Meet the Fishpeople Keeping Seafood, and Jobs, Local

By Catherine Johnson
December 28, 2015
Fish People

Zeke Estrella is happiest on the ocean.

That’s where the skipper of the Sunset Charge spends up to two weeks at a time, catching albacore tuna 200 miles off the Oregon coast, away from family, friends, and anything resembling civilization.  

Sharing small quarters, the crew rises every morning with the sun, surrounded by nothing but water, a few seagulls, and the cool Pacific breeze. The days are long and grueling, but the “thrill of the hunt” and the brotherly bond of the team draws Zeke back to the sea every tuna season.

They work quickly until sunset, with few breaks. Their task: trolling the ocean for fish and filling up the boat’s freezer with as much fresh albacore tuna as they can, before cruising back to coastal Washington … where they unpack their catch, and ship the fish just a few miles down the road to Fishpeople headquarters, where it is hand-processed and packed up into bags, many of which get sent to Walmart stores.

Zeke’s teammate, Fallon Child, spends his days pulling tuna into the boat one by one. Because Fishpeople is a sustainable fishery, every fish caught on the Sunset Charge is caught by hand. There are no nets—only a pole, a strong work ethic, and a shared love of the ocean by everyone on board.

While a significant portion of the seafood Americans eat is caught by U.S. fishermen, exported overseas for processing, and then returned to the U.S., Fishpeople represents one of many companies making, or in this case, catching, processing, packaging and fulfilling their products, here in the U.S.  In fact, every fish they sell can be tracked back to the fisherman who caught it, via a code on the packaging. This dedication to local harvesting and healthy oceans can remain intact, while they continue to grow with support from Walmart.

Fallon believes in Fishpeople’s commitment to wild-caught fish. “They like to focus on the most sustainable fisheries as possible. Taking only what they can. Which is great. I want my kids to be able to go out there and fish for albacore tuna just like I did,” he says.

Zeke agrees: “Just the fact that the food is staying here locally, the consumer gets to eat a product that was caught right off their coast, that’s a big deal. […] there’s not another boat out there that does what we do.”