Monterey, California, used to be an epicenter in the West Coast commercial fishing industry. These days, it’s still a working port, but many visitors know more about Steinbeck than Market Squid deliveries. And the city’s waterfront is full of restaurants serving shrimp and tilapia imported from China. And it’s not the only place doing so.
Many small ports around the United States have fallen into disrepair as more Americans consume imported, often farmed seafood. But there’s also an evolution taking place in commercial fishing in some small port towns that might just create more diverse, robust economies.
Cities up and down the West Coast once relied heavily on local “groundfish,” such as rockfish, sand dabs, and petrale sole. But the groundfish fishery saw a dramatic decline by 2000, and although many of the fish themselves have come back, the industry hasn’t recovered. Now, a public-private partnership is working to bring access to local fish in small port communities. And it’s a change that could benefit fishermen and women and the environment, and help small port towns rebuild more robust, stable, and diversified economies.