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Real Good Fish | Fishermen A-Z | | Fishermen | Bringing you the freshest sustainably caught LOCAL seafood!
“Perhaps I should not have been a fisherman, he thought. But that was the thing that I was born for.”
- Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea
Jeff Hepp

At Real Good Fish, we source wild ridgeback and spot prawns from the Channel Islands, and Jeff Hepp is one of our go-to fishermen for them. Jeff takes great care of the prawns and their environment. 

He has modified his trawl net to minimize bycatch by adding two excluder devices, one towards...

At Real Good Fish, we source wild ridgeback and spot prawns from the Channel Islands, and Jeff Hepp is one of our go-to fishermen for them. Jeff takes great care of the prawns and their environment. 

He has modified his trawl net to minimize bycatch by adding two excluder devices, one towards the bottom that is a "separator sack" with five-inch mesh to let fish out, and the other towards the top of the net that is a ten foot zipper to let fish out, so there is little or no bycatch. He has also modified the bottom of his trawl net to keep it slightly above the bottom and minimize its effect on the environment, a method known as "light touch" trawling.

Jeff lands his prawns in Santa Barbara, and once they're transferred to Real Good Fish, they're put in seawater tanks pumped with oxygen and driven north overnight. Ridgeback and spot prawns are both highly perishable, and since we don’t use any chemicals, they need to be delivered while they're as fresh from the ocean as possible. Ours will sometimes arrive still moving, and while it can be startling, the flavor and integrity of these prawns is so worth it - sweet, clean and mild, with no chemical aftertaste and no ethical compromise.

Fisherman Jeff Hepp’s favorite way to prepare ridgeback prawns, "I just boil them with a little salt and sprigs of fresh rosemary.” Check out our Recipes section for some Real Good Fish favorites!

For more on why we source local wild-caught prawns from Jeff, see our blog post "Step Away From the Shrimp Buffet!" It shines a needed light on serious problems in the shrimp industry.

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Giuseppe Pennisi

Giuseppe, who goes by "Joe," comes from a long line of family fishermen. Joe's great grandfather was born in Sicily and emigrated to Monterey in 1906. Joe started fishing with his father on the F/V San Giovanni at the age of 7. It wasn't too much later when he took over fishing and running his...

Giuseppe, who goes by "Joe," comes from a long line of family fishermen. Joe's great grandfather was born in Sicily and emigrated to Monterey in 1906. Joe started fishing with his father on the F/V San Giovanni at the age of 7. It wasn't too much later when he took over fishing and running his father's boats during the summer when the regular crew was fishing up in Alaska. During the school year, Joe and his brothers would fish after school and on weekends, often landing more fish than the old timers who were fishing all week!

By the age of 18, Joe purchased his own boat, the F/V All Mighty, and motored up to Alaska from Seattle. He fished that boat for 3 years, until it sank due to a cracked weld from the icy water. For a few more years he worked on a factory trawler that fished night and day for Alaskan pollock, bringing in 200-300 tons per HOUR, and turning that fish into "fake crab," also known as surimi. After putting in some serious time up north, Joe found a boat in Gloucester, Massachusetts, the F/V Vito C. He motored it down the East Coast, through the Panama Canal, and up the West Coast to Monterey. "It wasn't an easy trip," he said, "big stormy seas all the way down to Panama." When he returned to Monterey, quotas were cut dramatically, which didn't make it feasible to own a boat as large as the Vito C., so he sold it for a much smaller boat: the F/V Pioneer, which he owns and operates today.

Joe and the Pioneer are a remarkable story. When he purchased the Pioneer, he was only able to run it for a few years until the economics of running the boat were unfeasible, given the amount of fish he was allowed to catch and the amount of fish he had to throw back. At that time, shortsighted regulation and management strategies had him throwing back more fish than he would bring to the dock. "We'd bring in 25,000 pounds of fish in one tow and have to discard 80% of it." It wasn't long before the economics and morality of such an endeavor made him realize he was involved in a fishery causing more harm than good, so he left the water and turned to the shore to start a new career as a general contractor. Around that time, in 2004, Joe's brother, David "Rowdy" Pennisi, was lost at sea fishing aboard his boat, the F/V Relentless. The tragic event, still shrouded in mystery and uncertainty, has left ripples in our community that can be felt today.

Fast forward 8 years to 2011, Joe returned to the Pioneer when the Pacific Fisheries Management Council revised its management strategy to address the unsustainable discards and dying industry. A new "catch shares" management strategy was implemented, giving fishermen the freedom to work together and sell and trade quota, including bycatch species, as a way to collectively support economic success and reduce environmental impact. This management strategy is not without controversy and conflict, however, because there is the opportunity for large corporate interests to aggregate large quantities of quota as a form of monopolization in the industry. Fortunately, there are emerging policies being put in place to protect fishermen and their communities from these inequitable market forces. In the long term, the verdict is still out on how this management strategy will change the lives of those who call this coast home. For the short term, it is a light at the end of the tunnel, giving fishermen like Joe a sense of hope that hasn't been felt for many years.

Within the context of this management shift, Joe was able to start fishing again. And not only has he been able to start fishing again, Joe has been able to improve his vessel's overall efficiency, reduce environmental impact, and improve product quality. The net that he custom built reduces bottom contact by 95%, while reducing the weight of the gear by 9,500 pounds. The vessel has been outfitted with new engines that decrease emissions while improving power, and most recently he's installed state of the art refrigeration to keep the product on his boat at 32 degrees. It's been a long, challenging journey for Joe, but he's never lost sight of what makes him happy: his family and fishing.

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