By: Parimal M. Rohit
SACRAMENTO — The air at the edge of San Diego’s Seaport Village on any given Saturday morning is usually filled with the scents of fresh fish. A steady dose of foot traffic piercing such scents could become more commonplace as a bill sponsored by a San Diego Assembly member was unanimously supported by a State Senate committee and continues to progress through the state legislature.
The State Senate’s Health Committee backed Assembly Bill 226 (AB 226), advancing the legislation to the full upper chamber after a hearing on June 24; the Assembly unanimously approved AB 226 in early May.
Assembly member Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) introduced AB 226 earlier this year to make tuna markets like the one at Seaport Village a regular operation at coastal communities up and down the state, each functioning similar to a Farmer’s Market.
“This bill would create a new type of nonpermanent food facility, defined as a ‘fishermen’s market,’ that would be a food facility operated by a licensed commercial fisherman or an entity representing California seafood producers that sells only raw fresh or fresh frozen fish, legally caught by California-licensed commercial fishermen or harvested by California-registered aquaculturists, directly to consumers,” Atkins said in a statement.
Tuna Harbor Dockside Market (THDM), a fishermen’s market at the edge of Seaport Village on San Diego’s harbor and waterfront, opened last summer and has become a popular destination for seafood lovers who frequent the wharf to buy fresh fish. Commercial vessels head out to sea overnight between Friday and Saturday, for example, and arrive at the wharf just after sunrise to sell bluefin tuna, red snappers and other fish directly to consumers.
AB 226, which is colloquially known as “Pacific to Plate,” proposes to establish food and safety standards for fishermen’s market and regulate the fish meet similar to how farmer’s markets are governed.
Specifically, only licensed commercial fishermen and aquaculturists would be allowed to sell raw fish to consumers at a fishermen’s market. Fishermen would also be allowed to clean fresh fish at the market for direct sales to consumers.
The bill also proposes to streamline the permitting process to allow fishermen’s markets to operate the same as certified Farmer’s Markets and allow permanent open-front seafood markets to be created with limited food preparation.
According to a legislative analysis of AB 226, the “Pacific to Plate” bill intends to create “a cooperative of fishermen to obtain the permit to operate the fishermen’s market.”
THDM opened as an open air fish market at Fish Harbor Pier in August 2014. Port of San Diego staff said about 350 people purchase about 1.1 tons of fish from the market weekly, yielding $15,000 in total revenue.
If AB 226 clears the State Senate, it would move to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, where he could sign the bill into law or veto the measure.