The Channel is one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, with a mix of kelp forests, rocky reefs, sand flats and sea grass beds. In deeper waters, bottomfishes like rock cod and halibut thrive along underwater shelf and canyon areas.
The waters of the Santa Barbara Channel region are incredibly dynamic – temperature, currents, and nutrient levels are always changing. This dynamism comes from the combination of cold and warm currents colliding in the Channel and a complex geomorphology from islands, headlands and canyons that further stir up the ocean currents as they flow by.
These complex currents concentrate plankton, creating lush feeding grounds that support large schools of squid, sardines and mackerel which in turn fatten up migrating whales, tuna and swordfish as well as resident sea lions, dolphins, sharks and other predators.
Abundance of any one seafood product may fluctuate over the years and seasons, but there is always at least a handful of species that are booming. In El Nino years, northern currents strengthen, bringing warm waters and boom years in subtropical species like sheephead, lobster and swordfish. In La Nina years, southern currents strengthen, allowing kelp, urchin, squid and other cold water species to thrive.
Our dynamic waters are best suited to small-scale, adaptable fisheries that respond to the ups and downs of species availability. Consequently, we have no large boats operating locally. Instead, much of the fishing community is made up of part-timers who work in other sectors when the fishing season ends or when conditions shift. Almost all are owner-operated boats with crews of 1-2 only. Responding adaptively to the ecological conditions is a key aspect of fishing sustainably.
California has some of the strictest fishing regulations in the world. Oversight is generally very good. California’s extensive network of marine protected areas creates areas off limits to fishing, serving as insurance against large-scale overexploitation of several important fishery species. Local fishermen have also adopted fishing techniques that minimize interaction with marine mammals and bycatch (unintended harvest of species that aren't consumed).
Local, sustainably-caught seafood is not easy to find in stores in Santa Barbara. Seafood harvested in Santa Barbara is mostly bought by seafood processors and distributors operating out of Los Angeles. Our fishermen often get poor prices and market can be unpredictable. The seafood counters at Santa Barbara stores are stocked with foreign products that may or may not be harvested sustainably or labeled truthfully. This is not good for the fishermen, the environment or the public. The CSF is a way of providing the Santa Barbara community greater access to all of the delicious, local, sustainable seafood caught responsibly right here!
Because most of our seafood leaves town, our community is largely unaware of how desirable our local seafood is and how much better it is for the environment compared with buying imported seafood. California fishing regulations are some of the most environmentally stringent and progressive in the world. But these limits make it hard to make a profit fishing here. We want to actively create the means to provide support for our fishing industry to ensure its heritage and the continued access to local seafood into the future.
By joining Community Seafood, you will receive the "Catch of the Day" from local fishermen. You will know who caught your seafood, where it was caught, how it was caught and when it was caught. We will provide information on the species of seafood, health benefits, a short bio of the fisherman and his/her vessel and a description of the techniques and tools that were used to catch your seafood. We plan on providing opportunities to meet the fishermen, take cooking classes, and socialize at barbecues.