Finest at Sea’s Rose— No Shrinking Violet!
By Rita Button
The plan was to write an article about the boats moored at Fisherman’s Wharf, where, I discovered, Finest at Sea, the seafood boutique on Erie, moors part of its fleet. And then I met Rose, retail manager of Finest at Sea, who carried me off in a groundswell of excitement. So here’s Rose!
Rose Brewer catches halibut. She catches a lot of other stuff too, but, mostly, others catch her enthusiasm for the work at Finest At Sea. I talked to Rose for an hour or so, and in that hour, I lost track of the number of times she repeated her admiration of the people with whom she works.
Focused and thirsty for knowledge, Rose is interested in all facets of the Finest at Sea world, so welcomes all opportunities to experience an unfamiliar part of the business. Five years ago, she started working in their food cart, and is currently the retail manager of the Erie Street store where many of us select our purchases from a multitude of magnificent seafood offerings.
She’s proud of knowing the origin of each piece of seafood. The tape that holds the brown paper around the fish you’ve just bought gives you the information of who caught it as well as the date and time it was caught. No mystery about what you’re eating—it’s wild, it’s sustainable, and it tastes wonderful.
One reason it tastes so great is that Finest at Sea’s vessels have freezer capacity on board; hence, they freeze the catch immediately, thereby preserving the freshness of the fish. It’s cut into fillets or steaks, smoked or prepared for the deli or food cart right there on Erie Street.
Except for halibut. It is never frozen. The boats go out for three days and use long line fishing, a sustainable way of catching fish. The first day, the crew attaches hooks and bait to the thousands of feet of line. The next day, they haul in the lines to harvest the fish they’ve caught. If fish other than halibut has succumbed to the bait, the bi-catch license FAS has allows the crew to keep the fish that isn’t halibut such as skate or rockfish which they can sell at the store in the days to come. When taking the fish off the hooks, the crew must release any fish that are too light or too heavy. Heavy fish are usually females, and it’s against Canadian law to catch females.
Rose is ecstatic about the great fishing laws Canada has developed over the years. Since the Fisheries Department ensures the laws are enforced, sustainable fishing occurs, ensuring that people will be able to fish far into the future. The fishing vessels are required to have video cameras recording the action on the bow and stern of each boat. Fisheries officers weigh and count the catch, making sure that the laws are followed.
Finest at Sea, or as it was once known, Frozen at Sea, is a big company with a small town feel. Rose is able to talk directly to anyone in the company—the fisherman, the processor, the chef—all who contribute to the product they sell. Everyone is able to do any one of the tasks required. They work together.
And since the company values everyone’s learning and experiencing as much as possible about all facets of fishing and marketing, Rose has been able to go halibut fishing two consecutive seasons. Getting out on the water is one of the true pleasures of her life. Going out to sea is “so calming,” says Rose. “It’s beautiful. Out there, on the ocean, there’s nothing else that you could be doing other than what you are doing, even though it might be pulling guts out of a fish!” Earthbound worries float away as the boat leaves the dock.
“Cold windy days can be tough, but they’re still beautiful out on the water,” maintains Rose. In this kind of weather, the crew has to be careful that they don’t snap the lines when they’re hauling in the fish. Snapping the lines is a two-fold loss—the loss of the fish, and the loss of the gear. It happens, but it mars the day.
Still, there’s nothing better than being out there, and Rose is campaigning to be a part of the spot prawn season on the Nordic Rand. Spot prawns are also not frozen, and since the boats go out and return daily, it’s only hours from the time the prawn was scooped from the ocean and placed in the live tank before the customer chooses his/her own jumping prawns for dinner that evening.
As well, Rich Mcbride, a co-worker, and Rose volunteer for science research trips for the Pacific Salmon Foundation. They check water samples to ensure the fishery is sustainable for all the amazing life that lives beneath the surface.
For all her enthusiasm, I noticed that Rose was reluctant to talk about her halibut fishing experience, even though, when she goes, she is the only woman on the halibut boat. She doesn’t think it’s fair that she goes out for one session and gets noticed, while others are anonymously and thanklessly at sea for months at a time with no public acknowledgement or gratitude. Sometimes, however, it’s good to see that in appreciating one person—Paul Chaddock, the operations manager, commented, “We’re all proud of Rose,”—others can understand that they, too, are valued as a part of the whole.
In fact, that’s what Rose kept hammering home to me: she is grateful for all the knowledge she has gained from her co-workers at FAS who, by telling her what they know, have given her the knowledge to understand all she can in order to offer the best that’s available. That’s what she does every day at Finest At Sea. But she’s not the only one—everyone else is there working as a part of the team enjoying the success they create together.
Together would be Rose’s last word. It’s how she works and how she sees the company’s value.