Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Help Send Fishermen to Slow Fish 2016

How many of you know about Slow Fish 2016? This Slow Food event is an international gathering of fishers, scientists, chefs, students and food artisans. Together they'll address the many environmental, ecological, economic and political challenges that impact fisheries, habitats, oceans, sustainable fishers, and cultural seafood systems. Slow Fish has been held every two years in Genoa, Italy. Slow Fish 2016 in New Orleans, which takes place March 10-13, will be the first time the event will be held in the western hemisphere.

 We have a contingency from San Diego that will be attending the event, including Slow Food Urban San Diego board member, vice chair, and seafood liaison Sarah Shoffler; Pete Halmay, sea urchin fisherman and president of the San Diego Fishermen's Working Group; Chef and activist Andrew Spurgin; Baja Chef Drew Deckman, Chef Michael Poompan of the Coronado Marriott; three UCSD SIO students focused on sustainable fisheries; and several members of the local Slow Food community.

Andrew Spurgin
"Slow Fish aims to create community and connections between fishermen, the public, chefs, etc. and thus reconnect the public with its food producers and our food producers with the public -- like Slow Food does for all food producers, but Slow Fish focuses on seafood," explains Shoffler. "San Diegans are not very connected to our local fishermen, and vice versa, much like other food producers in general. I hope those of us going from San Diego will learn some tools to better do this with the overall goals of a San Diego citizenry that understands the many facets of sustainable seafood and supports a thriving local seafood industry." Her goal is access for all San Diegans to local seafood and for San Diego to be recognized as a sustainable seafood destination.

"We are lucky in San Diego to have an abundance of good, clean and fair seafood," Shoffler says, explaining the issues. "U.S. seafood is some of the most sustainable in the world. U.S. fishermen are some of the most stringently regulated in the world. Because our laws require that if there's a problem with a fishery -- either the fish being caught are overfished or the fishery is negatively affecting other animals like endangered sea turtles -- we must do something about it. Whether it's close the fishery, change fishing gear, or shorten the fishing season, for example. Plus, our fishermen need to get fair wages; they are not slaves. And by buying locally-harvested seafood, we reduce our carbon footprint compared to eating imported shrimp or tilapia, for example. So, by consuming locally-harvested US-caught seafood, we ensure good (fresh and tasty), clean (environmentally sound) and fair (workers get living wages) seafood."

For Halmay, Slow Fish 2016 is important to San Diego because he feels Slow Food had given a lot of attention to farmers and very little to fishermen. "I am committed to changing this to put equal emphasis on all producers of food." He expects that what will come out of the event is a recognition that fishing and fishermen are important to the culture and history of San Diego. To do that, "I am going to introduce the attendees to the idea of fishermen's markets and their role in a working fishing harbor," Halmay adds. "I hope to get support of working fishermen from all over the world."

But Halmay will need help getting out his message. What's needed are more fishermen--from San Diego and elsewhere--to attend the event and share their experiences and issues. The problem is that many fishermen are struggling financially and don't have the resources to travel to New Orleans for the event.

Recognizing that, the Slow Fish program committee and the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance established a crowdfunding program to raise money to send fishermen to Slow Fish. Leaders, including Shoffler, are encouraging the donation of funds and frequent flyer miles via the Generosity website. Donation requests start at $10 and they have a goal of reaching $10,000.

In San Diego, Slow Food Urban San Diego is supporting the travel of two local fishermen, including Halmay. "We'd like to send another fisherman and we've reached out to quite a few," says Shoffler. She explains that if there are any San Diego fishermen who would like to attend and need financial assistance, they can apply for travel scholarships from Slow Fish 2016 here or let SFUSD know (reach out to Shoffler at sarah_at_slowfoodurbansandiego_dot_org) since they still have funds available to send a local fisherman.

Want to make a contribution? Just head over to the Generosity website and help a fishermen attend this significant event. Then share the campaign socially using the hashtag #slowfish.

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