Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Today's Catch - Wild on the Columbia

February brought our 11th annual Wild Seafood Exchange, at which 90 commercial fishermen, restaurateurs and fish wholesalers got together to network and discuss issues they have in common. This year’s Exchange took place in Vancouver, Washington, which offered a central location to draw fishermen from the Oregon Coast, the Washington coast and all along the Columbia River. More on the Columbia River later.

The first panel included retailers and executive chefs from local restaurants sharing what they look for in wild seafood products and vendors: from species, volume and delivery, to sales calls, administrative contact and effective marketing to restaurants.

The panelists included Peter Roscoe, chef and owner of Fulio’s in Astoria, Oregon, Lyf Gildersleeve, owner of Portland’s Flying Fish Company, Lisa Schroeder, executive chef and owner of Mother’s Bistro, in Portland and Cathy Whims, owner of Portland’s Nostrana restaurant.

During the first panel, we discovered that the Astoria anchovy fishery is the only one in the US producing anchovies as food, and that, for all it’s urbanity and culture, Portland’s distance from the sea results in a lack of variety of seafood available to chefs in Portland restaurants. If you can provide a diverse, fresh catch to the Portland food scene, your fish would be welcomed by the chefs on the panel.
A panel of successful direct marketers discussed ways to establish a direct marketing operation and manage harvesting, delivery and marketing.

Moderated by Pete Granger, who leads the marine advisory services for the Washington Sea Grant program, the panel included marketer Robert Sudar, of the Fall Creek Fish Company, Rex Zack, of Zack’s Fisheries, fourth-generation fisherman Kent Martin, who fishes from the F/V Floozie, and Rebeccah Winnier, who started Northwest Fish Hogs where she and her husband focus on providing quality and maintaining good customer relations.

Les Brown, who manages the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, moderated a panel of professionals and buyers who discussed standards and practices to maximize the value of your catch.
The panel consisted of Pete Granger, Mark Whitham a product development specialist with Oregon Sea Grant, Rick Thomas, Nisqually Tribe Seafood Marketing Program and Jay Garrison, who owns and operates Briney-Sea Seafood.

We learned that HACCP (Hazard analysis and critical control points), a systematic preventive approach to food safety and biological, chemical, and physical hazards in in production processes, has changed the industry for the better, but requires a greater investment of time and attention to manage. As a caution to direct marketers everywhere, Les Brown quoted inventor J.D.Stanhope, who said “The bitter taste of poor quality remains long after the sweet taste of low price is forgotten.”

A panel on small business issues addressed proper record-keeping, financial accounting, funding and loan applications, as well as other small business issues that affect the independent commercial fisherman.

The final panel of the day addressed Columbia River Fisheries Policy: Sustainability and Responsibility. Panelists included Bruce Buckmaster, with Salmon for All, Irene Martin, an expert on Lower Columbia River fisheries, Robert Sudar, Jim Wells, president of Salmon for All and Greg Johnson, a commercial fisherman with 33 years of experience.

The discussion centered on the Kitzhaber closure of the Lower Columbia to non-tribal commercial fishing and Washington State’s following suit. The panel was intended as a discussion to clarify the issues, and was quite successful in that regard, but it should be noted that out of all the Washington and Oregon state and federal legislators invited to the conference roundtable to meet some of their most productive constituents, only Washington’s 3rd District US Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler was interested enough to send her outreach director, Pam Peiper. Those of you in the 3rd Congressional District should take a moment to let Rep. Herrera Beutler know you appreciate her attention to this important issue. By the same token, let your governor and state representatives know you have noted their continued disinterest for your livelihood.

Chris Philips can be reached at: 206-284-8285 or email:

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