Fishermen call a massive halibut pulled from the Pacific Ocean a ‘barn door.’ Weighing hundreds of pounds and looming over their proud purveyors, the world’s largest flatfish certainly looks like its nickname when hung from a hook next to any man or woman.

The halibut you buy from Wild Local Seafood may have never posed for a photo op, but they were caught the old-fashioned way: by a person with a rod and a reel just off the coast of Santa Barbara.

“Everything we have here is all California caught,” Jesse Crouse-Tell said recently while displaying the catch at the Virginia Avenue Park Saturday farmers market. “It’s all caught following sustainable guidelines and it was all cut the night prior to the market.”

Fisherman Ben Hyman started Wild Local after two decades working commercial fishing vessels for tuna, crab, rockfish, black cod, halibut and more. Disheartened by the lack of respect he saw for employees and the sea, Hyman decided to go out on his own and do it the hard way.

“We do not buy any farmed fish due to the poor quality of seafood, use of dye and GMO’s present in the fish,” Hyman says on his website, He doesn’t buy international fish either. “(Those) fishing practices have wreaked havoc ecologically, threatening our seas (and) making local seafood the only sustainable, healthy option.”

Supporting this local fishery does not come cheap. This Wednesday, Wild Local Seafood was selling their freshly caught halibut for $26 a pound. If you ask the experts behind sustainable fishing, they’ll tell you it’s a worthwhile investment in both your health and the coastal economy.

“It is healthy to eat seafood but it’s also complicated and you have to ask the right questions,” said Oceana’s California campaign director Geoff Shester. Despite some creative phrasing on labels at the grocery store, Shester says about 90 percent of the seafood consumed in our state is imported.

Concerns about overfishing and bycatch (creatures caught up in fishing nets and then tossed back dead or alive) have encouraged some environmentalists to drift away from seafood altogether. Shester says one of the best things you can do for the health of our coastal ecosystem is support companies like Wild Local, even if it means paying quite a bit more for the fish you eat. Less than 25 percent of the halibut sold in California has been caught with a hook and line.

“When you have responsible fisherman doing it right they need the support of the consumer doing the right thing,” Shester said. “Otherwise it’s going to be all industrial, foreign fisheries.”

You can find Wild Local at both the Wednesday Downtown farmers market and Saturday Virginia Avenue Park farmers market. Everything for sale was caught just a day or two before market and never frozen. Even Hyman’s 26-foot boat is local, made by Radon Santa Barbara. If you decide to try some of his fish, feel free to ask a lot of questions.

“Try to know the origins of your fish,” Crouse-Tell said. “Here you’re supporting local fishermen so we make it easy for you.”

Santa Monica has four weekly farmers markets including the Wednesday Downtown market on Arizona Avenue between 4th and Ocean from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., the Saturday Downtown market on Arizona Avenue between 4th and 2nd Streets from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., the Saturday Virginia Ave. Park market at 2200 Virginia Avenue from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., and the Sunday Main Street market at 2640 Main Street from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Kate Cagle

Senior reporter for the Santa Monica Daily Press