The Central Coast had a booming fishing industry until about 20 years ago, says Roger Burleigh, marketing and supply chain management for Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust.
These days, most locals aren’t aware of what fish swim in the bay’s waters. The Fisheries Trust hopes to change that with Get Hooked Restaurant Week, which launches Monday, July 29, and runs through Sunday, Aug. 4. By coordinating with local restaurants, Burleigh aims to educate curious foodies and highlight the area’s fishing operations—“A way to have a genuine Monterey Bay seafood experience,” he says.
What’s your favorite fish?
ROGER BURLEIGH: One species we’re going to highlight is lingcod, and the neat thing about that species is some of the fish are blue, and their flesh looks like it was dumped in a vat of blue dye—but when you cook it, it turns white. People get freaked out by it: “Oh my god! Is that a GMO?” Nope, completely natural. It’s part of their life history. It’s a flaky white fish. It’s delicious.
What’s life like out there for those in the industry?
It’s hard. I can’t speak for the fishermen, but they have had to endure quite a lot over the decades, and there just aren’t that many young fishermen. They’re out there. But much in the same way that the demographics for farmers in this country are getting older and older, the same thing is happening with our local fleet. It’s what they call graying of the fleet. Unlike agriculture, where there’s a known input and output and timing of everything, you’re dealing with completely wild fisheries. The fishermen are at the mercy of weather, ocean conditions. And when they do catch what they’re targeting, sometimes they’re having to compete in the marketplace for foreign imports. Really, we’re trying to get them the highest value for their fish.
This event opens the door to some fun puns—“hook up,” “get hooked on local fish,” “We’ll hook you up with great fish deals.” Have you been playing around with that?
Oh, absolutely. It’s constantly running through my mind how we can spin words, and one new feature that we didn’t hold during the Monterey event is we’re holding a closing dinner at the Food Lounge, Sunday, Aug. 4—$50, four-course meal. Internationally renowned Santa Cruz chef Diego Felix is doing the catering. I’m calling it a finale dinner, with an emphasis on the “fin” part. And our tagline is “Putting Monterey Bay’s best fish forward.”