Commercial fishing is a notoriously condition-dependent occupation. As of early February, however, in addition to the changeable sea and the here-today, gone-tomorrow nature of the work—as well as ongoing tariffs—local lobster fishermen like Brian Aresco of Carpinteria also had to contend with a ban on seafood imports due to the COVID-19 outbreak in their best market, China.
Aresco said the price for lobster went from $16 a pound to $8 overnight. After expenses, he would be left with about $100 for 16-hours of work. “I’ll talk to you next year,” he told his wholesaler as the price he was offering was not economically viable.
Searching for an alternative, Aresco purchased a Commercial Fisherman’s Retail License and turned to a present-day solution to the age-old problem of getting one’s product to market: Instagram. Within a week he was delivering lobsters throughout the communities of Carpinteria and Santa Barbara but all the driving and coordinating with customers presented another hurdle, so Aresco turned to his longtime friend Jason Lesh of the Farm Cart who agreed to have him set up his seasonal sales there.
Within an hour on Saturday, March 7, Aresco had sold 120 pounds of lobsters and had to run down to his boat in Ventura to bring up another load. Lobster season runs from October through March, with the most consistent catch typically coming in the earlier months.
“People are really into it,” Aresco said of his customers, who are enjoying a somewhat rare opportunity to experience the lobsters that are literally just off their local beaches, as most available lobster in the country comes from Maine. Aresco also said he appreciates the support he’s received, as otherwise he would have had to “just quit and gone home.”
As international events—Chinese tariffs and import bans—have forced a shift to the domestic market, both Aresco and Lesh are hopeful that fresh, local seafood might soon become a regular addition to the popular (and most importantly, sustainable) organic produce offerings at the Farm Cart next to the library on Carpinteria Avenue. Conditions permitting, Aresco plans to sell lobsters again on the weekend of March 14-15 at the Farm Cart.