We all know that asparagus and tomatoes have a season (spring and summer, respectively), and being in the seafood business, we are also keenly aware that our wild, sustainable seafood here in the Bay Area is also affected by the changing seasons. Certain fisheries are closed and restricted during some months and open during others. With some fisheries, there’s a huge amount of anticipation around their reopening each year as the season begins (think Dungeness crab), but other fisheries don’t create the same excitement. So what local, in-season seafood can we get customers excited about in January and February, keeping in mind that shoppers are willing to pay more for local fish, and how can we encourage seafood sales with value-added products?
What Popular Species are Not in Season Locally?
While we have delicious and sustainable sources of many popular fish, not all can currently be found locally in the waters off the Northern California coast. Currently, the Bay Area season is closed for a number of types of popular fish, including:
- Salmon: Though our local Bay Area season for salmon fishing is currently closed, there are still excellent sources of wild Alaskan salmon as well as sustainably farmed salmon. The Bay Area is looking forward to the start of salmon season, usually late spring through the summer.
- Halibut: This local favorite is currently out of season as well. While the dates for the 2017 season have not yet been set, we can expect to see the return of local halibut to the market in spring.
- Tuna: Local albacore is also on hiatus until the spring, though it’s still possible to find sustainably caught fresh tuna from other areas, as well as frozen tuna.
Though your customers might be disappointed that they can’t find these species from local waters right now, offering sustainably-caught cuts of the same species from other areas, or suggesting local substitutes for these species (like offering local swordfish steaks instead of tuna), will help mitigate their disappointment. It may also help to have a brief conversation about when a particular season is likely to open again.
What’s Available Now That Is Local?
We know that we are in the thick of Dungeness crab season here in the Bay Area. What else is currently in season for January and February?
- Squid: Local squid is a Bay Area treasure, and those caught in the waters off of the Monterey coastline are particularly prized. Though recent years have been challenging, we are looking forward to the 2017 season.
- Rockfish: This common white fish is adaptable to many different cuisines and preparations, and fresh, sustainable rockfish is available year-round from our Bay Area waters.
- Sand Dabs: This bottom-dwelling fish hasn’t historically been popular in the U.S., but consumers are catching on to its buttery, indulgent flavor.
As well as these species, there are plenty of other types of seafood in season or farmed along the West Coast at this time of year, such as oysters and petrale sole.
Talk to Your Customers About the Benefits of Local Seafood
While advances in flash freezing seafood have lengthened its shelf-life considerably and preserved its nutritional content, there is simply nothing like exceedingly fresh seafood that is consumed within hours or days of being caught. Get your customers excited about your seasonal offerings by reminding them that for some fish, the seasons are short or limited–we all know how exciting it is when Dungeness crab comes into season around this time of year. You can also stress that by eating local they are helping to support the Bay Area economy by buying fish that have been caught by local fishermen.
How Can We Encourage Customers to Buy Local and Seasonal?
There are several local, traditional dishes that we can promote to our customers that make use of local, seasonal fish. By offering a mix of ideas, recipes cards, prepared seafood, and value-added seafood dishes, we can make the most of the local seasonal seafood bounty.
Cioppino is a favorite Bay Area dish that is perfect for winter. It features beloved local Dungeness Crab, along with a mix of clams, squid, and white fish, all of which can be sourced locally this time of year. Sell premade cioppino in quart containers, or offer a package deal plus a recipe card for customers to take home and make their own version.
We know the holidays are a popular time for local Dungeness crab. But the health benefits of Dungeness make it perfect for those working on dropping a few pounds for their New Year’s resolution. Offer a light Dungeness recipe featuring Meyer lemons, another local favorite that is currently in season, such as a riff on a crab salad with Meyer lemon dressing, grapefruit supremes, and endive. You can offer the salad pre-made, or offer a recipe on cards next to a display of Meyer lemons.
Busy working families love ready-to-go meals. Offer a seafood lasagna that you’ve pre-made in disposable oven pans, or simply provide a recipe on a card, weekly circular, or on your website. The dish can feature crab, squid, and rockfish, all of which are local and in season!
Sourcing the Best Local Seafood
At Pucci Foods, we offer the very freshest wholesale local and sustainable seafood. Whenever possible we strive to source our fish and shellfish from sustainable Bay Area fisheries and aquaculture operations, so you can feel confident about offering it to customers who are serious about supporting the ocean and those who make a living by it. Talk to us about ordering fresh local seafood of all kinds this winter.