Local Swordfish & Lobster Season: A Bust!

Local Swordfish & Lobster Season: A Bust!

What a strange year in San Diego. As if not having a summer was bad enough, now we are suffering the fallout of what happens when the water temperature never warms up: local swordfish and lobster season is a bust.

Usually by now we are offering harpoon-caught local swordfish. So far this year there has not been any outside some fish from Mexico, but I prefer the locally caught fish from local boats – there is no better swordfish in the world in my opinion.

For the last four years we have featured a local spiny lobster tasting menu—one of our most popular seasonal offerings. It’s so fun to offer a product that you can actually watch being harvested from your dining table—one of the spots the local fishermen drop traps is right in front of the restaurant. Local spiny lobster season opened October 6th and in Mexico a couple weeks earlier. Mexico usually gives us an idea of where the price will be and how healthy the catch—this year the catch is off around 60 percent due to unseasonably low temperatures throughout the summer. Cold water prevents the lobsters from molting, which prevents them from growing, and results in a shortage of legal sized lobsters.

I paddleboard and went out this morning with a friend. We stopped to watch one of the lobster boats pull a couple traps. Since this is the very beginning of the season, the traps should be brimming. Unfortunately, each trap only contained 6-8 lobsters and 4-5 had to be thrown back because they were not regulation size.

Since the primary market for our local lobsters is Asia—Korea, China and Japan mainly—prices are set based on this demand. Sadly, I am in competition with China to get a product that is caught right in front of the restaurant. Crazy, huh? With the catch off 60 percent, prices are raised so radically it looks like we won’t be offering the lobster tasting menu this year. I just can’t justify charging $140 or more per person…I would have to charge $60 just for one lobster! (Of course, if anyone wants to splurge just give me a little notice and I'd be happy to bring some in for you.)

This is the price we pay for taking care of a sustainable product. El Nino goes in four-year cycles and my friend the fisherman said if you look at the history of the lobster catch it goes in cycles as well. Hopefully all those little lobsters will breed and we’ll have a nice warm summer next year so the harvest will be plentiful and we’ll all be eating local spiny lobster again. In the meantime, we've got plenty of other local offerings on the menu to keep you sated and happy.