Celebrating Island Seafood

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - October 03, 2007
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Jo McGarry and son Max with prawns in Pittenweem, Scotland
Jo McGarry and son Max with prawns in Pittenweem, Scotland

I was raised in a tiny fishing village in the East of Scotland, three miles from St. Andrews and a world away from big city life.

We bought our eggs from the farm, our meat from the local butcher and our fish came from one of the busiest fish auctions in the country - a few steps away from our oceanfront house.

The village, Pittenweem, has a history dating back to the seventh century, and when I wasn’t watching the fishermen dock at the harbor with their catch or running up and down haunted wynds (narrow, hilly paths) I was collecting winkles with my dad, to be boiled in salted water and eaten as a treat.

I mention this only to explain my deep affection for Hawaii’s fishing industry, for the people responsible for transforming it into a vibrant community. Not long after I moved here I went to the fish auction, and as soon as I heard the pre-dawn bell I was transported back to my childhood. The voice of an auctioneer and

the habits of fishermen are the same, whether you find them in the warmth of Honolulu or the wilds of a Scottish sea.

Last year I took my husband and our boys to Scotland, and on our first morning there I woke everyone up early to go to the fish auction.

“You won’t believe the fish you’re going to see,” I told them.

But when we got there, all we found was a lone fisherman and a few crates of prawns.

“There’s no fish here anymore,” the fisherman told us. “The auction days you remember are long gone, and so are most of the fishing families.”

Coming face to face with the effects of global warming, over-fishing and the death of an industry that was the lifeblood of a community is truly sobering. It was one of the sadder moments of my life.

We’re much luckier in Hawaii. The fishing methods we employ here are a model for the rest of the world, and that’s largely thanks to the efforts of Brooks Takenaka, one of my all-time favorite people in the food industry. Takenaka has all the passion and enthusiasm you find in people who find purpose and meaning in everything they do. If there was any doubt in Takenaka’s mind that a fisher-man’s festival was needed in Hawaii, it was dispelled within the first 10 minutes of the inaugural event last year when thousands of people congregated at Pier 38 eager to eat, drink and learn more about island fishing.

The second Fishing and Seafood Festival is Sunday, Oct. 7.

“The effort here is really to bring the community together, to educate, to create awareness

of our industry,” says Takenaka. “It lets people see what we do.” And it’s also one step closer to his dream of a fishing village on the pier.

“You know, we’re one of the best-managed fisheries in the United States,” he says proudly, “and our fish is some of the most desired in the nation.”

The festival is a great day out - a chance to learn about one of our most important industries and an opportunity to share with children the heritage of Hawaii’s fishermen. There’ll be food fishing contests, cooking and art demonstrations, and shuttle buses to cope with the parking needs of the thousands of people expected to attend.

I’ll be there with my boys, hoping to teach them about the fishing industry of their birthplace, and remembering the one long gone from mine.

The Pacific Islands Fisheries Group presents its second annual Hawaii Fishing and Seafood Festival Sunday, Oct. 7 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the New Honolulu Fishing Village, Pier 38. Admission is free.


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