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Interview with Captain Ben Hyman

October 28, 2014

Captain Ben Hyman runs Wild Local Seafood, a seafood supplier that Chef Bruce Kalman is happy to say he supports with ferver. Captain Ben is very upbeat and dedicated to the practice of fishing sustainably within California waters. We spoke with him briefly about fishing, sustainability and what the drought means to the food we eat.
~ How was the catch this morning?
People just assume that if you’re a fisherman, you put a pole out into the water and that’s it. They expect you to come out with a corncob pipe, wearing turtleneck. What we’re doing is the upper eschelon of fishing. Commercial fishing takes a lot of preparation. And my usual day is often more involved because we’re taking steps to make sure we’re following the strictest local, California and United States regulations.

On top of fishing, we’re trying to save the planet.

~ What makes your fish sustainable?
Sustainability is achieved by how we fish and where we fish. We work closely with the rules of the NOAA which works to set a sustainability plan for fish species. For instance, the way we catch salmon. We do a Wild King Salmon troll. We catch our salmon one at a time with lures. We make sure they’re the right size and variety. And if they’re not, we throw them back.
Up to 10% of what we make in profit we feed back into helping fish populations.
On top of fishing, we’re trying to save the planet. That means we use less petroleum. We champion local retention. We work with organizations like Heal the Bay and Save the Mermaids to help save the oceans and educate.
My background is in marine biology. I also have a California teaching credential. We’re constantly working with interns from different schools throughout California like USC and UC Berkley to help educate. And that’s a built in part of our day.
~ How do you feel about the state of the fishing industry?
Some ridiculous high percentage, like 90%, of the seafood we eat is imported into America.
America also exports a large amount of fish. There are answers for our problems and that’s to source correctly.
California is actually ahead of the game because of the clean air and water acts of the early 70’s. We’ve got so many guidelines. So many rules and environmental boards. The state of the ocean is something we all need to monitor. These regulations are a big help and puts us way ahead of most other countries which just fish to excess.
We also spend a lot of time getting our product to the right restaurants and outlets where people want sustainable fish. But trying to get the fish to the customer means less time fishing and most guys just want to fish more to make more money. We think the customers see and appreciate the difference in our product. It tastes better and they know we’re sourcing right.
~ How does the drought effect the fisheries?
The drought dries up the rivers which effects the salmon populations. We work closely with the Golden Gate Salmon Council and we volunteer our time by taking young salmon and putting them up in the tributaries when the drought doesn’t allow for them to swim upstream. There’s a four year life span on a fish. So, in three or four years we’ll need to restrict our fishing. In 2008 and 2009 we actually closed our fisheries down. In that off time we did a lot of research to see which rivers were still running in order to get a better understanding of how we could work to repopulate the areas that were dried up.
~ What would you say to our readers who want to champion a sustainable fish industry?
Get out to a farmer’s market. Tell them to pat Bruce (Kalman) on the back for sourcing correctly. You will taste the difference.
Click here to enjoy this KCRW profile on Captain Ben!
You can find Wild and Local Seafood on the internet at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
You can find Wild and Local Seafood at the Santa Monica Farmers Market on Wednesday mornings.