Food & Drink

Central Coast Catch sells fish directly to seafood lovers

Abraham Esparza, supervisor at Tognazzinis Dockside Too fish market in Morro Bay, fillets a 35-pound halibut.
Abraham Esparza, supervisor at Tognazzinis Dockside Too fish market in Morro Bay, fillets a 35-pound halibut. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

“Seasonal availability” and “locally sourced” are familiar hooks when it comes to farm-fresh produce, but the same lines aren’t used to discuss seafood. Thanks to a recently revived program now called Central Coast Catch, that tide may be turning.

The concept is modeled after Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs that support farmers. CSA participants sign up to receive shares of fresh produce on a regular basis directly from a local farm. With Central Coast Catch, the same approach applies to seafood caught by local fishermen, but it’s called a Community Supported Fishery (CSF).

“Subscribers can order any amount of (eight-ounce filleted) portions they want per week,” Jo Oliver explained. She relocated to San Luis Obispo from Vermont two years ago to be with family, and started Central Coast Catch in May 2015.

The first local CSF program — called SLO Fresh Catch — was started by Oliver’s sister, Margie Hurd. She successfully ran the program from June 2010 until she retired at the end of 2014.

“I knew about other programs on the East Coast and thought it would really work here,” Hurd told The Tribune in 2011. When she started SLO Fresh Catch, it was the first CSF to land on the West Coast. Now there are several dozen stretching from Washington state to San Diego.

As was the case with SLO Fresh Catch, fish is supplied to Central Coast Catch by Mark Tognazzini and his staff at Tognazzini’s Dockside Too fish market in Morro Bay. (They kept the CSF afloat after Hurd retired.) A longtime fisherman, Tognazzini has been promoting local boats and captains for several years at his Dockside restaurants and fish market.

“We really believe in the concept — it’s about the consumer being able to buy fresh, local product,” Tognazzini said. “If we want the community to support fishermen, we have to get our product to them.” “Ideally, you’d buy (the whole fish) right off the boat,” he explained, but any processing has to be done at an approved facility such as the fish market.

The type of fish in the CSF shares varies according to what’s in season and what’s freshly caught. That’s the point of the program — supporting the ongoing efforts of the local fishing industry.

Because of weather and availability, there may be some weeks when there is no fish. Welcome to fishing.

As they did for the original CSF, the Dockside crew fillets the fresh fish, then portions and vacuum-packs the shares.

Oliver delivers the orders for pick up at several drop sites, including Rutiz Family Farms in Halycon on Fridays and the San Luis Obispo farmers market on Saturdays. At those two locations, she staffs a Central Coast Catch booth where the public can buy other locally caught fish processed at Dockside.

Available species include everything from albacore to white sea bass. Given the season, other fish range from black cod to lingcod, rockfish to swordfish and salmon to sand sole.

The CSF share price is currently $15 per pound.

Oliver provides a weekly recipe with the CSF shares, along with information about which boat and captain caught them. She’s also happy to answer any questions about the fish or the fishing industry.

As a professional chef in Vermont, Oliver had experience in CSAs and farming, and she’s putting that background to good use enthusiastically learning about Pacific fisheries.

“All the credit goes to the fishermen,” she said. “I get to stand here and talk with people about sustainable fishing and the good job California has done in managing their fisheries.”

Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero. Contact her at ktbudge@sbcglobal.net.

Central Coast Catch

Central Coast Catch founder Jo Oliver delivers orders for pick-up noon to 6 p.m. Fridays at Rutiz Family Farms, 1075 The Pike in Arroyo Grande, and 8 to 10:45 a.m. Saturdays at the San Luis Obispo farmers market at the World Market/Embassy Suites parking lot in San Luis Obispo.

For information, email Central Coast Catch at 2ccCatch@gmail.com.

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