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Halibut / Morgan Castagnola / Ocean Trawl

Halibut / Morgan Castagnola / Ocean Trawl


Morgan Castagnola (R in pic above) is a third generation Santa Barbara fisherman whose mugshot decorates our coolers. Morgan is a straightforward man of few words. He fishes Halibut, Cucumber and Shrimp from his boat the Cecelia.

The Castagnolas are famous in Santa Barbara for their dominance in the local seafood industry for well over 100 years. Brothers Gio Batta and  Salvatore Castagnola came to Santa Barbara in 1896 from Genoa, Italy and with their wives raised 16 children in Santa Barbara in the early 20th century. Eleven of the brood were sons who all fished in the skiffs that their fathers built, and several also created fish processing facilities in what is now the Funk Zone. There are still many Castagnolas in the local fishing industry today.




You think stealth technology only exists in planes? Think again. California halibut are the ultimate stealth hunters, using camouflage, their large, sharp teeth and cautious, surreptitious movements to catch their prey

Halibut eyes are truly shifty: six months after they are born, the left eye migrates from the left side of its body over to its right side. In one of 20,000, the right eye goes over to the left side instead. Halibut are primarily found on the sandy ocean floor in bays, estuaries, and beyond the shoreline down to 300 meters, from Southern Baja California Mexico through Washington.

Halibut are caught year round. Perhaps due to changes in diet or metabolism, the texture of the meat changes slightly between winter and summer. In California, 50% of Halibut landings are from bottom trawl, 25% hook-and-line, & 25% set gillnet.

Your fish this week was caught by bottom trawl. Our bottom trawlers target halibut or shrimp over muddy bottom habitat. This fishery is small and has fisheries observers and strict regulations to minimize bycatch. We generally take any bycatch that comes up with the halibut so we fully utilize the catch, and so far thats been limited to just a few small angel sharks.





Since 1991, set gillnets are only allowed in deep waters far offshore (three miles from the coast or one mile from the Channel Islands) to avoid interactions with otters and other marine mammals, and large  zones of the California coast are fully off limits to gillnetting. These restrictions have been very successful, with no known otter interactions in 20 years.  

Net fishing is an efficient way to fish but sometimes comes with higher bycatch. There are less than 50 fishermen statewide using set gillnets, which limits their impacts. The most problematic issue with set gillnets these days is the occasional unintended take of a great white shark, a rare species. These sharks are donated for scientific research when possible. The sharp rise in white sharks in our waters may be a long-term rebound effect connected to the 1991 restriction of gillnets, as well as booming seal populations.


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