Local Oceans owner Laura Anderson has always wanted people to know where their food comes from.
“When we started the restaurant, we wanted to showcase the best of the Coast by sourcing as locally as possible and preparing dishes that highlight our local species.”
That’s why before you order at her restaurant and fish market, fittingly located across from the docks at Newport, you can learn when your fish was caught, where, by what means and by which boat. Each year, her staff receives a mandatory training on sustainable seafood, which changes from year to year based on changes in the local, national and global state of the industry.
In 2016, Anderson took her local sea-to-table passion a step further and designed an exhibition for Newport’s Pacific Maritime Heritage Center. “Our Beautiful and Wild Oregon Fisheries: 150 Years of Innovation” tells the story of the state’s five major fisheries — albacore tuna, chinook salmon, pink shrimp, Dungeness crab and ground fish (of which there are about 90 species).
With the exhibit, Anderson strove to convey the historical origins of each fishery along with the evolutions that have come with changes in gear, regulation or market shifts. By incorporating historic photos and borrowed artifacts from area fisher folk, the exhibit exudes a truly local feel.
“I wanted to bring my perspective on how the fishing industry fits into the local context of sustainability,” she says. “It’s not just a thing of the past.”
Anderson has long been an advocate for sustainable seafood, having served on the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission and currently with the Oregon Ocean Science Trust as well as traveling internationally to sustainable seafood conferences. Anderson wants people to understand that Oregon is a leader in global and national sustainability.
“Fisheries are often maligned in the media for being extractive and too damaging. Some of that was true in the past, but because of the strictness of U.S. laws and the market push for proving sustainability we have really turned the corner on some of the most challenging industries. In Oregon we have some of the most sustainable fisheries in the world,” she says.
Steve Wyatt, executive director of the Lincoln County Historical Society, who also oversees the museum, says the exhibit has continued to draw keen interest from visitors since its inception.
“It breaks some of the exhibit rules in that there is a lot of text. People engage with it anyway because it is information that is hard to find in one place and is really visually attractive,” he says.
This year Anderson plans to downsize the exhibit in order for it to become part of the center’s permanent collection. At the same time, she will be developing a smaller mobile version that will be available for rental with the hope that it will be used by museums and agencies around the state.
“We really want to make it more concise and yet convey as much information as we can,” Wyatt says. “We will always have an exhibit on the commercial fishing industry because it is so central to Newport. It is a huge part of our culture and our economy. It basically shapes what Lincoln County is.”
Whether Anderson is training her staff, leading a group of university students on a dock walk or talking with a slow food chapter, she’s pleased to share the success story of Oregon’s seafood.
“I want people to walk away feeling good about eating Oregon seafood and know that we are doing the right thing ecologically,” she says.
Photo by Lucy Gibson