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Oregon Coast Program Expands: Learn to Buy Fish Off the Docks

Published 07/21/2017 at 6:23 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Oregon Coast Program Expands: Learn to Buy Fish Off the Docks

(Oregon Coast) – If you've ever wanted to head down to the Oregon coast and buy seafood straight from a boat you were probably hit by the same mental roadblocks and questions as many. What to look for? What questions to ask? Where exactly can I go on the docks? What is local? What is in season?

This summer provides those answers with more of a quickly-growing program that is doing a great job of demystifying the process. What started out in Newport a few years ago as Shop at the Dock has expanded to the north Oregon coast this time around with sessions in Warrenton as well as Newport.

In Newport, the tours happen July 28, and August 4, 11 and 18. Groups depart from dock 5 at 9:30 a.m., 10 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. each day. The 90-minute tours are free and on a first-come, first-served basis. In Newport, registration is required only for groups of five or more by calling 541-574-6534 ext. 57427.

In Warrenton, the next tour takes place September 15, 2017, at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. and will include a look around the Skipanon Brand Seafood cannery. Those attending will also learn what local markets sell locally-caught seafood. Tours will begin at the Warrenton Marina near the harbormaster’s office at 550 N.E. Harbor Place. For the Warrenton event, registration by phone is required for everyone and is on a first-come, first-served basis. To register, call 503-325-8573.

Shop at the Dock directly connects seafood lovers with fishermen. Started in 2014 by Oregon Sea Grant and Extension, it includes tours of Newport's docks and now Warrenton's. During these tours, participants learn what seafood is in season, how it’s caught, whether it’s sustainable, and how to identify and buy high-quality fish and shellfish.

For both locales, participants are advised to wear comfortable walking shoes with traction, arrive 15 minutes early, and bring cash and a cooler with ice. For disability accommodations, call the information numbers.

Last year's Shop on the Dock sessions and tours drew more than 350 people, according to Kaety Jacobson, an Oregon Sea Grant marine fisheries specialist with Oregon State University’s Extension Service. Not only cause for celebration, but for expansion as well.

Jacobson has in the past referred to this program as: "It's like going down to the docks with a friend who knows the seafood – and knows the fishermen."

Much of this program goes back to work that Sea Grant was doing ten years ago or more, when fishermen were beginning to seek out ways to sell directly to farmer's markets. The predominant business model is that fishermen sell to seafood processors or middle men that in turn sell fish to supermarkets, restaurants and other retailers.

At the same time, consumers were seeking ways to buy fresher seafood themselves. All this led Sea Grant to further research what is called “community-supported fisheries.” This was and still is happening on a national level. Here on the west coast, however, Sea Grant launched http://marketyourcatch.msi.ucsb.edu/ in 2015, a website geared towards connecting consumers and fishermen directly with each other.

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Out of all that research and a decade full of conversations came the realization that many consumers were hesitant to hit the docks on their own. Sea Grant also heard why. Jacobson said consumers felt fearful and intimidated; the many safety warning signs and “keep out” signs didn't help.

Then in the summer of 2014, Sea Grant decided to try the first “Shop at the Dock” series to try and further that connection between shopper and ship. A burst of media exposure helped kick it into life, although numbers were still low. It was enough to inspire a second try the following year, however, and the program has been growing ever since.

The five walks the following summer brought in 40 to 70 shoppers, and tours were added – led by the operator of a floating seafood-market barge. They even started having some overcrowding issues on the docks and began breaking up tours into several groups and times. Where to stay for this event - Where to eat - Map and Virtual Tour - More on Warrenton and Newport below:






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