Off the Hook goes plastic free to support healthy oceans, beaches

Kate Cagle

Daily Press Staff Writer

Santa Monica’s only festival for sea-foodies returns this weekend to the Santa Monica Pier with a new emphasis on sustainability. About 50 vendors from a variety of restaurants, breweries and vineyards will be serving tastings of their best under-the-sea dishes without a spec of plastic.

“Our festival gives attendees the opportunities to support a great cause, discover new restaurants and enjoy live music with the beautiful Pacific Ocean as the backdrop,” said Rosalind Napoli, Director of Events and Partnerships for Spin PR, which organizes the festival.

The festival is raising money for the Surfrider Foundation this year, which advocates for sustainable seafood by encouraging consumers to buy their fish from both wild-capture fisheries and environmentally responsible farms (aquaculture).

There is also a campaign to buy local – or at least buy American. For example, shrimp is the most consumed seafood in the U.S. and most of it is imported. However, Southern Californians can purchase spot prawns, ridgeback shrimp, pink shrimp and coonstrip shrimp harvested off the coast, according to recommendations from the group Seafood for the Future.

Napoli says the festival will honor members of the community who have made an impact on the sustainable seafood movement. The event is aiming to be 100 percent plastic-free this year.

“Surfrider is a natural fit because of their commitment to helping educate, restore and protect our world’s oceans,” Napoli said. “Santa Monica was once a renowned place for fishing and with Surfrider as a partner, we are able to raise funds and awareness for their Ocean Friendly Restaurant Program and Sustainable Beaches Programs.”

Several Santa Monica restaurants have received “Ocean Friendly” status from Surfrider, including Bareburger, El Texate, Herringbone, Huckleberry Café and Rustic Canyon. In order to qualify, restaurants must recycle, use reusable tableware and cannot offer plastic bags or Styrofoam containers, among other guidelines.

But while organizers hope attendees will learn more about sustainability at the event, they know the real reason it has grown over the years – the food.

“We are very excited about this year’s Oyster Shucking Competition. Chef Youssef from FIG restaurant is our reigning champ but this year we have many new participating chefs including Dan Jacob from Taylor’s Shellfish Farms in Seattle as well as local at-home chefs,” Napoli said.

The event runs from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14. Tickets to Off the Hook are available at and cost $65 for general admission and $90 for VIP. All ticketed guests must be 21 years or older. Attendees are encouraged to use the Expo Metro line, Santa Monica Free Ride, or biking to get to the event.
More tips for supporting sustainable seafood:

Branch out – by choosing different types of fish you reduce pressure on highly targeted species
Take the family to a fisherman’s market to meet local fisherman.

Pay attention to when certain catches are in season to get the freshest food
Look for products certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, Aquaculture Stewardship Council, or the Global Aquaculture Alliance

Kate Cagle

Senior reporter for the Santa Monica Daily Press