap, so he pled engine failure and got a tow to where he wanted to start fishing in the morning.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004
Fishing Injury and Seattle Events
Last week we were fishing sardines near Palos Verdes, CA when my deck duties came to a screeching halt. My back zigged when it should have zagged, or I pulled on the web too hard resulting in sciatic nerve damage. After a trip to the emergency room and a week later, I'm home and limping around with a semi-numb right leg. This begins my egress from the life of a deckhand to a market maven or maybe even a slug???

There is an event of mention this Friday called the Wild Seafood Exchange and will offer an interface between fishermen, chefs, and merchants in Seattle. It goes all day from 9 AM to 5 PM at the Bell Harbor Center. The conference does cost $79.

Slow Food Seattle has a Spring Event in May called A Slow Taste of Spain which features wine and delicacies prepared by Tamara Murphy. This luxurious family style dinner will be at the Brasa Restaurant on 2170 Third Ave at 6 PM on May 5th. Registration is available on the website.

Friday, April 09, 2004
San Pedro Sardines and Papa George Tuna mobile
The F/V Papa George is a sardine seiner once again. The new biiiiig! net is wet and catching. Last night saw Steve and crew surround 100 tons of mixed sardines and anchovies off of the cliffs of Palos Verdes. The set was so big that the jury-rigged breast line almost snapped. By letting 70 tons swim free, Steve saved 30 tons without the breast line parting. Meanwhile I arrived in San Pedro by plane with a 57 pound suitcase full of canned albacore. For the next two weeks our website will be mobile. Already, the supply of albacore in Tuscan Olive Oil is gone...... I am down here to help fish, cook, and otherwise be a fisherman once again. There is something elemental about hunting fish, even if they are very small like anchovies. When you have 50 tons in a set, and they are flipping on the surface in the moonlight, the air feels clean, and the whole act of fishing seems right and good. I really enjoy being a producer of food.

Thursday, April 08, 2004
San Pedro sardines and a portable tuna store
Today was the third delivery of a sardine/anchovy mix for the Papa George's new biiiiiig! sardine net. The guys are working with a jury-rigged breast line until their new one arrives today. The brought in 30 tons after letting at least that much go in order to put less strain on the old breast line. Unfortunately, this mix of small sardines and anchovies is low priced and will probably be sold for cat food. Lucky cats.
I arrived this morning to spend a few weeks helping out before the farmers markets begin in May. I brought 58 pounds of canned albacore to ship out and all the accoutrements to pack and ship orders.
Todat the Wall Street Journal published an editorial about the "mercury in tuna" issue. It certainly puts some common sense back into the argument.

Thursday, April 01, 2004
Albacore in Parade and Sardine net Progress
If you get a Sunday paper, perhaps you ruffle through Parade Magazine. This past weekend featured Weblinks: A Bazaar for Better Living and a mentioning of "Tastier, Healthier Tuna" which shows our can of albacore holding up four competitors cans. The website linked to the stack of tuna cans was our American Fishermen's Research Council's This site compiles the member websites where a customer may order online. Papa George Gourmet is one of those family businesses featured. We are grateful to AFRF for placing our excellent albacore in Parade!

The sardine net is coming along. Yesterday, Steve said they did two pulls, which means 20 fathoms. The whole net will be 250 fathoms or just over a quarter of a mile. This net gets set in a circle around a school of sardines. It is the only way to catch them in California. In Europe, sardines are caught by trawling which is efficient too. The photo linked here is after the net has been drawn up so the sardines are close together, alive, and heavy. The submersible pump is put in to the sardines and they are pumped into the refrigerated hold. Our net should safely land 50 tons at a time. This photo is quite old, but this seining technique called "roundhauling" is ancient.

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