Kirk Lombard is a firm believer that one of the best ways to show your love for the sea is to harvest and eat its bounty — responsibly.
Lombard is an avid fisherman and fishmonger based in San Francisco. He runs the Sea Forager tours along the coast, teaching locals how to sustainably fish and forage for their own dinner from the ocean.
He sees himself as a steward of the sea and its habitats. He is outspoken about his foraging philosophy and follows his own guidelines when out foraging. In his cheeky and informative 2016 book, The Sea Forager’s Guide To The Northern California Coast, Lombard writes, “One of the problems we have in our area is that people key in on one particular site because it’s easy and accessible — and then they fish it or pick it until it’s dead. Meanwhile, there are untouched areas a few miles away that seldom if ever get foraged.” He continues, “The resources will be far better off if we act as stewards of them rather than as takers and exploiters.”
Lombard took us out on the Northern California coast for a day of sea foraging exploration. In a rocky area covered in mussels, he demonstrated how to harvest the mollusks by hand so as not to disturb their habitat and minimize any impact.
When digging for clams as he does in our video, he says it’s very important to refill any holes you make as you go. That’s because many clams need tightly packed mud and sand to live. “Fail to fill in your holes and they will be filled very loosely by the advancing tide. Loosely packed mudflats will, over time, become clamless ones,” Lombard writes.
While Lombard is passionate about his work, he’s also cautious. Wild-caught shellfish can sometimes carry naturally occurring biotoxins; when eaten, contaminated seafood can cause serious, potentially fatal illness. Unfortunately, cooking does not destroy these toxins. So before heading out to forage, he calls the local health department and follows the shellfish guidelines of the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment in California.
Watch the video above to see how Lombard harvests wild mussels, clams and a monkeyface prickleback. His wife, Camilla Lombard, whom he lovingly refers to as Fish Wife, helps put it all in a big intertidal stew.
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