Although the final results of the COVID-19 induced economic shutdown will not be fully understood for months to come, the immediate impact on the restaurant industry has put a spotlight on the ripple effect of shutting down that segment of our local market. Nationwide the restaurant industry employs 11 million Americans. Beyond that however are the linen suppliers, beverage distributors, produce and meat growers and especially locally our fishing industry. Given that restaurants are relying largely on “take-out” which accounts for a small percentage of their total sales, the orders that kept as many as 90 boats actively fishing in the commercial industry out of the Morro Bay harbor has all but dried up. Boats are tied up and fishermen have no customers.
Living by the ocean, and natives to this area, we are fans of our local fresh fish – and we’ve missed it! While there are a few fishmongers still providing local fish, we were excited three weeks ago to note that Morro Bay Oyster Company was experiencing a surplus in their yummy bivalves. We decided to make a “social distancing” field trip of it, and take a spin up the Scenic Coast to say hello to the Elephant Seals at the same time. A necessary break from our sheltering. The experience of buying directly from the back door was wonderful. Under an EZ-up we specified our preferred size of oyster, and how many pounds. Everyone waiting practiced exemplary social distancing. The oysters were packed in ice and double-bagged. We loaded them into our Yeti and continued up the coast. When we returned home my husband taught our son how to shuck an oyster safely and properly and we shared with my parents – oysters on the half-shell as well as New Orleans’ Dragos-style BBQ’d. Delish! So I highly recommend the experience if offered again – or you can also call for an appointment to buy direct!
The City of Morro Bay and the Commercial Fishermen’s Organization announced this week that on May 1 (just one week away!) they will begin selling direct to consumers off the boats docked in the harbor. As long as social distancing is observed, anyone will be able to purchase salmon, rockfish, crab – and maybe even oysters! The fish will be sold whole, not filleted and buyers will need to bring their own ice and ice chests for transport.
So while our local restaurants do what is necessary to keep us all safe and healthy, let’s help out our commercial fishing community – and maybe shake up the monotony of home cooking with a taste of our local sea! May 1 can’t come soon enough for our family. Check out morrobayoyster.com or find Morro Bay Oyster Company on Facebook for news of their future direct sales opportunities!