From Boat to Throat: A Meeting with Pete Halmay, the Urchin King

The Sustainability LLC got an insider's view into our local fisheries, starting with a visit to the Tuna Harbor Dockside Market in San Diego. There we were met by Peter "The Urchin King" Halmay, who spoke to us about the history of fishing in San Diego, the kelp beds and how they have changed through time, and what "sustainable" fishing means to a local fisherman. We got to see the local catch, meet with representatives from California Sea Grant, and learn about the history and biology of our local fishes.

Then we went to hang out on the grass and relax near the Midway, before going in to The Fish Market restaurant and perusing their seafood case, where we saw very little (or no) local fish, but lots of items from as far away as Iceland and Fiji. We then sat down for a nice lunch, and talked about fishing, fisheries, homecoming, football, and more while we enjoyed our lunch.

It was a great morning - learning, conversation, and food!

If you are interested in picking up some sustainable local seafood, I strongly suggest you check out the Tuna Harbor Dockside Market's Facebook page, and head down and support our local fishermen!

And now the "Aquatic Trifecta"

I take no credit (or blame!) for the name, but it is a great way to get our new students literally and figuratively immersed in their new surroundings. We spend time at the nexus of the San Diego River, Mission Bay, and the Pacific, and with help from USD's Outdoor Adventures, we enjoyed paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkeling, volleyball, and even a quick seine for fishes (all of which were released unharmed). A great Sunday for the Sustainability LLC!

hiking mission trails regional park

Thanks to the efforts of the Ranger (Thanks Chris!) and knowledgable docents at MTRP, we had a great trip, where we learned a lot about indigenous uses of the land, natural history, and edible plants and animals of the chaparral. No time for a longer post, but some pictures of the event are below.

families and fishes

Lots of fun yesterday down at the Tuna Harbor Dockside Market. Families got to sample (and learn how to make) some wonderful foods from local fishes; see and hold live local marine seafood (such as urchin and crabs); learn about the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve; play a "fishing for facts" game (very popular); and decorate their own reusable shopping bags with sea life stencils. It was a huge turnout and a perfect day for the event. My thanks to California Sea GrantTijuana River National Estuarine Research ReserveSlow Food Urban San DiegoSan Diego Fishermen’s Working GroupUniversity of San DiegoThe Port of San DiegoCollaborative Fisheries Research West & the Ocean Protection Council, volunteers from Ocean Discovery Institute, and the wonderful chefs who made this possible!

fish are not sticks!

A family dockside event

August 16, 2014 10am - 1 pm at the Tuna Harbor Dockside Market
(on the Fish Harbor Pier in San Diego Bay located between Ruocco Park and Seaport Village

Join us to celebrate San Diego's first open air fishermen's market and the people who will make it a success— our very own fishermen, aquafarmers and you, the seafood loving public. There will be kid-friendly tastings of San Diego-sourced seafood and fun educational activities. 

Space is limited, please RSVP at:

Brought to you by: California Sea Grant, Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, Slow Food Urban San Diego, San Diego Fishermen’s Working Group, University of San Diego, The Port of San Diego, and a grant from Collaborative Fisheries Research West & the Ocean Protection Council.

summer in the talley lab

another exciting summer underway (holy crap - 1/2 over!) here in the lab at University of San Diego. I am lucky to have my previous graduate students finishing up their work, another joining the lab (graduate webpage HERE), and three great undergrads in the lab, working on really interesting questions.

Alex Blanco is a McNair Scholar, continuing work in my lab, but his research is taking him in a new direction. Alex is working on an important but little-studied habitat in southern California wetlands - pools in the vegetated marsh. We are trying to better understand their distribution, and figure out if new technology (camera-equipped drones) can help us more cheaply and efficiently map these and other small-scale features in our wetlands. Of course, being Alex, he also pitches in around the lab, helping us with our other studies as well.

Yuri Bejarano also just joined the lab this summer, a transfer student from New York who is part of University of San Diego's Pre-Undergraduate Research Experience (PURE) Program. Despite the name, the PURE program, under the direction of our (great) new Director of Undergraduate Research, Dr. Sonia Zárate, now also takes transfer students, and I was fortunate to have Yuri choose my lab. She is helping me work on Fundulus parvipinnis (shocking, I know!), and is helping us get a better handle on some of the basics - ontogenetic shifts in diet; length-weight relationships; and the stable isotope signatures of females and some of their component tissues (e.g., eggs vs muscle). She is a great addition to the lab, is an amazingly hard worker and bright student, and I am looking forward to seeing the fruits of her labor!

Also in the lab this summer has been Quinn Montgomery. Quinn is on the crew team, was in my Physical Oceanography course, and is a delight to be around. He does not have a particular project he is focusing on (he has other plans for his capstone research), but has been invaluable in the field!

Of course, there has also been some great stuff going on with the Bahía de los Angeles research this summer - more on that soon!

from left to right - Quinn, Yuri, and Alex

from left to right - Quinn, Yuri, and Alex

wow - that was quite the hiatus

But I am back, with a vengeance. This promises to be another exciting semester - projects on islands in the Gulf of California; Director of the Sustainability LLC on campus; mapping local wetlands, and enjoying watching my daughter turn 7!

stay tuned....

an image from one of the greatest camping trips ever...

an image from one of the greatest camping trips ever...

on the border updates

on the border

As part of our continuing exploration of environmental, social, and fiscal implications of sustainability, a group of University of San Diego students used last Saturday to explore the Tijuana River Valley. We started with a visit to Wild Willow farm, a small organic farm operated in the flood plain of the Tijuana river. It was a very interesting visit, and we learned a lot about both how small-scale farming works and the issues related to operating in an area with a lot of migrants crossing.

From there it was off to the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, where Chris Peregrine from State Parks talked to us about the challenges and the benefits of operating a wetland reserve where >2/3 of the watershed is in Mexico. We got to go see these important and threatened ecosystems, and had lunch at the Visitor's Center.

Finally, we headed up to Friendship Park, the small park on the border that was closed during construction of the new fence. From there you get a sweeping view of the estuary, as well as parts of Tijuana, making it an ideal spot to discuss some of the social and environmental issues that intertwine here. What made this even better was being able to talk both to Agent Kris Strickland of the Border Patrol and Enrique Morones from Border Angels (a non-profit dedicated to reducing the number of migrant deaths while crossing the border). Each of them clearly view the border issues differently, yet both stressed the need for education and compassion, and it was gratifying to see how much common ground there is when reasonable people discuss even a contentious issue.

In short, we packed a lot of learning and broadening of perspective in a single day, which is what undergraduate education is all about. Thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make this possible!

USD students learn about San Diego fisheries

last weekend a group of our students who are part of the sustainability LLC investigated issues around fisheries, food security, and San Diego. We started the trip with a visit to the docks - once a bustling center of a vast tuna fleet, now a small (but still vibrant) home to local fishers. Last saturday, the docks were loaded with hundreds of lobster traps, as the commercial lobster fishery prepared for the season opening. Our group was met by Pete Halmay, "The Urchin King", who is a key figure in the city's fishing industry. Pete explained how local fisheries can be highly sustainable and ecologically healthy, and made a compelling case for eating locally and smart when it comes to seafood. While we were there we got to visit his boat, Fish Addiction, which not only sells fresh catch of the day every weekend, but supplies many of our local restaurants with live urchin. 

We were then given a talk by the other Dr. Talley, who told us about a project she and Adina Batnitzky from USD are working on, trying to (re)connect the City Heights Somali community with fresh, sustainable seafood. 

Finally, we went to The Fish Market restaurant, where we enjoyed browsing the selection of local (and not-so-local) seafood, and sat down as a group to a delicious lunch.

The outing was a lot of fun and enlightening (not to mention delicious), thanks to the enthusiasm and hard work of Drs. Fisher, Duraij, our preceptorial assistants, students, and of course Pete!