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
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
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
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: