By Chris Branam, OSU Extension Communications
NEWPORT, Ore. – With her group assembled and the squawks of seagulls echoing across Yaquina Bay, Angee Doerr headed down the steel ramp at dock 5 at the Port of Newport to talk about seafood.
Shop at the Dock was back.
A program of Oregon Sea Grant and the Oregon State University Extension Service, the tours started in Newport in 2014 as a way to bring fishermen and the public together and teach people how seafood is caught and how to buy it from fishermen off their boats.
In 2020, the tours, which had expanded to Garibaldi, were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, Amanda Gladics, a fisheries management specialist with Oregon Sea Grant and Extension in Astoria, produced videos that included interviews with people in Tillamook County's seafood sector.
Tours returned to Newport after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in Oregon on June 30. The two scheduled tours on July 23 quickly filled, so Doerr added a third. Tours will continue in Newport on consecutive Fridays through Aug. 20. Garibaldi tours will be announced soon.
With the 9:30 a.m. slot filled to capacity, Doerr led the group to its first stop: the 39-foot Monde Uni, which uses a long line, called the main line, with baited hooks attached at intervals. Longliners target halibut and sablefish, also known as black cod.
Longlining can be prone to incidental catching of non-targeted fish and seabirds, referred to in the industry as bycatch. But Doerr explained that Oregon’s fishing industry has worked with Oregon Sea Grant and other researchers to introduce methods that have all but eliminated bycatch in longline fishing.
Doerr noted that the boat next to the Monde Uni was a troller – a hook-and-line vessel that selectively targets salmon and tuna.
“All of our salmon and tuna in Newport, to this day, are caught using a hook and a line,” she said.
Moving down the dock, Doerr stopped behind a stack of crab pots, a familiar sight on the docks during Oregon’s Dungeness season, which typically runs from December through August.
“Oregon manages its crab fishery based on size, season and sex. We only take male crabs,” Doerr said, adding with a laugh, “males just aren’t as important reproductively. Sorry.”
Turning her attention to a fishing vessel with gear that included large plastic barrels, Doerr segued from crabs to hagfish, also known as slime eels for their ability to produce slime to thwart would-be predators. Hagfish are “a living fossil,” Doerr said, alluding to the fact that the fish hasn’t changed for 300 million years. Hagfish are a delicacy in parts of Asia, and almost all of them caught in Oregon are exported to South Korea.
The next stop featured the 60-foot Miss Yvonne, a shrimp boat with wooden trawl doors that hold a net open as it is towed behind the boat. As with halibut and tuna, Oregon fishermen have worked with researchers at OSU and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to create a shrimp fishery that is nearly 100% bycatch-free, Doerr said.
At a stop at the Pacific Raider, Doerr revealed that it’s one of a growing group of commercial fishing vessels that catch market squid, also known as calamari. These boats are coming from California as rising ocean temperatures have allowed the squid to move north from California.
“Market squid boats have lights on the side because most squid fishing occurs at night,” Doerr said. “You shine the light, drawing plankton up the surface, which draws the squid up to the surface.”
At the final stop, Doerr noted several large boats that are known as mid-water trawlers. They are usually the biggest boats in the port because they catch extremely large schools of fish. Doerr spent some time on the nature of catching groundfish – a category that includes 100 species, including some that are endangered. Groundfishing requires a permit and involves strict quotas and an onboard observer who records every fish that is caught.
Finally, Doerr emphasized that aside from the largest crab boats, most Newport fishing vessels catch multiple species throughout the year.
None of the fishermen on this tour was selling fish directly from their boats, so Doerr ended with a tip to look for handmade signs that vessels post around the port. In Newport they will be near the entrance to port docks 3, 5 or 7.
When buying from fishermen, Doerr noted that fish are typically sold whole, and that you should ask when the fish was caught to determine its freshness. Also, you should consider taking up the seller if they offer to fillet the fish because that results in more meat.
“The nice thing about buying direct is that fewer people have handled the fish,” she said. “The fewer people who have handled the fish, the better it will be.”
Attending the tour were Karen and Gary Kone of Lincoln City, and their friends Emily Rice and Kira Saling, who were visiting from Utah and Idaho, respectively. Although the Kones live just 25 miles from Newport, they had never been to a Shop at the Dock event.
“I was excited to see them come back,” Karen Kone said.
“It was interesting to learn about all of the specialties,” Saling said.
Gary Kone said he’s a “big believer in word-of-mouth, so I will definitely let friends and neighbors about it. This was really cool.”
After the tour, the Kones, Rice and Saling went to the Chelsea Rose seafood market, which operates on port dock 3 out of a historic fishing vessel.