Batnitzky, one of the newest sociology professors on campus, was recently awarded a grant from Collaborative Fisheries Research West to examine direct seafood marketing in San Diego. The study, entitled “Testing the feasibility of urban coastal direct seafood markets,” will be conducted over a one-year period alongside California Sea Grant Coastal Specialist Theresa Sinicrope Talley, a marine biologist who is currently based at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla.
At first glance, it may seem odd that a sociology professor would want to examine seafood marketing, but this project is less about sea life and commerce and more about “locovores,” the people that eat locally produced food not sourced from a distant market.
The specific locovores that brought about this study are those that make up the East African Community in San Diego. Batnitzky has worked closely with the United Women of East African Community Cultural Center and discussed their changing diet as a result of migration. Upon sharing her experiences, Talley’s first question was: Does this community eat a lot of fish? Despite mainly being from coastal Somalia, the answer is no and the reason is limited access to sustainable local seafood.
San Diego boasts many farmers markets and community-backed agriculture programs, however, San Diego does not have a single fish market in a city with 70 miles of pristine Pacific coastline. As a result, many fishermen have taken to selling their catch right from their docked boats. Batnitzky’s goal is to raise awareness of the issue and to establish a sustainable local fish demand in San Diego.
While Batnitzky is focused on the people involved, Talley is most interested in the health of the ocean. She believes a more diverse pull of fish may improve both the fishing industry in San Diego and the ecology of our ocean. Of the collaboration, Batnitzky said, “Our overlapping interests seemed like an ideal interdisciplinary project!”
While emphasizing both locovores and the health of the ocean, “Our project is essentially community-based,” said Batnitzky. She hopes to work with San Diegans to better understand and unite two different populations. The first population, she said, “is already connected to the ocean and has some knowledge of the local seafood industry. The second population, the East African immigrant community, has relatively little interaction with local sustainable seafood.”
Over the next year, Batnitzky and Talley hope to gauge the feasibility of a direct seafood market based on the responses they receive from these two populations. Their project is already underway and if the project is well received, local fish markets may be on the menu for San Diego.
— Kevin Wright ‘13