Japanese, Portuguese, Italian and Mexican immigrants helped make 1950s San Diego the tuna capital of the world. Their dockside fishing operations grew into companies with international reach — Chicken of the Sea and Bumble Bee Tuna. Both are still based here, but the canneries and nets were closed and cinched by the 1980s.
Now, University of San Diego and Scripps Institution of Oceanography researchers are working with fishermen to bring a bit of that maritime history back. They're conducting a year-long study to gauge local demand for dockside fish markets. And they're drawing on the city's immigrants to help once more.
Refugees from coastal East Africa gathered along the harbor Saturday to taste the local catch — seaweed, sardines and sea urchin. Researchers have wrapped them into talks about the dockside fish markets because they'd make a natural customer base; they worked and shopped seaside markets back home.
It's a healthy habit they crave here in San Diego.
"The overwhelming majority said they either eat no fish at all even though they did in their home country or it was very limited and they would go to wholesale warehouses and buy basically what the rest of San Diego does – imported stuff," Scripps researcher Theresa Sinicrope Talley said.