Celebrating Hawaii’s Emerging Meat Industry – Forage Hawaii Farm To Table Dinner | November 2017

Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography

Last weekend I joined forces with Forage Hawaii in hosting our first farm to table dinner on Oahu.

I met Jessica Rohr, owner of Forage Hawaii, taking regular trips to the Kaka’ako farmers market where she distributes local meats every week. Jess and I hit it off right away, both of us being so passionate about cooking and supporting local. When the day finally came, that it dawned on us we should work together, the wheels started spinning and plans to host a dinner event celebrating local farmers and ranchers were made.

After going on a farm tour of Mari’s Gardens in Mililani one afternoon it was settled, we found our venue and this thing was going down.

Don’t rain on my parade

Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography

The rain dumped all day. And then stopped right before the guests showed up. Just in time for a tour of Mari’s Gardens, the biggest hydroponic and aquaponic farm in Hawaii. Guests got to learn all about their organic, sustainable farming practices and see the very impressive variety of lettuces, microgreens, edible flowers, fruits, vegetables and fish farmed on property.

Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography

Knocking it out

A behind the scenes look at the hours leading up to dinner…

Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography

Ingredient driven

An exceptional meal starts with exceptional ingredients. 50% of the produce used was from Mari’s Gardens including: ulu, Meyer lemons, limes, Negi onions, watermelon and Cheriette radishes, watercress, edible flowers and a variety of herbs and microgreens. The other 50% of the produce was sourced from other small farms on island. All of the meats used were locally sourced from: 2Lady farmers, Maui Nui Venison and Makaweli Meat Company.

Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography

Showtime

After Jess and I kicked off dinner and the food started flowing we had the privilege to hear from some of the key players responsible for the pushing Hawaii’s local meat scene forward: Patsy Oshiro and Stacy Sugai from 2Lady Farmers and Kimo Tuyay from Maui Nui Venison.

Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography

The pork course

Patsy and Stacy told us the story of how 2Lady farmers came to be, thanking the Shinatos from Shinato Farm for their mentorship and helping them get their small pig farm off the ground. They likened their farming style to  Mothers raising their children stating that they really care for their animals like family. Their intentions are to take what they have learned from the Shinsatos and pay it forward, offering mentoring programs to future farmers here on Oahu.

Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography

The venison course

Kimo taught us about wild venison. We learned how it is not only delicious but more sustainable to harvest and healthier to eat. He announced a couple of new projects on the horizon including a new line of Maui Nui Venison jerky hitting the market in January and the Kahikinui project, where they will be harvesting another local wild, population – wild cows. After the event Kimo said in regards to 2Lady farmers, “it was interesting to hear the same sentiments they had towards the pigs they raise as the wild deer we harvest, which is less stress equals better product.”

I think everyone was able to take away something important from all of the speakers and reaffirm to themselves why it is so important to continue to support local, non-factory farms.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get many photos of our guests of honor but I think that their beautiful cuts of meat speak for themselves.

Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography

The response to our first dinner was heartwarming. It showed that there are a number of people here on Oahu who truly support the farm to table movement and appreciate the people who are providing nutritious and sustainably grown food to this island. It just goes to show that by voting with your forks you can be a part of something that is ethical, pro-health and help to create change in your community and environment.

There’s no “I” in team

Our team did an amazing job and worked tirelessly all day to ensure the event was a true success. Huge thanks to Spencer, Lauren, Annie, Ardus, Ikaika, Jacey, our photographers Rob and Ketino and Brendon and Tanya from Mari’s Gardens. We could of never pulled this off without you.

Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
The team. Photo by: Ketino Photography

Stay tuned for the next Forage Hawaii vs. Healthy Locavore farm to table dinner…

Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Boss ladies. Photo by: Ketino Photography

For updates on when the next Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner will be and about all other Healthy Locavore events subscribe to the weekly Healthy Locavore newsletter here.

Mahalo nui loa to everyone who attended. See you next year!

Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.

Forage Hawaii Farm To Table Dinner – Menu Announcement

Forage Hawaii Farm to Table Dinner

Forage Hawaii and The Healthy Locavore are proud to announce the menu for our farm to table dinner on November 11, 2017.

It is packed full of locally grown ingredients and promises to ignite your tastebuds. A delicious way to support local farms and ranchers.

Chef Sarah Burchard blends her San Francisco fine dining experience and love of Hawaiian cuisine to create fun spins on classic dishes like poke, loco moco and haupia. And in true Healthy Locavore form, all with a nod to clean eating – using mostly organic, whole foods and making everything from scratch including her home-made spice rubs, kimchee and yogurt.

Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner menu
Forage Hawaii Farm To Table Dinner Menu

After touring the farm at Mari’s Gardens you will get the opportunity to try many of their greens, herbs, fruits and vegetables in our 5-course farm to table tasting menu.

You will also get to hear Patsy and Stacy, a.k.a. 2Lady Farmers speak as you try their delicious pork loin. As well as hear Kimo from Maui Nui speak during the venison course.

The combination of the behind the scenes tour, speeches and tasting menu make this a true farm to table experience. We can’t wait to see you!

Purchase Tickets

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Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.

The Big Island of Hawaii

Big island of Hawaii

Big island in Hawaii

Hawaii is the magical place created by volcanic eruptions and shaped by gods and goddesses.

Legend has it that the Polynesian earth goddess Pele is responsible for creating the islands formed by these volcanic eruptions. She is now said to be living in the crater of Kilauea on the Hawaii island after traveling from island to island in the same order as the progression of volcanic eruptions.

Although the youngest, the island of Hawaii is the largest of all the Hawaiian islands giving it the nickname, the big island.

THE LAND

The mana (spiritual essence) is strong here. You can feel and see the island’s aliveness at every turn. The Hawaiians don’t just see land as something that can be bought or sold, they see it as life.

The Big Island of Hawaii
May be one of the many rock formations on the islands representing the ex-lovers of Pele frozen in stone.

Active volcanos, snow capped mountains, crystal clear water, tropical rainforests, sacred historical temples made of lava rock and some of the most epic waterfalls on earth make up the island. Climates range from hot to cool, to snowing in some areas. It is the only island in the world where you can find white, black and green sand beaches.

The Big Island of Hawaii
The Big Island of Hawaii

When driving across the island on hwy 2000 there are so many changes in landscape that you feel like you are driving cross country.

The Big Island of Hawaii
The Big Island of Hawaii

One minute you are amongst lush rainforests and the next minute all you see are scattered, tiny, neon green leaves sprouting up through black volcanic lava rock. Amongst the craters and dry desolate empty land you can sometimes feel like you are on another planet. Oh, and there are goats everywhere.

The Big Island of Hawaii
The Big Island of Hawaii

THE FOOD

The motto – aloha ‘aina, meaning to love and care for the land, is engrained in the culture here. Natural farming, humanly raising animals and sustainable fishing practices are revered and promoted throughout restaurants all over the island.

Hilo –

Hilo, Hawaii
Hilo, Hawaii

The Locavore Store – This store kicks ass. Read my review of it here.

Conscious Café offers fare for both vegans and meat eaters alike. Bowls, tacos, burgers and salads all made of organic produce, grass-fed beef and local line-caught fish. They also have an extensive booch bar offering a wide selection of Big Island Booch kombuchas and a tiny gift shop area.

Conscious Cafe
Conscious Cafe

Hilo Shark’s Coffee is a great place to stop for coffee, an acai bowl or a sandwich. They have a large covered outdoor patio if you are eating “in” and is a good place to grab some souvenirs.

The Moon and the Turtle, although closed during my trip, is said to be one of the best restaurants on the island from locals and visitors alike. An always changing menu of locally sourced food and cocktails with a bumping happy hour and great service. Reservations recommended.

The Hawaiian Style café was also recommended to us. Locals love their enormous portions of classic Hawaiian comfort food. There are locations in Hilo and Waimea.

Waimea –

Village Burger is a quick service restaurant in a strip mall offering parker ranch pasture raised grassfed beef burgers using fresh local goat cheese, fresh baked bread and produce from neighboring vendors.

Big island brewhaus – Besides craft beer you can find a menu loaded full of local fresh line-caught fish, grass-fed beef and organic produce. Their spent grain from brewing beer and food waste is used to feed local cows and pigs. They are a platinum level ocean friendly restaurant and the second restaurant on the big island to be blue zone approved. Simply put, their aloha ‘aina game is on point.

Merriman’s – Farm to table, high end dining in a cozy non-pretentious atmosphere. The Mai Tais are amazing.

Mai Tais at Merriman's Waimea
Mai Tais at Merriman’s Waimea

Waimea Butcher Shop – Mom and pop butcher shop specializing in sustainably raised and locally sourced meat and charcuterie. They are a nose-to-tail operation that cuts meat to order and has an extremely high standard in quality.

Waikoloa –

Daylight Mind Coffee – Na’auao is the Hawaiian word for enlightenment and literally translates to Daylight mind. This company chose their name because they say it “weaves together a love of scientific exploration with a deep respect for the wisdom and strength of its Hawaiian roots”. Although they use western techniques they draw from their culture to keep themselves grounded and stay true to the land. They pour local Kona coffee sourced from several different farms and offer breakfast, lunch and dinner menus with a farm to table sensibility.

Breakfast at Daylight Mind Coffee
Breakfast at Daylight Mind Coffee

Farmers markets line the perimeter of the island on a daily basis. They are a great way to learn about Hawaiian culture and sample foods grown locally. Click here to find one near where you are staying. I visited the Hilo farmers and although it runs daily the Saturday market is the largest all week.

White Pineapple
White Pineapple. So far I’ve only seen this on the big island.

SNORKELING

 The Kona side of the island is known for snorkeling. Crystal clear waters and beautiful beaches make access easy and inviting.

Beach 69, named after the mile marker it is located at is a local favorite for snorkeling in the Waialea Bay. The white sandy beach is covered with large shady trees and the reefs are full of beautiful fish.

Beach 69
Beach 69, called 69’s by locals
Beach 69
Beach 69

If you are looking for a snorkeling excursion by boat I recommend Hilo Ocean Adventures. You can arrange a private tour where you will have your own captain and snorkel guide to take you to all the best spots, prepare you snacks and take a video of your entire experience. You may even swim with sea turtles and have a school of dolphins riding along side the boat with you on your way out.

VOLCANOS

For a boat tour to see the lava flowing into the ocean go to seelava.com

Otherwise do what we did and take a self-guided tour by car through the Hawaii Volcano’s National Park.

The Big Island of Hawaii
Hawaii Volcano’s National Park

Here you will see Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano and mountain on earth accounting for more that half of the island’s land mass (most lying underneath the ocean). The mountain is constantly growing with its continuous stream of lava flow adding to its mass.

Mana Loa
Mana Loa

You will also see the shield volcano, Kilauea. Remember Pele? This is the volcano which has lava streaming steadily into the ocean. It is one of the most active volcanos in the world.

Driving around this park you will see volcanic craters, rainforests and hike over miles and miles of lava rock.

WATERFALLS

If you are in Hilo here are some falls you won’t want to miss…

The Wailuku river spanning 18 miles long is the second longest river in Hawaii and is so powerful can at times create flash flooding. It is also home to beautiful waterfalls.

Rainbow falls is an 80 foot waterfall that creates a rainbow on sunny days and a constant mist on rainy days. It is over 100 years old and pours from the Wailuku river in front of natural lava caves.

Rainbow Falls
Rainbow Falls

Boiling pots is 1.5 miles above rainbow falls. They are pot shaped holes made of lava rock that fill the Wailuku river. During storms the river rises and water appears to be “boiling” in these lava pots.

Pe’epe’e falls is to the left and upstream boiling pots.

The Kolekole stream produces some very impressive waterfalls as well. The most impressive is Akaka falls. At 442 feet tall it is twice as high as Niagra Falls. Kahuna and Uluhi falls are just downstream of Akaka.

Trail to Akaka Falls
Trail to Akaka Falls
Akaka Falls
Akaka Falls

ACOMMODATIONS

Since I have only been to this island once so far I only have one place to recommend. It is a wonderful VRBO in Hilo called The Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat with an east meets west sensibility.

Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat
One of the many temples at Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat

The property is full of meticulously manicured zen gardens, orchards and lily ponds.

Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat
Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat
Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat
Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat
Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat
Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat

It also has a sweet little outdoor kitchen perfect for cooking all meals on site.

Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat
Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat

The money shot however is the infinity pool and hot tub which overlooks the ocean lined with lava rock walls.

Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat
Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat
Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat
Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat

Inside you will find local art, wood furniture and high end fixtures. The owner of the property Dan, has not forgotten any details large or small. He made my day when he brought me over a coconut and a drill one afternoon. Although far from town this is a wonderful place to stay. If you are looking for a little seclusion this is the spot.

Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat
Coconut palms at Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat

If you are looking for a baller vacation rental check out the properties managed by Elite Pacific Properties

Like this one called Fairway #1 North located on the north of Kona.

Elite Pacific Vacation Rental
Elite Pacific Vacation Rental
Elite Pacific Vacation Rental
Elite Pacific Vacation Rental
Elite Pacific Vacation Rental
Elite Pacific Vacation Rental

I look forward to heading back to the big island of Hawaii sooner rather than later. More recommendations to come.

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Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.

Island Earth Speaks Truth

island earth
island earth
Logo from islandearthfilm.com

Did you know Hawaii is ground zero for GMO testing and development?

Director Cyrus Sutton just released his compelling documentary about what GMO’s are doing to Hawaii called, Island Earth. He poses the question, “How are we going to feed the world without destroying the planet we live on?”

 

The fact that six companies have the power to exploit the land and the people of these islands against their will is infuriating to me. Similar to the small farmers in the midwest that have been sued and put out of business because GMO seeds drift over into their fields, Hawaiians have no power against these money hungry chemical giants. There have been county bans passed and thousands of people fight to find out what the implications are of breathing in and consuming these chemicals. They too get sued by the GMO companies. Apparently, residents don’t have the right to know what is being sprayed into the air and on to our food.

Kids are sick, people are diagnosed with cancer who live near GMO testing grounds. There are GMO farms next to 27 schools in the Hawaiian Islands (Kauai being the most saturated with these farms).

Hawaii is basically one big GMO lab. One big chemical experiment. Crops are sprayed with restricted pesticides to see if they will be able to withstand them. Most of these crops aren’t even grown for consumption.

Hawaii was once the most sustainable place to farm. Imports were not necessary. European colonists started farming monocultures like pineapple and sugarcane in the 50s and now that land is almost all taken up by GMO farms. This has all led to severe soil degradation and cannot continue in my opinion.

This film is about people who care about their land and their people. People who have the integrity to stand up for what is right and know that because they are educated they have a civil duty to do what they can to help.

These chemical companies do not care about feeding the world, they care about selling chemicals.

If you value your health and the health of the environment please watch this film and vote with your dollars by shopping local and organic.

Island Earth is now available for rent or purchase on iTunes or you can buy it on Vimeo.

#supportlocal #eatorganic #saynotogmo

 

Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.

Why I’m Picking Up And Moving To Hawaii

moving to Hawaii

moving to Hawaii

When I decided to move from my beloved city of San Francisco to Honolulu, Hawaii it wasn’t a difficult decision. I was ready.

When I was 14 years old my Mom relocated us from my hometown of San Diego to the Bay Area. I was devastated. I missed my friends. I missed my Dad. I missed the warmer weather. As I got older and started to look at my life from a deeper perspective I realized I was right were I belonged.

San Francisco is the land of opportunity. If you open yourself up and let it in it will provide you with everything you need. It was here that I developed my passion for cooking, where I landed my first Chef position, where I earned my first 3 stars from Michael Bauer, where I started my first business, where I started my first blog (and then my second) and where I became an entrepreneur. I never had to look hard for work or connections. Opportunities for both were all around me.

But as I’ve moved from phase to phase in my life here in the Bay Area over the last 20 years I have started to find myself and San Francisco has started to lose itself. The colorful, quirky and highly cultural city has started to turn more and more vanilla. The onslaught of major tech companies and start-ups drove gentrification and luxury condos and pushed out mom and pop shops and affordable housing. The service industry has been dealing with a major staffing crisis for years now because of rents we can no longer afford.

My partner, Spencer and I sat out on our balcony one crisp cool night and talked about life. The employees he could no longer hang on to at work, the scare of our rent increasing, the traffic that was getting worse and worse and old times. We were becoming jaded.

Hawaii had always been a special place in our hearts. We flew out to Kauai every year for years during the time Spencer consulted for a restaurant there. Every time we left we knew that it would not be our last. There was something very special about that place that spoke to our souls.

After a dear friend (more like my older brother) moved to Oahu a few years ago I flew out to visit.  I had never been to Oahu and it was love at first sight. It was Hawaii, but with a city full of action and life. The restaurant scene was just starting to explode in Honolulu, local artisans were popping up all over the place, organic farming was becoming more prevalent. I could see that this was going to be the next major food city. I hopped on a phone call with Spencer during that trip and basically told him that we would be moving there. I visited one more time a year later with Spencer to seal the deal.

Sitting out on our balcony that cool night in San Francisco we decided it was time. Were we waiting until we retired? What if retirement never happened for us? What exactly were we waiting for? My argument was there is no better time than the present to be somewhere that truly makes you happy. Lucky for me Spencer did not take much convincing.

We made a plan a couple months after our decision and a year later here we are scheduling a moving company to ship our belongings to Honolulu.

I have never been so happy in my life. I look forward to each new day and am grateful I get to move to paradise with the man I love.

Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.

Is Boycotting Hawaii’s Fishing Industry for Forced Labor Allegations Sustainable?

If you hadn’t heard, Hawaii was in some hot water last month. Allegations of allowing forced labor and poor working conditions for foreign crew members on longline fishing boats were all over the internet and consumers were in an uproar.

But is shutting them out and writing them off for what they did sustainable?

Show of hands, whose tired of hearing the word sustainable being thrown around like dirty socks when it comes to fish? There is probably nobody else I know who is sicker of it than my long time friend and trusted fishmonger, Mike Weinberg-Lynn, owner of Osprey Seafood.

Sustainability has become a buzzword among foodies, in markets like Whole Foods and in the news for a long time now. It’s what the “responsible” people are talking about.

But what happens when one of the biggest fisheries in the world, known for using the most sustainable fishing practices around, gets busted for allegations of human slavery?

There was nobody I trusted more to get the facts from than Mike.

But before we get down and dirty on what went down in Hawaii I would like to tell you a love story.

Neurologist turns fishmonger

Once upon a time in the Haight-Ashbury there was an intelligent man with a degree in neurology who married the love of his life.

As with many newlyweds the young couple had a baby on the way and was struggling to make ends meet. Work at the time in Mike’s field was scarce. Wedding gifts were reluctantly sold in order to pay rent.

Enter Peter Bird. Picture a man with long bushy red hair and an even bushier red beard knocking on your door on Haight street asking if he can crawl through your window. Mike’s first reaction was um, no and as he went to close the door in the man’s face Peter called out “wait I’m your neighbor and I’ve locked myself out of my apartment!”

As Mike allowed the bearded man to crawl out his though his window, in order to get in through his own, Mike shouted “hey what do you do for a living anyway?” in which Peter replied, “I own the fish market across the street!”

A light bulb in Mike’s head went off. He asked Peter for a job and just like that Mike’s career as a fishmonger was born.

Happily ever after

It was 1984. After a year of slangin’ fish together Peter realized how much of an asset Mike had become to him and his business. He was reliable, dedicated and unlike him and the rest of the staff actually came to work sober. Mike was so dedicated in fact that he turned down a career at Genentech, something he had worked so hard for all those years in college, in order to keep delivering fish for Peter. Looking back on it now he realizes he would have been retired 20 years ago if he’d of taken that job.

But Mike was a new Dad, the hours he worked at the fish market allowed him to spend his afternoons with his family and on top of that he was absolutely loving the fish biz. Peter offered him a partnership and over 30 years later, Mike still owns and operates Osprey Seafood to this day.

How Osprey Seafood made its mark

Osprey got on the map when they started selling scallops to a high profile restaurant in the Napa Valley. Peter was one of the first fishmongers back then to ship freshly caught fish from the east coast overnight to San Francisco. The French chefs loved him. They were blown away by the quality of their monkfish and scallops, just to name a couple and told all of their fellow chefs about it. After making a name for themselves in Napa it didn’t take long for Chefs in San Francisco to take notice. More and more accounts got added and Osprey Seafood became one of the most trusted names in the seafood business.

What’s really been going down in Hawaii these last few years?

Mike’s first knee-jerk reaction when I asked him about Hawaii’s recent fishing boat slavery scandal was “Those assholes! We aren’t buying any fish from Hawaii until they work this out.”

He hopped on the phone right away with his contact over at the Honolulu fish auction to find out what was going on over there. Unaware of the situation and not realizing the magnitude of it Mike’s buddy laughed it off in which Mike replied sternly, “you better look into this because this is not going to play out well”.

By the next day Mike had answers.

It turned out, due to legislation that had been passed in Hawaii, through a loop hole Hawaiian longline fishing boats technically had the right to employ undocumented foreign workers on their boats and because they did not have work visas they were not protected under U.S. labor laws. These workers had signed contracts and were being paid more than what they could make in their own countries.

What Hawaii had on their hands were a few longline fishing boats that would not allow their crew off the boat for 2-3 years because they could not legally be on Hawaiian land. The pay sucked, the working hours were ridiculously long and living conditions were rough. The reality is they were being abused.

Why you probably shouldn’t boycott in times like these.

As Mike had more time to sit back and digest this new information he started to look at the bigger picture.

Hawaii was and is one of the leaders known for their fishing techniques and sustainable practices, he thought. They did not need a mark on their record like this.

As he recalled there had been times in the past when campaigns such as “say no to swordfish” and “dolphin free tuna” brought more bad than good to the fishing industry.

He said that back in the 80’s when people stopped buying tuna to try and save the dolphins it had a tremendous impact on the gulf of Mexico’s fishing industry which has led to it’s downward spiral ever since.

Because of the campaign the fisherman went bankrupt and had to sell their boats.

As time passed and people “forgot” about the boycott they started buying tuna again only now there weren’t enough boats in the gulf to keep up with the demand.

Immigrants from Vietnam showed up to take advantage of the opportunity fishing tuna would have to offer. But unlike the original fisherman who had passed down important information from generation to generation they did not know the fishing cycles, about patterns, about what size the tuna should be when caught and where the spawning grounds were. They fished without knowledge and in doing so they depleted the gulf.

Mike said, “if people boycott buying fish from Hawaii all of these people are going to go out of business and these are the people who are doing it the right way.”

Is there even such thing as sustainable anymore?

When asked to touch on what sustainability in the fishing industry meant to him Mike answered, “I hate the word sustainable. It has no meaning anymore. Dump the term sustainable and start talking about responsible fishing practices. Stop buying crap from countries that we know are not playing the game and following the rules like China and Japan. Buy domestic or from New Zealand and Australia if you want to support sustainability. Places like Hawaii have the boats that are fishing responsibly.”

Hawaii handles business

Since the articles on forced labor went flying around the internet and the Hawaii Seafood Council started their investigation there has been some major changes.

The first thing they did was form a task force who evaluated all labor practices on all Hawaiian longline fishing boats.

They immediately implemented a system of checks and balances that would protect the foreign crews from further forced labor and abuse and improve working conditions.

A new standardized contract has been written and distributed to crew members in their own native languages.

Large retail and wholesale seafood companies were informed of the new criteria for responsible labor practices so that they could feel good about selling their products again.

The Honolulu fish auction, where these boats deliver and sell their catch, warned that any boats “that are unable to prove that forced labor is not being used” would be denied auction services. A zero tolerance policy has now been put into place.

Additionally the Hawaii Seafood Council promises to offer continued outreach and education for the Hawaii longline fishing boats on this subject of forced labor.

As stated in the Hawaii Seafood Council’s press release: “This fishery has proven itself over the years to be responsive and an industry leader in meeting the challenges arising from new information about fishery impacts on fish populations and protected species. The allegations of labor abuses present a serious and new challenge, and the industry is rallying to respond quickly. I am confident that through this process we will ferret out any vessel from the fleet that is involved in forced labor, labor abuse or substandard working conditions and treatment of the crew.” says John Kaneko, Task Force member and Program Director of the Hawaii Seafood Council.

The decision is up to you.

Was what the owners of these boats did morally wrong? Yes. Did the industry take it seriously. Yes. Did they take every action possible to right their wrongs. Yes.

In the end it comes down to this for me, Hawaii is dedicated to producing a high quality product in a way that is safe and sustainable for the environment.

Nobody’s perfect but I think if you learn from your mistakes you deserve a second chance, especially with a track record like Hawaii’s.

What will you do? Will you stop buying fish from Hawaii to stand up for what these crew members went through or will you support a fishery that at the end of the day produces some of the most sustainable seafood in the world?

I would love to hear your opinion in the comments section below.

I also would love to invite you to subscribe to The Healthy Locavore, for my weekly newsletter. I am so grateful for this community, thank you for being part of it!

Mike and Susan
Mike and his lovely wife Susan

 

Osprey seafood has a retail shop, open to the public, located at 1014 Wine Country ave. Napa, CA 94558. It is also one of the major seafood wholesalers in the bay area supplying restaurants such as Perbacco, Coqueta and Swan Oyster Depot.

 

Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.