Fresh Catch: Summer’s Sustainable Seafood

By Claudia Schou   |   August 6, 2020
) Travis Riggs, VP of Santa Barbara Fish Market, says when it comes to grilling fish, “look for steak-y or firm fish such as swordfish, yellowtail, tuna, opah and white sea bass”

Summer is a great time of year for grilling fish, and Santa Barbara Harbor, with its fleet of 200 commercial fishing vessels, boasts a bounty of seafood this season. Wild king salmon, ahi tuna, halibut, white sea bass, black cod and spiny lobster are just a few. If you’re already in the mindset of shopping for produce that’s in season then apply that to your seafood selection. You will be reducing your carbon footprint while supporting local businesses.

While global fish markets have been hard-hit amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the local demand has increased, according to Commercial Fishermen of Santa Barbara, a non-profit that advocates on behalf of local fishermen. The organization has campaigned to formalize a “Maritime Collective” at the harbor, which has seen the number of vendors double at Saturday’s Fisherman’s Market.

You can still buy fresh catch straight from the boats in the harbor every Saturday from 7:30 am to 11 am. Santa Barbara Fish Market is shipping boxes of frozen local fish to households regionally and nationwide. We recently spoke with Travis Riggs, VP of Santa Barbara Fish Market, to get the rundown on the best environmentally friendly fish to cook during the dog days of summer.

Q. Where does SB Fish Market source from?

A. Our bread and butter is the fish that hits the dock, a stone’s throw from our shop here in the Santa Barbara Harbor. We have long-lasting relationships with hard-working fishermen and women that supply healthy, tasty and sustainable fish year-round.

Has the price for seafood increased during the pandemic?

Yes and no. Seafood markets are unstable due to the ever-changing pandemic, restaurant closures, as well as issues with flights coming in from abroad and export restrictions. Though there have been some pricing declines locally, fishermen are still getting fair prices.

What’s in season at the moment?

Right now we are having another amazing king salmon season. Santa Barbara fishermen are following salmon just north of Santa Barbara up to Bodega Bay. Our local fleet is also working hard targeting white sea bass, a delicious whitefish unique to our area in California. Other fish regularly hitting the dock right now are halibut, rockfish, yellowtail, bluefin tuna, black cod, ocean whitefish, and rock crab.

What’s best for grilling?

Look for steak-y or firm fish such as swordfish, yellowtail, tuna, opah, and white sea bass. These will hold up on the grill without breaking or falling apart.

Care to share some tips for seafood grilling?

1) Pull your fish out of the fridge at least ten minutes before cooking. This will help the fish cook evenly.

2) After seasoning your fish with salt, pat dry before cooking. This will keep it from sticking to the grill.

3) Get your grill hot. Fish will stick to your grill if it’s not hot enough.

4) Season your grill. Once your grill is hot, rub grill grates with a rag or paper towel with oil. This will help your fish from sticking and will give you those beautiful grill marks.

5) Don’t move your fish. Once you place your fish on the grill give it a few minutes to build a crust before moving it. This will get you a nice char as well as prevent it from sticking.

What’s an underrated fish that you absolutely love?

Grenadier is one of the most under-loved species we see. This fish is often caught as bycatch from the black cod fishery and is an excellent clean-tasting whitefish fantastic for tacos. It also happens to have one of the largest biomasses in our oceans, making it not just tasty but sustainable.

For salmon novices like myself, what is the difference between king salmon, Scottish salmon, and Atlantic salmon? Which is best on sushi night?

King salmon is wild. Regardless of what you see on any menu, all Scottish and Atlantic salmon are farmed. Both Scottish and Atlantic salmon are the same species; they are just grown in different areas of the world. Wild salmon are loaded with the complexities of the life it lived, the food it ate, the ocean it lived in, and the way it was caught, and this all adds to its unique flavor. The uncontrolled variables make for one hell of a bite. Since European farming standards are more strict than Canada and Chile, which produce the majority of Atlantic salmon, Scottish is a better option for raw applications. When you see raw salmon at your favorite sushi spot, it’s usually Scottish salmon due to the fact that it carries raw consumption certification while most Atlantic salmon does not.

Let’s talk sea urchin, which intimidates some people.

Uni, the edible part of the sea urchin, is the taste of the sea – sweet, briny, creamy and with a nutty finish. Santa Barbara sea urchins are known throughout the globe as being the best in the world. You just have to try it and you will see why these spiky sea creatures get all the hype.

Do you have an elevator pitch for salmon?

Salmon are anadromous. They have a natural GPS in their head which navigates them back to the exact river they were born. It’s one of the most amazing miracles of the sea. So next time you have a bite of wild king salmon, remember their journey.

For more information about Santa Barbara Fish Market or to inquire about free delivery, visit


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