On Aug. 22, the San Diego Regional Policy & Innovation Center revealed that plans are underway to revive the San Diego Fishermen’s Marketing Association, a nonprofit that has been inactive since 2013.
The revival is being made possible through a $323,442 grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service as part of its Local Food Promotion Program.
Through the association’s revival, the center seeks to strengthen and shorten the region’s supply chain to increase local fish purchasing, grow the percentage of profits captured by local fishermen and raise the profile of the local fishing community.
“San Diego has a long and rich history as a commercial fishing hub,” said Pete Halmay, director and founder of the Tuna Harbor Dockside Market. “However, like in many coastal areas, these local providers have been forced to compete in global supply chains that value efficiency and low cost over quality and sustainability.”
“This grant,” he continued, “will help us create the support structure needed to unite the fishing community around a shared vision and marketing strategy, setting it up as a critical component of the San Diego food economy for decades.”
The defunct Fishermen’s Marketing Association would be revived through the grant as a means for delivering local shared marketing and launch a robust outreach and engagement effort to consumers, restaurants and retailers.
“A report by our partners at California Sea Grant found that only 8% of San Diego’s 86 seafood markets consistently carried local fish,” Halmay said. “With 70 miles of pristine coastline along the Pacific Ocean, San Diego County should be a hub for local catch, yet the disparity between what is available in markets, restaurants and our fishing fleet is stark, risking the viability of the local commercial fishing industry as a whole.”
“The time to forge a path toward increased local purchasing of San Diego caught fish is now,” he said.
The Fishermen’s Working Group is a nonprofit comprised of fishermen from San Diego representing eight major fishing gear types – including trap, dive, net, experimental, albacore bait, longline, deep-set buoy gear and hook & line – that harvest about 65 different species of fish and crustaceans.
The plan is for it to serve as the visionary and partnership lead of the project, bringing the goals of the fishing community to the forefront as the group embarks on a more robust marketing effort.
“This grant is a win for many in San Diego: The fishing community will benefit from increased sales; restaurants and retailers will have better access to sustainable fish at a fair price and the public will get to enjoy healthy, quality, affordable seafood,” San Diego Regional Policy & Innovation Center President and CEO Susan Guinn said.
The center is acting as the grant management lead. It is a partnership between the San Diego Foundation, the County of San Diego and the Brookings Institution think tank.