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Cook for the Roses

Posted by Santa Monica Admin, on April 28th, 2014, in Selecting Seafood

It’s Kentucky Derby Week!  To most people it’s all about the horses (or maybe the hats…) but what are we looking forward to?  The annual Skuna Bay Salmon Kentucky Derby Chef Challenge! After multiple rounds of cook-offs held across the country over the last couple of months the competing chefs have been narrowed down to two finalists.

You can see how the competition played out here, but in the end there were only two chefs left standing:  Chef Edward Sura of Perennial Virant in Chicago and Chef Sarah Schafer, of Irving Street Kitchen in Portland.

Don’t worry though, California will be well-represented by Chef Andrew Sutton, Signature Chef of Disney Resorts, who has been picked to be one of this year’s Finals Judges!  Chef Sutton was last year’s Skuna Bay Kentucky Derby Chef Challenge Runner Up and Finalist and he brings his experience and unique vantage point to this years competition.

May the best Chef win!


Busy Spring for RSVP Funding Recipients!

Posted by Santa Monica Admin, on April 15th, 2014, in Selecting Seafood, Sustainability

It’s been a busy spring so far for a number of organizations that we support with RSVP Funding.  Here’s an overview of some of the action!

  • Derelict Gear Removal – This is the time of year when the weather calms down enough for the Northwest Straits Foundation’s Derelict Gear Removal project to really get going on removing abandoned fishing nets and crab pots. They’ve had a busy past two months, conducting a total of 16 days of net removal off Salmon Bank, Lopez Island, Cypress Island, Rosario Strait, south San Juan and Guemes Island, Lummi Island, Alden Bank and Hood Canal.  48 derelict nets have been removed so far!
  • Fathom Consulting’s Pelagic Trawl Gear Improvement was just awarded a 320K grant from NOAAs Saltonstal-Kennedy program to conduct a full benthic survey, further building upon the support they get from Santa Monica Seafood.
  • The Central California Fisheries Research Project (CCFRP) is getting geared up for the summer 2014 research season, booking charter trips and getting volunteer anglers to help them catch fish to tag! If you live in the area and would like to get involved with the volunteer angler program, click here.
  • The World Wildlife Fund Peruvian Mahi FIP has set up an observer program for the 2014 season in Paita, and is working towards a mid-year progress meeting in August and the creation of the national Mahi management group in September. Check out this cool video that WWF Peru has produced on the Paita Mahi fishery!
  • Heal the Bay’s Key to the Sea program has educated 111 new teachers through the Key to the Sea professional development program.  These newly trained teachers translate into thousands of students from all over the Los Angeles area.  At of the end of February, Key to the Sea had brought 3358 students to the beach (many for the first time) and another 3000 students are scheduled to come this spring!

Thanks to those of you that work with us to help support positive change in our industry!


Teens Dining out More than Ever

Posted by Santa Monica Admin, on April 11th, 2014, in Announcements, Seafood Education

Although you might not care that teenagers prefer Nike over Converse, we bet you will be interested to learn that for the first time EVER in the history of Piper Jaffray’s “Teen Spending Survey teens are spending as much money on food as they are on clothing!

It’s not surprising that most of that money is going to Starbucks, but we still found it interesting…  and it leads us to believe that some of those teens like seafood and are willing to spend their (or their parents) money on it.  Kids of all ages are growing more and more sophisticated when it comes to their dining habits, and enjoying a whole roasted sea bass or a plate of crab cakes is becoming as normal to them as sipping on an Iced Venti Carmel Macchiatto.

Don’t underestimate the power of teens when it comes to your bottom line.

Whether your offering a prom-focused special this spring (hopefully featuring some seasonal seafood), adding all-ages hand crafted non-alcoholic drinks to your program or advertising in teen-focused publications, the teen market is looking for a place to eat!

They are also obsessed with social – spruce up that Facebook page and make sure your Instagram account is up-to-date!

Let us know how you’re creatively capturing a bit of the teen market in our comments section…


Hopeful News for Wild Salmon Lovers

Posted by Santa Monica Admin, on April 7th, 2014, in Announcements

More hopeful news for all of you who are following the Bristol Bay/Pebble Mine story -  global mining giant Rio Tinto has just announced that it is pulling out of the Pebble Mine project which ranks among the largest undeveloped copper deposits in the world.

According to this article from, “project developer Northern Dynasty Minerals is vowing to push on despite the controversies and continual setbacks”.

British mining company Anglo American pulled out of the project late last year.

We’ve supported the fight to protect Bristol Bay through our RSVP Project, and we’ll continue to stay involved.  Bristol Bay is home to one of the planet’s richest wild salmon fisheries and we believe it should remain protected.  To join the fight to Save Bristol Bay, check out


What’s your Story?

Posted by Santa Monica Admin, on April 4th, 2014, in Announcements, Seafood Education, Specials

Restaurant Business just published their “Top 12 tips from the Restaurant Leadership Conferenceand one in particular caught our eye:

“Tell your story. Millennials in particular want to know who you are and how you got there. They want to meet your brand, not just use it.”

We also shared a great blog post from Morsel called “The Power of Storytelling for Chefs and Restaurants” on our Facebook page the other day that expounded on that same message.   The author writes:

“And so, the lesson — we don’t remember lists of ingredients in a tweet. So, if you post some food porn and the ingredients, no one will remember those ingredients. You’ve given your followers nothing to remember, nothing to connect with, nothing that resonates.

Now, if you tell the stories of your food — you and your food will be remembered. In fact, neurologists have determined that  stories are up to 22 times more memorable than facts alone.”

We love this idea – mainly because seafood comes loaded with stories!   Right now we’re excited about beautiful spring kings coming down from Oregon.  These are troll caught salmon, harvested one at a time by fishermen working on small boats – sometimes even fishing by themselves. Imagine those big kings, massing to feed on schools of herring and other small fish gathering by the ton, a story as old as spring itself!   They’re fattening up, getting ready for their spawning run and are what we call “Ocean Bright” meaning they are at the peak of their life-cycle – strong and full flavored and just bursting with rich and healthy fat.  Trolling is one of the fussiest fisheries, with fish landed still alive, one-at-a-time, and bled and iced quickly resulting in unmatched quality.  It’s not a volume fishery, so these fish aren’t cheap – but use their seasonal story to connect with your customers and when they bite into that fish we guarantee they won’t be disappointed!

The story of seafood – let us know how we can help you tell it!


King Crabs vulnerable to Ocean Acidification

Posted by Santa Monica Admin, on March 25th, 2014, in Announcements, Seafood Education, Sustainability

We just received an update from the ACKRRAB project (one of our RSVP funding recipients) on some research they’ve been doing to study the potential impacts of ocean acidification on red king crabs.

According to their report,

“NOAA researchers at the Kodiak Laboratory used red king crabs from the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery, from eastern Bering Sea broodstock, in an experiment on the effects of ocean acidification. Red king crab may be vulnerable to ocean acidification because their shells are made of calcium carbonate, which can dissolve in acidic waters.”

The experiment measured how newly settled crabs reacted to different pH levels.  They tested crabs in water that approximated current oceanic conditions,  as well as water with a pH of 7.8 (expected global average by the year 2100), and water with a pH of 7.5 (expected by 2200).

As you might expect, the crabs were negatively impacted by the changes in pH, either exhibiting slower growth weights or dying.   According to the researchers,

“The reduced survival and growth at lower pH means that ocean acidification could have substantial negative effects on the populations of red king crab and crab fisheries within the next 100 years. Further research will consider daily and seasonal fluctuations in pH naturally experienced by crab throughout their life history.”

You can learn at the AKCRRAB website


Unpacking Boston; Part Two

Posted by Santa Monica Admin, on March 21st, 2014, in Announcements, Seafood Education, Sustainability

Seafood Expo North America was also a perfect opportunity for the members of Sea Pact to spread the word about all the great projects we’ve funded, and announce our two newest grant recipients! We took the opportunity that the show provides to announce that we just funded a Brazilian lobster FIP and a unique project designed to help improve sustainability of the Maine soft shell clam through predator exclusion and other methods.

Panulirus argus (red lobster) and Panulirus laevicauda (green lobster), represent the most important fishing resources of northern and northeastern Brazil. The fishery exports mainly to the US market, and provides a livelihood for more than 15,000 fishermen. This FIP was launched two years ago, trigged by a UNEP study about supply chains in the agriculture and fisheries sectors. UNEP entered in a partnership with CeDePesca, which is coordinating the improvement work in the field with local industry and fishermen. An MSC pre-assessment was conducted and revealed a variety of problems the most crucial one being the extended use of illegal fishing gear. Sea Pact funding will be used to implement a traceability system paired with a branding project that highlights legally trap-caught lobsters. The hope is this will encourage fishermen to organize and work together to build a legal, verified, and branded product that will gain better US market recognition and will encourage other fishermen to move towards legal (and more sustainable) fishing methods.

Funding is also being used to support a project in Freeport, ME, designed to engage soft-shell clam (Mya arenaria) harvesters in active management projects that will demonstrate the efficacy of various methods to enhance natural clam populations. The practical goal is to increase clam harvests so that supply can grow with demand for this product, however a more long-term goal is to create a “new mindset” amongst clammers and local clam stewardship committees to see beyond traditional conservation schemes. New efforts focusing on predator (green crab) exclusion and habitat modification that will result in the enhancement of wild a cultured “spat”.

These two new projects were unveiled at a well-attended reception that we held the first day of the show.  Thanks to everyone that joined us!  If you have further questions about the work that Sea Pact does, don’t hesitate to ask…


Unpacking Boston; Part One

Posted by Santa Monica Admin, on March 20th, 2014, in Announcements, Seafood Education, Sustainability

Although Seafood Expo North America is a good opportunity to meet with current and potential vendors to secure seafood for the coming year, it’s also a gathering of people that are involved in projects designed to improve the sustainability (and availability) of the products that we source.

This year’s event allowed us to get detailed information regarding several projects that we have funded through our RSVP Program or through our membership in Sea Pact.

We attended two Roundtables hosted by the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) that were designed to bring stakeholders up to date on current Fishery Improvement Projects (FIP) that the SFP is involved in.

The Gulf of California Industrial Shrimp Trawl FIP (which we have helped support with RSVP funding) is in stage 4 (“FIP is delivering improvement in policies or practices”) and continues to make steady progress.  Stricter fishing regulations are now in place which include mandatory use of Bycatch Reduction Devices (BRD’s), tight control over gear configurations, and an audit process to verify if the shrimp from a specific company/vessel was produced in compliance with the regulations.  There are also geographic areas designated as no-take zones.  One of the biggest challenges that is being addressed is helping fishermen understand the importance of compliance, and to bridge the gulf between the gear they are currently using and the gear they should be using.    The next several months will involve continued training and education to help fishermen prepare for next year’s season.

The Brazilian Lobster Tail FIP (also in stage 4) is currently addressing a serious lack of current stock assessment data, working up a management system that is based on a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) and traceability issues.  Despite some challenges working with the government, there is hope that a stock assessment will be completed this year.  Although membership in the FIP is growing, more formal support is needed from US importers (which was one of the topics of this year’s roundtable).   Although lobster fishermen are only allowed to fish with traps, enforcement is difficult due to the size and diversity of the fleet, the wide area of capture and a limited monitoring program.  Goals for the coming year include continued inspection of boats to make sure they are fishing with traps (and not nets), regular inspections at sea, at landing, and at airports, and better control over origin of the product.  We’re part of helping fund this progress through Sea Pact.

Although the role of the government cannot be understated, a large part of the success of the programs comes down to the ability of the fishermen to comply with new regulations.  Its a cooperative effort that needs to balance their day-to-day financial needs with the long-term survival of the fishery…


We’re heading to Seafood Expo North America

Posted by Santa Monica Admin, on March 14th, 2014, in Announcements, Events

The 2014 Seafood Expo North America (SENA) opens on Sunday in Boston and we’re looking forward to spending a couple of action packed days meeting with current and potential purveyors, attending educational sessions and connecting with colleagues.

The seafood market remains dynamic and complicated.  With today’s sourcing challenges SENA offers a great opportunity to find new products, meet new vendors and renew and strengthen current and past relationships.

Events like SENA offer us a perfect opportunity to meet one-on-one with vendors to secure product and see what new innovations are making waves.  SENA is a great showcase for what’s new in our industry, and we want to be the first to bring those opportunities home to you.

In addition to the trade show aspect of the event, a full schedule of educational panels and presentations help us stay on top of issues that impact our industry.

If there is something you’re curious about or a product you’d like to see us add to our inventory, leave us a note in the comments section below and we’ll check into it.

Stay tuned for updates from Boston…


What do Millennials want for Lunch?

Posted by Santa Monica Admin, on March 11th, 2014, in Announcements, Seafood Education, Selecting Seafood, Sustainability

If you’re looking for ways to build your restaurant business, then you should probably get up to speed on what Millennials are looking for.  According to a recent article on,

“Millennials are a juicy target; at 90 million people strong, it’s the biggest demographic around. It’s destined to be the next driver of growth for all parts of the food world, including restaurants. Whoever cracks the code on Millennials’ eating preferences stands to make a bundle.”

The article pulled a lot of bullet points from a recent study called “Understanding Millenials” conducted by consumer research firm the Hartman Group.  We narrowed it down to the five we found most interesting (and relevant to your next Santa Monica Seafood order):

  • 30 percent eat foods that are certified organic (as compared to 21 percent of Gen X-ers and 15 percent of Boomers). Although the U.S. doesn’t have organic standards for seafood, we work to source all our seafood responsibly.  If your customers have sustainability questions on specific items, please let us know.
  • They prefer whole foods over processed food. That’s right – load up on Mother Nature’s unprocessed bounty!  Fresh fish and shellfish, responsibly harvested, fits the bill here.
  • They will spend more on ethically sourced meats and farm-to-table experiences. Your Santa Monica Seafood Representative can quickly offer you local seafood, sourced directly.  We work closely with fishermen up and down the California Coast, and try and source directly whenever possible.  Carlsbad Aquafarm is one of our closest aquaculture partners, ask about their delicious mussels and oysters!  Another near-by oyster option – Grassy Bar oysters direct from Morro Bay! Also, check out Skuna Bay Salmon – they do a great job highlighting their farmers.
  • 80 percent want to know more about how their food is grown.  We have those answers!  If you want to know what your farmed striped bass ate for dinner, or where your oysters came from, just ask!
  • Millennials eat out the most frequently at lunch. You know what’s great for lunch?  Fish Tacos.  Shrimp po’ boys.  A big bowl of homemade clam chowder.  You get the point!

You may even be a Millennial…  if that’s the case, let us know what you look for when you eat out…