Editor's Note

It’s Time For Oregon Seafood Lovers to Break Out of Our Shells

It’s surprisingly easy to make good choices. And by doing so, we boost our coastal fishing industry and our sea-to-table food scene.

By Ramona DeNies July 24, 2019 Published in the August 2019 issue of Portland Monthly

Erizo's Jacob Harth deploys his intertidal commercial harvest license to gather shellfish for his ever-changing menu.

confess, when it came time to dive into our first-ever seafood issue, I felt, well, a bit at sea. It’s a project three years in the making—dating back to June 2016, when now editor in chief Kelly Clarke and I pulled together a seafood adventures feature jam-packed with ocean fishing trips, razor-clamming digs, and must-eat briny treats.

Researching all that—with significant local help from St. Jack chef Aaron Barnett and the motivated purveyors at Wilder Land & Sea—was among the most fun I’ve had as a Portland Monthly editor. (Bonus: stocking my freezer with Oregon rockfish reeled in by yours truly.) But it also raised complicated questions. Why is Oregon’s coastal economy struggling despite such natural riches? How do we truly know, given the risk of fish fraud and greenwashing in a now-global industry, that we’ve made a good choice at a restaurant? And can we keep eating delicious, nutritious fish when so many ecological alarm bells are sounding—from Blue Planet to the United Nations’ dire Biodiversity Report this past May?

It was clear we needed more space to tackle even half these questions. Enter our August 2019 cover: the New Oregon Seafood Guide. The solutions we culled from chefs, activists, fishmongers, and fishers all point back to you and the power you have—in making simple choices, or simply asking for more—to change the way we do fish business here in this great state.

Want to support our coastal fishers? Embrace Oregon albacore, Dungeness crab, and rockfish. (We tell you why here.) Need a morality matrix to aid your fish purchase? Ask your server or fishmonger for its story—cue that Portlandia joke about Colin the chicken—then check our cheat sheet for interpretation. Worried about ocean health, overfishing, or David Attenborough’s disembodied voice forever haunting your dreams? Seek out, and eat, our tastiest invasive species. Hoping to reconnect with the salty source of all life? We’ve got your starter surf guide, too.

It’s easy to feel lost, as I have, in a topic as big as the ocean, and easier still to turn inland and mutely buy a mystery bag of frozen fillets. But three years in, I’ve learned that asking just a few questions can help show our saltwater friends more respect. Even better? How we spend that dollar, dollar bill, y’all.

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