The fall holiday season is done a little bit differently on the Central California coast. Our trees don’t turn dramatic hues, which makes adventures to see color changes non-existent. The first freeze that many associate with fall is replaced by an increase in temperature as winds swing around to northeasterly. October is the month to break out the swim trunks, not the cozy sweaters. But, with the nice weather, trips to pumpkin patches and corn mazes are easily paired with the nicest beach days of the year, and some of the best times out on the water.
As the temperature rises and we head to the coastline, the fog peels back and gives us a better look at what lies beyond the breakers. While the fish remain invisible below the surface, the circling gulls, bobbing seals, and unmistakable fishing vessels remind us of the industry that is central to our coast but on the periphery for many. Fall brings local seafood further into our lives. Not only are the vessels more visible, but also for many the holidays are when local seafood is most likely to be brought home and enjoyed around a table of one’s closest friends and family.
Seafood has a different meaning for me than it does for most. While most value fisheries for the nutritious and delicious fish it brings to their tables, I don’t eat seafood. But, while it might seem contradictory to some, I see how harvesting our oceans can help protect them. Like a good Californian, I love our beaches, the bay, and the Pacific Ocean. I grew up treasuring fall family trips to the coast. Scouring tide pools for hermit crabs, the beach for sand dollars, and the waves for a glimpse of a seal. Wandering the streets of small coastal towns, watching the fishing boats come in and wondering where they were going and what they were catching. I want our coastlines to remain rugged and wild, and our oceans to stay productive.
Seafood is more than just a good way to get some lean protein. Locally sourced, sustainable seafood is central to preserving what we hold dear. Healthy fisheries and healthy coastal communities provide sustainable, safe seafood and retain the integrity of entire ocean ecosystems. I’ve been getting to know California fishermen over the course of my fall internship this year, and each one I’ve met agrees. As long as there is a market for healthy, sustainably caught fish, there is a need to preserve our oceans and a reason for fishing communities. I don’t need to eat fish to benefit from what seafood can do for our oceans and communities.