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Assembly Speaker Atkins Wants Fish Markets To Run Swimmingly

Photo caption: California Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and San Diego County Supervisor Greg ...

Photo credit: Office of Assembly Speaker Atkins

California Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox check out San Diego's Tuna Harbor Dockside Market, Jan. 17, 2015.

It could become easier to run fishermen's markets if state Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins of San Diego gets her way. She has introduced a "Pacific to Plate" bill to streamline the markets' permitting process.

It could become easier to run fishermen's markets if state Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins of San Diego gets her way. On Saturday, she introduced the "Pacific to Plate" bill to streamline the markets' permitting process.

Atkins' legislation is inspired by San Diego's Tuna Harbor Dockside Market, which has operated next to Seaport Village since the summer.

“Since the market opened, thousands of San Diegans have enjoyed being able to walk down this pier and choose their next meal from the fresh catch brought ashore by our local fishermen,” Atkins said in a statement. “Though the market has been successful, there are still some barriers in state law that need to be overcome to ensure its ongoing operation."

Her bill would allow fish to be cleaned and sold directly at fishermen's markets. Now, fish can only be sold whole. The legislation would also only require one permit for a fishermen's market instead of the current bureaucratic maze fishermen need to go through. State law does not define these markets as food facilities, complicating the permit process.

The market opened in August 2014 after more than a year of work to get the necessary permits. The fishermen had been selling from a boat docked between the USS Midway Museum and Seaport Village, but wanted to move their makeshift market from sea to land. That's when they ran into bureaucratic barriers.

Their struggles were documented by Voice of San Diego. When San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox read the story, he said he decided to take action.

He worked with the county's Department of Environmental Health to get the fishermen a one-year permit to sell their fish and with the Port of San Diego to get a permit to operate on a pier at 535 Harbor Lane, said Cox's spokesman, Luis Monteagudo Jr.

Since then, the market has been open on Saturdays and has attracted on average 350 visitors a week, said to Peter Halmay, one of the fishermen operators.

A few weeks ago, Halmay said he wanted to make the setup more permanent because his permit from the Port of San Diego has to be renewed every three months. He also wanted to change regulations so he could sell pieces of fish instead of just whole ones. So Halmay said he'd approach a California lawmaker about proposing a bill.

"We're trying to work out the framework for what is a fishermen's market and what are the things needed in law that would facilitate having this accomplished," he said then.

Several local lawmakers support the bill, and the San Diego County Board of Supervisors is paying for lobbyists to help pass it.

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