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By Katy Kawasoe
The success behind the operations at Real Good Fish is primarily due to our fisherman partners. Their support and dedication in helping us share our love of sustainable seafood with folks like you help us keep local seafood accessible & affordable to enhance our communities. We recently sat down with Daniel (Danny) Fuller, Captain of the AUDAX, a 28' Bertram we work with out of San Diego, California. He and his two partners, Brian Sims and Markus Medak will be commissioning their new vessel, the Shearwater, in Spring 2022.
While Danny spends a considerable amount of time on the water, he is also a senior scientist with the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC). The IATTC is an international commission responsible for conserving and managing tuna and other marine resources in the eastern Pacific Ocean, giving Danny unique insight into fisheries and resource management. While he has always believed in managing resources sustainably, he says, "I've [also] always believed my role in science is one where I could help keep fishermen fishing. Conservation and management are often seen as a 'this or that' proposal. Still, I think there are traditional management strategies which can be applied to both manage the resources sustainably and keep the US commercial fisherman operational and profitable."
On the AUDAX, Danny and the crew target swordfish, bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna, yellowtail, white seabass, and halibut. Their primary fishing methods are deep-set buoy gear (DSBG), rod-and-reel, and handline. Their new vessel, the Shearwater which will be commissioned in 2022, is a 40-ft Wegley, with accommodations for nine, a fish hold capacity of about 8-tons, and equipped with a state-of-the-art refrigerated seawater system.
We asked Danny to share how he got into fishing, who inspired him, and what he loves about it. Enjoy getting to know a little more about Captain Danny Fuller.
Who inspired your interest in fishing?
I was fishing before I could even walk, inspired by both my father and grandfather. Some of my fondest memories are of fishing albacore and yellowtail along the coast of San Diego with my father and grandfather during the late 70's and early 80's. When I was a kid, my grandfather was a ham radio operator in San Diego and was one of the main points of contact for the purse-seine fleet operating out of San Diego. This was during the heyday of the fishery when the fleet was US-built, owned, and operated. My grandfather's friendship with these US owners, captains, and chief engineers had a lasting impact on me. I miss the days when these boats were home for the holidays and tied up along the San Diego waterfront.
When did you get your first boat?
While not our first boat, we purchased the Audax, in 1991. This boat allowed me to hone my skills as a fisherman. I had previously worked as a deckhand on a couple of different swordfish harpoon boats and some passenger-carrying fishing vessels in the late '80s and early '90s, where I had the opportunity to learn from some fantastic captains, but nothing compared to the years behind the helm of the Audax.
What's your favorite thing about being out on the water?
It's tough to answer what my favorite thing about being on the water is, as there are so many different and unique things. However, I love the challenge of adapting to the dynamic conditions we experience daily. No two days are the same, so it's a constant battle to observe and adapt to succeed. Success is dependent on how well you can adapt and apply that information to the decision process. I also enjoy teaching my son what it takes to operate a boat while also instilling in him a solid work ethic and an appreciation for the environment that provides an opportunity to make a living.
So, you're part of a 3-generation swordfishing family? Tell us about that.
Our crew consists of my father Bill, my son Hayden (10), and myself. Hayden fishes with us most days during the summer while he's not in school. While one might think there isn't much a 10-year old can do while fishing, it's quite the contrary. He works long, hard days with zero complaints, can rig and set gear, dress fish, stack and stow gear, and even operate the boat. Despite his small stature, he more than makes up for it in determination and effort. It won't be long before I step back and let him run the operations!
What are your favorite species to catch, and why?
Our favorite fish to catch is swordfish using the DSBG method. We've been using DSBG for about five years now and are still learning how to be effective consistently. DSBG is a relatively new method that exempted fishery permit holders have implanted over the last 5 – 7 years. It's an effective method that selectively targets swordfish while eliminating most, if not all, non-target catches. Circle hooks are mandatory in the fishery, so when non-target species are hooked, they can be released with relatively little harm. We are constantly redesigning our gear to improve bite to hook ratios and refining where to fish to realize the highest catch per unit of effort.
I also think swordfish is delicious, regardless of preparation. I enjoy cooking it over charcoal with nothing more than a little olive oil, salt, and pepper—It makes the fish shine when prepared this way. And, swordfish piccata served with a lemon risotto—divine!
Why is sustainability in fishing vital?
I think it's essential to provide consumers with all the information necessary to make informed decisions about what fish is socially acceptable based on harvest methods or stock status. I like how Real Good Fish promotes locally sourced seafood from US fishers. Nowhere else in the world is there more oversight of fisheries, and by default, the consumer can guarantee that the product is sustainably harvested from a managed fishery. Regardless of the fishery, each fisher has a vested interest in having as minimal impact on the ecosystem possible.
For example, the fisheries within which we participate are highly target-specific, and we generally land live fish. If we hook something other than the target species, we can safely release them quickly and with as little harm as possible. During our 2021 tuna and swordfish operations, we caught only swordfish, bluefin, and yellowfin tuna. Because of the hook and line methods we employ, we handle each fish one at a time. We take great care to quickly and humanely dispatch each fish to minimize stress and preserve each in the highest quality.
Below: Surface portion of DSBG showing the flag, hardball, and bite indicator floats.
We're proud to partner with Danny and appreciate his work to make fishing more sustainable. To find out more about our fishermen partners, click HERE.