New Pacific to Plate Bill is Bringing Local Seafood to San Diegans

NEWS // December 11, 2015

New Pacific to Plate Bill is Bringing Fresh, Sustainable Seafood to San Diegans

On December 7, 2015, nearly 150 community members gathered together at the waterfront Manchester Grand Hyatt for inspiring speeches, a lively panel discussion and delicious local seafood served in honor of the recent passage of the “Pacific to Plate” bill AB226. The new bill, sponsored by Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) and signed into law in October by Governor Jerry Brown, allows fishermen’s markets to operate as food facilities, vendors to clean their fish for direct sale, and multiple fishermen to organize a market under a single permit. Put simply, the bill makes it easier for fishermen to sell directly to the public, much like farmers can. 

The process to develop the bill sprung from the early success of Tuna Harbor Dockside Market, which opened to the public in August 2014 and averaged more than 350 customers and 1.1 tons of seafood sold each week in its first months of operation. Recognizing the potential of a longer-term, direct-to-consumer market (the original operated under a temporary permit), County Supervisor Greg Cox, the County’s Department of Environmental Health, Port Commissioner Bob Nelson, the Unified Port of San Diego, California Sea Grant, NOAA, California Restaurant Association, The Maritime Alliance, California Coastal Conservancy, the local media, fishermen, researchers and supporters collaborated to draft a bill that met the desires of local fishermen and consumers. It received unanimous support in the California Assembly and Senate.

Supervisor Cox kicked off Monday’s event with opening remarks about how the bill supports the Live Well San Diego vision of healthy, safe and thriving communities:

“The signing of this bill into law has made San Diego’s own Tuna Harbor Dockside Market a model for the rest of the state. We’re showing people how to make it easier for Californians to get fresh, sustainable seafood,” said the Supervisor.

Amy Harbert, Assistant Director of the County of San Diego Department of Environmental Health, expressed her enthusiasm that the legislation sprung from collective efforts:

“More than 20 partner organizations came together in our working group to make this happen, along with representatives from a number of County departments,” she remarked.

During the event, Dr. Theresa Sinicrope Talley, Coastal Specialist for the California Sea Grant Extension at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, moderated an expert panel that raised some important questions about where San Diego can go from here to create an even more sustainable seafood system. Barriers to getting seafood from dock to dish still remain, including:

  1. Lack of infrastructure for San Diego fishermen to offload their catch at local docks.
  2. Logistical constraints including limited market hours (currently Tuna Harbor Dockside Market is only open Saturdays from 8 a.m. until around 1 p.m.) that make it hard from some consumers and chefs to get there.
  3. Limited awareness among locals and visitors that the market exists, where else they can buy local seafood, and how they can prepare the less well known seafood produced locally.

Community partners will be working to address these issues in the coming year.