settings
Join Now
settings
Log In
Learn about
your local & sustainable fisheries

The Santa Barbara Channel

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.

Sustainability
We feel confident in supporting seafood harvested by our local fishermen and farmers.  Here’s why:
Strict Management:

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).

Financial Support = Environmental Support:
Santa Barbara fishermen often get better prices by selling their seafood locally. Better profits allow them to fish more selectively, leading to lighter resource use. Also, when buying from local fishermen, we can create price incentives for continuing to improve environmentally friendly fishing practices.
Food Miles:
Imported seafood is flown by airplane, and oil is burned to keep it cold for days to months, creating a large carbon footprint. Local seafood represents a source of protein with a small carbon footprint, making it better for you and the environment.
Diversity/Scale:
The Santa Barbara Channel supports a small-scale owner-operated fishing fleet that responds dynamically to the seasonal and annual changes in seafood availability in the Channel. Fishing a diversity of species helps avoid overexploitation of single species. Supporting small-scale local fishermen instead of industrial fishing boats from elsewhere supports less waste, more transparency and accountability, and fair trade!
Transparency:
Imported seafood comes with risks of Illegal harvest and mislabeling. Covering up fraud is easy when supply chains are long and complicated. If sold locally, seafood passes through at most 1 or 2 hands before reaching you, and you can know exactly what you are eating, where it came from, who caught it and how it was caught.
Sustainability Ratings:
Several national programs rank seafood according to one or more factors including management, sensitivity to overfishing, bycatch levels and gear damage to habitat. Because these ratings vary and are not made specifically for the populations and fishing techniques used in the Santa Barbara Channel, we don’t feel they are the best way to judge the sustainability of eating local seafood here. Nonetheless, the vast majority of fishing practices and species harvested here can be considered “sustainable” by commonly used standards at this time. Please inquire with us if you would like more detail on this complex, evolving topic.
How can a CSF benefit the Santa Barbara community?

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.

Questions about sustainability?         Contact Us!
Santa Barbara’s own Community Supported Fishery, a subscription-based program delivering the freshest catch direct from your local fishermen.
Santa Barbara’s own Community Supported Fishery, a subscription-based program delivering the freshest catch direct from your local fishermen.
[bot_catcher]