Salish Sea Halibut Event

Hosted by the Salish Center for Sustainable Fishing Methods and 21 Acres for Local Food & Sustainable Living

More than 30 people gathered on Saturday, April 6th, at the 21 Acres Center for Local Food & Sustainable Living in Woodinville, to learn about sustainable food and enjoy delicious, local halibut. The Salish Center for Sustainable Fishing Methods on Lummi Island partnered with the Sustainable Collective in Seattle for this event.

The evening featured:

  • A talk by Riley Starks, local fisherman and executive director of the Salish Center,
  • A halibut cooking demonstration and dinner by chefs Asako and Jak Sullivan,
  • An opportunity for guests to purchase seafood caught in the Salish Sea.

The Salish Sea

The Salish Sea is a waterway system that stretches south to the Puget Sound, west to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and north to the Strait of Georgia in Canada. The Salish watershed is home to thousands of animal species.¹

For more information on the Salish Sea, visit the Salish Sea Bioregional Marine Sanctuary’s website:

They are what they eat: The diet of the Salish Sea halibut

Although the halibut from Alaska that dominates the market is a good choice sustainability-wise, according to Starks, what makes the Pacific halibut caught in the Salish Sea is their diet.

In the Salish, halibut dine on spot prawns and Dungeness crabs—gourmet dining.

According to Starks, the halibut take on the bluish hue of the prawns’ and crabs’ copper-based blood (When I compared Alaskan halibut with Salish halibut at the taste test portion of the evening, I thought that I could just maybe taste a little crab in the Salish halibut).

Starks told the story a tribal fisherman seeing spot prawns still writhing inside the stomach of a caught halibut.

The Pacific Halibut fishery in the Salish Sea was born when Starks and other fishermen helped put a stop to the trawling in the 1970s that was catching the halibut much faster than they could reproduce—Pacific Halibut take 10 years to reach sexual maturity and can live to be 25 years old.

The fishery, managed in part by Northwest tribes, is currently sustainable.² In fact, all of the Pacific Halibut fisheries in Canada and the US are sustainable.

Local is Sustainable

Chefs Asako and Jak Sullivan started the Sustainable Collective with the mission of making food with minimal environmental impact by using local and sustainably-grown ingredients.

Chef Asako Sullivan

According to Asako, “the average ingredient on the dinner table travels 1,500 miles.”

To shorten the distance ingredients travel, the Sullivans substitute out many common ingredients. For example, instead of using lemons for acidity, she uses sumac, a tree indigenous to North America and abundant in Washington.

Let’s make halibut soup: Cooking demonstration and dinner

Chef Jak Sullivan showed participants how to make a bouillabaisse from halibut bones and fillets.

He put rinsed, then briefly roasted, halibut bones and aromatic vegetables, e.g. leeks, celery, and parsley, into a large pot filled with regular water.

The bones and aromatics, Sullivan said, should be simmered for about 2 hours. But Sullivan warned that simmering for any longer would bring out bitterness from the fish, unlike beef or pork.

Next, Sullivan rolled out, on a cart, moist pieces of halibut straight out of the oven. These pieces, Sullivan said, were roasted for 7 or 8 minutes. He added that, to finish the dish, the halibut pieces would need to go back into the oven for just a little bit more and be added into the fish broth.

Then the best part arrived: a main course of halibut bouillabaisse and halibut à la crêpe (halibut wrapped in a crêpe).

The bouillabaisse had two kinds of halibut to compare: Pacific Halibut from Alaska and Pacific Halibut from the Salish Sea.

When asked for a verdict, many attendees favored the Salish Sea halibut. They explained that the Alaskan halibut was dry and had a fishy smell, but that the Salish halibut was moist and had a milder flavor.

Wine to accompany the dinner was provided by Peter Nikolic of BE’s Wine.

Lummi Island

At the end of the event, participants had an opportunity to purchase products made on Lummi Island, an island in the Salish Sea. Items included smoked sockeye salmon caught in the Fraser River, which flows into the Salish Sea, and wild fish broth.

One participant who did not like smoked salmon sampled Lummi smoked sockeye and changed her mind. She added that the salmon was “buttery.”

The items mentioned above can be found on . Jessica Sullivan speaking to attendees: visible are some tables with attendees

¹ Source:
² Source: