On July 12th our Portland Chapter was lucky enough to have Kaety Jacobson of Oregon Sea Grant stop by our monthly meeting to share her stories and experiences as a Newport native and lifelong seafood consumer/ student of her (fishy) environment. The daughter of a commercial fishermen, Kaety grew up eating fresh catch-of-the day fish and developed an almost innate sense of dealing with seafood at all stages of the cycle from catching to selling to bartering for to cleaning to cooking and eventually to studying the community and trends as part of her profession.

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For Portland locals this knowledge is valuable. A landlocked and famously hungry bunch, fresh seafood is a luxury, something many of us enjoy, cook when possible and order out at restaurants occasionally. But often times it feels as if tracking down the answers to questions we may have about our seafood is an uphill battle, and we may not know which questions are worth asking in the first place.

Enter Kaety stage left.

Kaety claims that people in her coastal community share in her ability to sniff out (literally) fresh seafood and understand various ocean patterns since many of their diets, livelihoods and recreational hobbies depend on this knowledge. Here are a few things we can all do to be conscientious seafood consumers, make sure we’re buying an optimally fresh product, and hopefully in the process support sustainable fisheries and local fishermen:

  1. Seafood Quality.  Kaety suggests buying fish that look “pretty” (ie. avoid buying fish whose bodies look like they’ve endured trauma), and to make sure and give your seafood a little sniff. She tries to avoid seafood if its smell is too pungent, it means something may be off. Also, she advises paying a little more for a better quality product.
Photo credit to eatyourbooks.com

Photo credit to eatyourbooks.com

  1. Ask questions. Restaurants and grocery stores should have a general understanding of where their seafood comes from/what the product is they’re selling and how it is caught, and should be prepared to share that info with patrons. If they don’t it’s not worth buying. Work towards supporting seafood that is harvested locally, and otherwise attempt to develop a sense of fisheries that are in poor health vs. ones that are well-managed. Some people like to check their Seafood Watch consumer recommendation cards. Kaety warns against generalizing global stock trends vs local ones and suggests using NOAA’s site http://www.fishwatch.gov/ if you’re unsure about the status of a certain species.
  2. Buy Direct. Try to remove as many middle men as possible. Often times the seafood we purchase is flown around the world to be processed before reaching its final destination. If you can buy local, your chances of knowing how and by whom the fish you are eating was caught are greater – and it gives you an opportunity to possibly engage with the source – who without fail is going to have the greatest knowledge to share. To this end, Kaety encourages seafood lovers to physically go to the coast and walk the docks in order to help build an understanding of the seafood trade and stock trends.
A picture from Kaety's powerpoint.

A picture of a fisherman showcasing his product selected from Kaety’s powerpoint.

  1. Have the right tools.  If you’re going to be buying/ cooking a lot of seafood consider having an extra freezer and/or a vaccum packer. Related, if you’re buying fresh fish show up with a cooler or a way to transport your fish. Having the right tools also means being knowledgeable. Know more than three species of fish and develop different ways of cooking your seafood. This also ties back into to knowing where to check if you are unsure about the advisability of a purchase (link above).

With that, go forth and purchase awesome sweet slimy local seafood, like a BOSS.

Thanks to Kaety for a great presentation and stay tuned for the next speaker presentation in our series, a talk with Pat Corcoran on Earthquake Preparedness. You’re not going to want to miss it!