Diver Day at the Aquarium of the Pacific – Saturday, March 10

Scientific divers, bug hunters, and warm-water warriors one-and-all, it’s time for Diver Day at Aquarium of the Pacific. Free admission to all certified divers with an urge to explore the underwater world without all the hassle of getting wet. Sponsored by the good people at Sherwood Scuba, this event will also showcase the great underwater work that volunteer divers are doing here in California and offer you the opportunity to get involved and help make a difference in the health of the ocean.

The title sponsor of the event Sherwood Scuba, has started a new initiative called Sherwood Scuba Marine Conservation which supports research and conservation-driven programs across the worlds oceans. Check out their Facebook page and like it to support some really terrific work and to find out how a dive manufacturer can make a difference in protecting the worlds oceans.

Mark your calendar for what will be “fin-tastic” day. See you out there.

For more information, click on the link below:




TBT – What to do with decommissioned Oil Rigs In California?

The future ex-oil rig Holly.

On April 17th, Venoco oil announced that they would be ceasing operations on platform Holly, which lies about 2 miles offshore of UCSB in the Santa Barbara Channel.  Because the rig is in California state waters, the California State Lands Commission has ordered a complete removal of the rig and capping of the well and restoration of the site to as natural a state as is possible. While this is seen as a big victory by many environmental groups, there are quite a few voices in the ocean community that see leaving some or all of the underwater structure as a way to preserve a unique and burgeoning ecosystem.

Holly holding bait fish in abundance during the 1970’s. Photo and copyright by Bob Evans.

Established when these rigs were first constructed in the 60’s and 70’s, extensive and complex ecosystems flourish underneath the platforms that lie just off California’s coast. As evidenced in studies, it is fairly well agreed that these rig reefs produce large amount of biomass comparable to any marine fish habitats globally. 

So the question is, should we accept the trade-off of keeping some structure in place to preserve these unique ecosystems? I think there is a good argument to do just that. For Throwback Thursday, I’m presenting some pictures of rig Holly from the 1970’s when the amazing animal and plant  communities were first being discovered by local divers. Taken by Bob Evans, founder, creator, and the “force” behind the Force Fin, these great photos give an early glimpse into what many people now regard as one of the richest undersea communities you’ll likely encounter.

For more information on the process of conversion, visit the folks at Blue Latitudes and  Rigs to Reef. Also, special thanks to Bob Evans for giving us a cool glimpse into the life under the rigs.

In this day and age where science is under attack and pristine wild spaces are under threat, the chance to save something so special is something we need to consider. Take a look at these amazing photos and I think you’ll agree.

We’ll see see you out there.


A variety of fish sitting inside the structure of Holly at 120 feet, which is covered by metridium and scallops. Photo and copyright by Bob Evans.
This is an aquaculture experiment conducted under Holly to test the potential to grow out red abalone. Come for the shellfish and stay for the groovy retro 70’s dive gear. Photo and copyright by Bob Evans.

Hog Island Oysters with Chipotle Horseradish Barbecue Sauce

A plate full of shell-packed goodness.
A plate full of shell-packed goodness.

I’ve spent a lot of time head down along the north coast searching for the ever delicious red abalone. Whether or not I pried one off the bottom, I still had to eat dinner. Lucky for all of us is that Nor Coast is also home to some of the the finest aquaculture products you’ll ever enjoy. So if you don’t score a few big red’s you can always enjoy some locally  raised oysters to fill the gap. Hog Island is the central place for aquaculture up north and they’ve provided us with a great way to enjoy their product.  This recipe is a perfect for an afternoon get together or even a formal fiesta. So get a grill, pop a beer, and enjoy a north coast treat.

So here is how you do it…

What you need for about 24 oysters:

  • 1 cup of your favorite tomato sauce
  • 5 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup clover honey
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 to 2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp ground horseradish
  •  Sea salt  and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 24 large oysters
  • A nice loaf of bread for dipping


1. Place the first 7 ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Let the sauce cool and add in the horseradish. Salt and pepper to taste and set aside to let the flavors really meld.

3. Shuck your oysters and flip them in the bottom shell being careful not to lose the brine. it helps to put them on a flat try when your done for transport to the grill.

4. Fire up your grill to high and get ready to lay your shucked oysters.

5. Lay out your oysters with 1 tbsp of the sauce on top and cook for about 5 minutes with the lid down.

Some would say it’s a a little spicy, just like the author. I however would say I’m tall and really tasty, just like this recipe. So get to it. You can get great farmed oysters everywhere so make a batch for Memorial Day. You’ll be glad you did. Serve hot with bread and a nice white wine or IPA and make any day a special one.


Teaching Kids to Care About Abalone

I think I love abalone. Usually it’s sauteed in butter and wine and other times it’s being pleasantly surprised when I find one on a dive just hanging out between a rock and a hard case. Mainly I love them though because they are such a unique keystone species that’s integral to the grand ecosystem of marine life here in California. That being said,  the complete destruction of  abalone to the point of biological extinction here in the southern California bight does depress me. Whether it was pink, white, black, red, or  green, this mollusk that once carpeted the local sub tidal zone and supported a huge multi-million dollar fishery is only a memory these days. It collapsed as it was fished to it’s sustainable edge because we we were confident we knew what we were doing. All the while as we fished our way through one abalone species after another, nobody counted on  Mother Nature waiting in the wings with a particularly lethal strain called withering foot to provide the final nails in the coffin for the ab.

So basically they’re gone. Never to be seen again for the most part. It’s a hugely lamentable loss but I guess we have to accept it. Or do we?

In a recent Los Angeles Times article, South Gate Middle School was profiled for their efforts to raise green abalone in a classroom aquaculture environment. These efforts are are part of a larger program that challenges students to understand ocean sciences in ways that engage them personally. Developed by Nancy Caruso, a marine biologist and  executive director of the nonprofit Get Inspired Inc, the program is operating in over a half -a-dozen schools in the southland and would like to expand to  include a larger ocean abalone restoration project and they need your help, both personally and financially. So read the article below and also check out Get Inspired Inc and Nancy Caruso. It’s mission is something that all people who love the ocean can get behind.

Link to the Los Angeles Times article profiling South Gate Middle School and Get Inspired Inc.



Los Angeles Food Policy Council Nets Interest with Sustainable Seafood Solutions

Even blurry people like sustainable seafood

Baffled by what fish is the best choice when the weather is rainy(Like today) and you have to go to the store to get your seafood fix on because you can’t catch your own stuff? Welcome to the club as conscientious folks all over California are asking the same questions at local markets and restaurants “What to order?” Luckily for about 200 people at Loyola Marymount University last night, The Los Angeles Food Policy Council set out to answer that question.  Armed only with an array of delicious sustainable seafood samples and an equally impressively diverse array of experts to explain the what,where,why,when,and how of sustainable seafood, the LAFPC managed to educate, inform, and feed quite nicely a highly interested crowd.

As for the food, I could dazzle you right now with stories and photos of trout mousse, oysters Rockefeller, and smoked sable fish canapes but that wouldn’t be the point. What is important is that it’s foodie safe not to order the tuna, swordfish, or the chilean sea bass anymore. As Mary Sue Milliken, panelist chef of Border Grill and “Two Hot Tamales,” put it “Chef’s are creative” and making new food “sexy” is what they do. I feel in good hands.

Expert Panel
Mary Sue Milliken talking about making sustainable seafood sexy.

From the scientific management standpoint, Mark Helvey of NOAA, as well as Sheila Bowman of Seafood Watch,  made the argument that local is way to go. Tracking the sustainability of a local fishery and how the fish is brought to market is so much easier than trying to do the same thing with a shrimp brought in from Thailand. Fun, fascinating, and surprising facts that came out of the panel included that 70% of all seafood consumed is done through restaurants and that, according to Tim Aupperle of Whole Foods, consumers actually drive the buying practices of seafood retailers. That’s really good news.

I could spend a lot of time talking about how damaged and declined so many of our favorite fish choices have become but I don’t think that fear is the best way to move forward.  Instead, I think we should take a different route by asking the right questions and influencing the people providing your seafood. Letting them know that you expect more and are willing to pay for your principles is just as important. That’s called market-driven change and is part of why economics are such a huge part of any sustainability solution.

In a time when popular and longstanding seafood stocks are either in decline or at risk as we fish our way down the food chain, making the right choice is just half the battle. We need to do better. The Los Angeles Food Policy Council just made our battle a little easier.

Click here for food policy you can sink your teeth into
This is where you find out which fish is sustainable
This is who is trying to protect sustainable seafood
This is where you go to get sustainable seafood

When it Comes to Salmon, Don’t Buy the Farm

Sockeye Salmon heading home in Alaska

The idea behind CFD  has always been to give divers ways to enhance the dive experience and make it even more enjoyable,  if that’s even possible. We do that by talking about where to go eat, what to drink,  and what to make within the scope of our local waters. Sometimes, however, we need to look beyond our local waters to something most divers will never encounter in the wild…Salmon.

Now since we’ve done a great job at basically wiping out California’s salmon populations, at least from a commercial perspective, we need to look north to Alaska for the majority of our wild salmon needs. Seasonal king, pink, sockeye, and Chinook are all finding there way to your local fish monger as we type.

What’s that you say? You can get farmed Atlantic salmon at 1/3rd the price?  It has the same taste or texture doesn’t it? It’s aquaculture so it must be better for the environment right? Good questions one and all and worthy of discussion. so point by point:

1) Farmed salmon is cheaper than wild salmon. True enough. but you get what you pay for which leads us to our next point…


2) Farmed salmon isn’t as tasty as wild salmon. Think about it like this, the wild salmon you eat is a Darwinian wonder that has survived a long life cycle to become a viable candidate for reproduction. It’s what nature and natural selection meant it to be.  A farmed Atlantic salmon on the other hand, is incubated, vaccinated, and raised in a large holding pen on a diet of fish meal with a little additive to give it a healthy pink hue. When it hits 2 feet and 8-10 pounds, it’s taken for market. It’s literally chicken of the sea and it doesn’t compare in terms of richness of flavor next to the sockeye or king. which leads us to our final point…

Atlantic Salmon Pens

3) Salmon farming is not really good for the environment. To start with, it’s not a very clean industry. There are hundreds of farms raising hundreds of million of fish. That’s a lot of nitrogen being released into the water effecting water quality and local marine ecosystems on a lot of different levels. There is also the escapement issue.  A lot of farmed salmon escape. They intermix with local salmon where they have the potential to introduce new diseases while  disrupting feeding and spawning. The only place salmon farming makes sense in on the financial line. They are like plastic shopping bags in that regard. Sure it’s cheaper and more convenient to use them but they cost more in the long run because of the damage they end up doing to the environment .

Aquaculture has so much potential to create new food resources for our expanding global population. Shellfish farming is a very clean and safe source of seafood as are closed-containment fish farms which raise fish in tanks, away from wild populations. I wish I could say the same for farmed salmon, and maybe some day I will be able to as technology and techniques improve. As of today however, wild is not only your best tasting option, it’s also your most environmentally sound. So get out there and enjoy some salmon while it’s nice, fresh, and wild.

Wild Salmon is leaps and bounds above farmed salmon