Mornings in the Monterey Bay off Moss Landing Beach you can often see a frenzy of feeding grey whales gathered, their flukes and blowholes shooting into the air. Pods of dolphin travel by, and at times orcas break through the surface while pelicans and cormorants dive the water.

Nearby, Monterey Bay anchovies are flowing off boats. The shoals have arrived and all the animals fatten up on them. Except people. These nutritious, delicious fish are used for bait, fertilizer, and about anything else except food. In fact the richness of California waters is rarely reflected in our dinner plates. Most Californians are more familiar with tilapia from Asia than local rockfish and restaurants are more likely to offer Chilean Seabass than our delicious black cod.

The United States has some of the best fishing practices in the world in regards to sustainability, but we are importing over 90% of all seafood consumed here, often from farms in Asia. Other troubling statistics are found in food waste. This is rampant in the seafood world, with an estimated 30-40% discarded in the long, opaque supply chain. This number accounts only for perishability after the fish is landed; it doesn’t factor in the amount of fish discarded at sea as “bycatch.”

Fine Art Fish Image Egan-Devonian-Posse-Sal
Kirsten Egan Devonian Posse Sal, Courtesy of Arch Enemy Gallery

One such under appreciated fish is grenadier, which is bycatch from the local black cod industry.

Grenadier is a cosmetically challenged fish that has a small yield per fish, and so a commercial market never really developed for it. But these fish have a mild, white flaky flavor and are very versatile.

Alan Lovewell, founder of the CSF Real Good Fish began working with Jenn Gerard Director of Nutrition Services for the Monterey Unified School District to get these fish into school lunches. Local grenadier replaced the highly processed fish sticks. They were served as fish tacos, taco bowls and baked fish and chips and were even more popular than pizza.

This program stops the waste of grenadier and creates a market for the fishermen.

Photo Credit: Alan Lov
Photo Credit: Alan Lovewell

As well, Real Good Fish is providing healthful lunches to school children, and educating our future generations about local oceans and the relationship between food and stewardship of the environment. Since sustainably sourced, wild seafood is often cost prohibitive to many moderate and low-income families, they now have access to good seafood.

School Cafeteria in Monterey
Photo Credit: Alan Lovewell

Many community-supported fisheries like Real Good Fish  are working to reconnect people with their local waterways through local seafood and stop the extravagant waste in the seafood supply chain. Bay2Tray also brings school children into this ecosystem. Giving students access to healthy local seafood is not only benefits in the short term, but also in the long term, exposing them to the bounty of our oceans that teaches them the importance and benefits of making local seafood a regular part of their diet. This will benefit local fishermen and the awareness of sustainable seafood for generations to come.

-Maria Finn lives on a floating houseboat in Sausalito, where she grows a rooftop container garden, despite the salty winds. She’s the author of several books and writes for Sunset Magazine, Afar Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and many other publications.

Learn More

Inside School Lunch – Bay to Tray Monterey Broadcast

Community Supported Fisheries –