New Seasons Market now carries Pacific dulse seaweed in their grocery stores across Portland, giving consumers the choice to buy local sea vegetables, and support Oregon’s seafare economy.
Pacific dulse seaweed is a hard-to-find, high-nutrition specialty sea vegetable that tastes, when pan-fried, a lot like bacon. As of April 21, it is now easy to find and buy either in the produce or seafood sections (and soon to be in prepared salads) of New Seasons Market stores across the city of Portland.
Oregon seafare — Oregon Coast foods from the land and sea — doesn’t just magically appear on grocery shelves. These foods make their way to grocery stores and restaurants through networks of businesses in a short supply chain: small farmers and community fisheries, local processors, ice makers, cold storage, and distributors, and finally to retailers that stock local products.
The Pacific dulse at New Seasons stores comes from Oregon Seaweed, a Garibaldi farming operation, and will be delivered to Portland via North Coast Commons, a delivery service that brings Oregon Coast specialty foods to food hubs, grocery retailers and restaurants in the Willamette Valley and along the coast. North Coast Commons is filling a critical role in bringing Oregon Coast food products to new markets, and has found mission alignment with Oregon Ocean Cluster Initiative (OOCI), who is providing technical assistance and funding through a USDA grant to support the creation of new distribution routes.
“Moving product from the dock to buyers in Oregon’s community fisheries has been a huge challenge, identified by fishing vessel owners, restaurant owners, and wholesalers,” says Warren Neth, with OOCI. “North Coast Commons fills a niche in our regional food system that will increase the amount of Oregon seafare served on Oregon plates.”
OOCI was founded by Oregon Coast Visitors Association, and represents a movement which is committed to supporting Oregon’s coastal food producers by keeping more local seafood local. OOCI seeks to support better local access to cold storage, processing, and distribution. In the 2023 Oregon Legislature, they are seeking support for House Bill 2909, a $1.19 million effort to do just that. The bill directs investment to, among other projects, a mobile processing facility, shared cold storage space for local seafood producers, and a shared-use certified commercial kitchen.
“I believe the biggest challenge is building the political will to create additional infrastructure along the coast in order to make it possible for seafood to stay here,” Oregon Coast Visitors Association director Marcus Hinz explains. “We need hyperlocal storage, hyperlocal processing and hyperlocal distribution. Until that infrastructure exists, local seafood is not even possible.”
Oregon Ocean Cluster Initiative (OOCI), a project spearheaded by the Oregon Coast Visitors Association (OCVA), focuses on expanding the use of local sustainable seafood through infrastructure investments, workforce training, and partnership development. OOCI is bringing together dozens of diverse entities who share a vision of strengthening coastal communities by shortening food supply chains. Making local seafood easier to find and buy will positively impact fishermen, processors, wholesalers, retailers and consumers.