Seafood lovers gathered at the Santa Barbara Harbor this past Saturday to celebrate the 11th annual Santa Barbara Harbor and Seafood Festival, which offered a wide array of fresh seafood, live music, free activities and marine touch tanks.
Hosted by the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum and the city of Santa Barbara, the free event began at 10 a.m. and featured over 30 different arts and crafts merchants as well as several local environmental groups such as Heal the Ocean and Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary & National Park. With co-sponsorship from the Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and United States Coast Guard among other organizations, the event offered attendees dockside tours, free boat rides, cooking demonstrations and educational activities about marine life.
According to local fisherman Stace Cheverez, the celebration stems from a 1970s tradition in which Santa Barbara fishermen would offer local community members free seafood.
“The fisherman’s festival started years ago, back in the 70s, when the fishermen would bring in their thresher shark and serve free thresher shark meals with salad and bread,” Cheverez said. “In the last few years, it’s changed a little bit.”
Cheverez said that albacore tuna was a hot pick amongst most visitors, adding that the festival’s large crowds also contained a large student presence.
“The turnout is a lot larger than last year,” Cheverez said. “Last year there were 15,000 and I think we are above that.”
Fourth-year UCSB student Geordie Scully said the popularity of the event caught her off-guard, as this was the first year she had heard about it.
“It’s very cool, but it’s very crowded,” Scully said. “I was surprised by how many people were here.”
Commercial sea urchin fisher Pierre Charest said the festival received a much larger turnout than in years past, adding that all featured seafood specialties were fresh-caught from just a day before.
“This has actually been a three-day project and today we are actually selling [the sea urchins],” Charest said. “I dove for them on Thursday and we processed them yesterday.”
Charest said the three-day procedure for preparing the food is labor-intensive, requiring six hours of diving and an additional six hours of processing for 1,000 pounds of sea urchin.
Though the festival was primarily aimed toward meat-eaters, there were many meat-free options available such as rice bowls and seaweed salad.