Faces of U.S. Seafood: Q&A w/ Maressa Garner

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Photo of Maressa and James at Burning Man, 2019

Buying wild-caught American seafood makes a difference to the economy and your health. The Partners of Commercial Fishermen (PCF) promote awareness by sharing their lives in and around the industry. Together, we are the faces behind each catch.

“Never was the purchase of local seafood more critical. An article by the LA Times highlights the COVID strain imposed upon our fishing communities, whose domestic and international markets have been wiped out overnight:

‘Over the past 20 years, American fisheries have become some fo the best managed and most sustainable in the world thanks to policy reforms and the hard work of fishermen,” said Eric Schwaab, senior vice president for the Environmental Defense Fund’s ocean program. “But now, fishermen need our help. By incorporating more seafood into our diets, we can support fishermen and coastal communities that depend on seafood harvesting as a way of life.'” – posted by Maressa Garner on @gethookedseafood

Click image above to learn more about Get Hooked

I know Maressa Garner because we are marrying into the same fishing family – she’s happily engaged to my fiancé’s cousin, James!

Not only was I happy James found a great catch (pun intended), but I was relieved to know there was another person in the family without experience in the fishing industry I could relate to.

Since then, Maressa’s jumped in feet first, learning more about the industry and even working with James’ sister’s company Get Hooked, a subscription-based delivery program in Santa Barbara, California that provides fresh seafood from local fishermen each week.

Maressa’s passion for life, love, and local fishermen continues to grow. Graciously, she took the time to share a bit of her personal story with us today.

Meet Maressa:

Tell us a little about your fisherman.

My fisherman’s name is James. He fishes salmon out of Bristol Bay, Alaska each summer and spiny lobster out of Santa Barbara, California from October to March.

In Alaska, his boat is the F/V Bertha B II and in Santa Barbara, the F/V Bella B (total happenstance on the names!).

How long have you been together?

We met two and a half years ago and, for all intents and purposes, have been together for about as long.

Have you had experience with the fishing industry before you got together?

Not in the slightest! The industry and its culture were completely foreign to me.

What tips can you share with others navigating this PCF life?

Find the beauty in your man’s occupation, rather than taking the stance, “the sea is his first wife and I play second fiddle.” Odds are, he’s fishing because he either genuinely loves what he does, venerates mama earth, doesn’t buy into cultural status quos, is hardworking, takes responsibility for his and his loved ones’ welfare, or a combination of these or other beautiful qualities that are ultimately really desirable in a partner.

Second and probably the most critical: establish your own fierce sense of independence. He’s fishing because his own independence is more than likely robust and heartily intact (admittedly, this attribute can occasionally lead to circumstances that require a conversation 😄).

Depending on the fishery, he’s going to be away some nights and sometimes, for months at a time.

Being a PCF is not for the faint of heart and not for someone who isn’t interesting in cultivating their own individual garden alongside a shared one with their partner.

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What is the hardest part of being a PCF?

The cadence of work. While I am in the “absence makes the heart grow fonder” camp rather than “out of sight, out of mind,” the separation – especially in the summer months where I will sometimes go weeks without hearing from him – is exceedingly difficult. I am an especially vivid storyteller (in my mind) and such prolonged periods of absence can create false narratives that grow multiple heads when your beloved isn’t right in front of you reminding you what’s true.

There is also a certain beauty in the stretches of time apart. Namely, the perspective and appreciation that distance creates. When you reunite, there are pieces of yourself that may have evolved that you then get to share; in a way like falling in love again.

Of course, there’s a small terror in this – What if we grow up and away from each other while apart?

This is a potential reality whether your man comes home from the office at five every evening or not. You’re just confronted with that fact more bluntly in the face of separation.

Nevertheless, our prolonged periods apart have seen us come back together with more love, more gratitude and a deeper commitment to each other each time. I might also add that men are aware of what a badass you are in committing to the PCF lifestyle so, in my experience, loyalty has also been a strong side effect of separation.

What is the most fun?

The pure unconventionality of the fishing lifestyle! In some ways, it’s truly old world.

I remember the first night I met James. I asked him why he liked fishing and after some thought, he replied, “I think it’s pretty cool that I’m one of the last hunter-gatherers on earth that can survive and thrive in the modern world.” (Swoon)

James has two months off after each season. And when he’s fishing lobster out of Santa Barbara, he does overnight trips and only when the weather’s good. I work remotely and, within reason, create my own hours so we both have a lot of space to explore, play, and create. I’ve never believed in plugging into the corporate 9-5 and I couldn’t be more delighted to have a partner that massively contributes to co-creating in that vision with me.

What does being a PCF mean to you?

This lifestyle has really refined a lot of held beliefs around who I am, what I am capable of, and what I need in a partner. A lot of the flimsier aspects of these beliefs have fallen away and what remains is a bolstered sense of self and a healthier notion of what a nourishing partnership really looks like.

How can others support our domestic seafood market?

If you live near the coast, see if your community has a community-supported fishery or hit the docks on market day! (Click here to learn more about local seafood near you!)

Buy into monthly subscription shares from domestic fishermen (Google “American Seafood Subscription.” We’ve never had greater or faster access to the sea’s bounty) and always, always, ask where your fish was caught at restaurants and the supermarket. 🐟

What are your thoughts about buying local seafood? Do you have a favorite dish you’d like to share? Please leave thoughts and suggestions in the comments below!

Catch up on the series!

Faces of U.S. Seafood: Q&A w/ Savanah Lisherness

Faces of U.S. Seafood: Q&A w/ Kristy Justa

Faces of U.S. Seafood: Q&A w/ Mitzi Hathaway

Are you a partner of a commercial fisherman? If so, please share in the comments or join our group below!

IF YOUR LOVED ONE IS A FISHERMAN, JOIN THE PRIVATE GROUP, PARTNERS OF COMMERCIAL FISHERMEN HERE!

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