Kim Selkoe and Victoria Voss spend their weekends visiting docks to buy this week’s fresh catch, which they process and deliver to more than 100 Santa Barbara families. Their goal is to increase appreciation for the delicious health benefits of seafood while sourcing it locally to support fishermen and sustainable fishing practices.
Through their company, Get Hooked, subscribers can choose weekly or biweekly collections of seafood from one of their 11 pickup sites located throughout Goleta, Santa Barbara, Montecito, and Carpinteria. Subscribers can also choose between small, medium, or large portions, depending on their household needs.
In a predominantly male field, the female duo is working to get people excited about eating seafood from the Santa Barbara Channel and supporting the waters it comes from. “Building local support comes from people engaging with their ocean in a way that affects them personally,” said Selkoe, “and the most intimate way to interact with the ocean is by eating the products in it.”
Selkoe and Voss work closely with Central Coast fishermen to assess current water conditions and species availability. Selkoe, a marine biologist, and Voss, the daughter of the president of the Commercial Fisherman of Santa Barbara, have collaborated to understand the importance of supporting these fishermen for the long-term health of marine ecosystems. “We want Santa Barbara to be a working waterfront and for a new generation of fishermen to be able to make a living here,” said Selkoe. “And it’s really on the edge of not being able to happen.”
By buying from fishermen in the Santa Barbara Harbor, who are subject to California’s strict fishing regulations, Get Hooked ensures that these species are sourced sustainably. International commercial fishing often over-exploits species, explained Selkoe, and transportation of catch over long distances is energy intensive.
Get Hooked currently works with nine fishermen in the Santa Barbara area and has 165 subscribers. The customers are families, retired residents, and young professionals who are passionate about the local, sustainable angle. “These people are doing this because they are motivated and dedicated,” said Selkoe.
Subscribers receive weekly emails with details about the daily catch as well as recommended recipes for that week’s seafood. Selkoe and Voss are also on standby and often field calls from subscribers around dinner time with questions about how to prepare tricky seafood like oysters.
The type of seafood provided depends on season, weather, and ocean currents, but Selkoe says the productive ecosystem of the Santa Barbara Channel allows them to offer subscribers something new every week. Recent popular species include black cod, oysters, halibut, rockfish, and mussels. Earlier this month, they supplied spiny lobster for Valentine’s Day.
The company has also been dabbling in more exotic species, such as shark, swordfish, and grenadier, a fish that is often thrown out by fishermen due to its odd appearance. Selkoe laughed as she explained to me that, when cooked, this “hidden gem” is flaky and moist, but the fish itself looks like “a cross between a snake, rat, and a fish.”
Get Hooked has options for those subscribers that aren’t up for trying more adventurous foods. “We recognize that people have their preferences, so we allow them to customize what they’re doing with us,” said Voss. Subscribers can opt out of certain types of fish, and the company has substitutes available to accommodate personal preferences or allergies. “A lot of folks opt out of mussels or oysters,” said Selkoe.
Get Hooked launched in September 2018 with funding from the USDA Local Food Promotion Program. Moving forward, they hope to expand their drop locations farther south into areas such as Westlake and Santa Monica. They also want to get seafood into Santa Barbara restaurants and school cafeterias and to add pick-up locations in corporate spaces. For now, Voss and Selkoe are keeping the business focused on consumers. “We are really motivated by the educational component, and we want to work directly with the people eating the seafood,” said Selkoe.