Two Salty Girls at the Helm of the Sustainable Seafood Movement
Salty: of the sea, sailing or life at sea.
Meeting through a shared passion of oceans, fisheries and entrepreneurship, Salty Girl Seafood founders Norah Eddy and Laura Johnson started formulating their business model in the Galapagos while working on their master’s theses at UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental Science and Management. Acting as both students and entrepreneurs, they launched Salty Girl Seafood in 2013, with a hope to solve environmental problems creatively.
“Despite everything that is out there, seafood is really confusing to people,” says Johnson. “This was our goal—to make it easy to choose products that are both sustainable and traceable.”
With Eddy’s background in marine biology and Johnson’s in marine education, their observations working in the Galapagos lobster fishery as graduate students showed them the importance of creating innovative solutions to transition fisheries toward sustainability. Inspired by the family fishing operations they worked with in Alaska, the company hopes to see smaller-scale fisherman maintain their livelihoods while protecting our oceans and the health of fish stocks.
“Traceability in our food system is important whether its seafood or meat or lettuce,” says Eddy. “These are the questions we need to be asking as consumers, especially for seafood because it’s a wild thing, a natural resource.”
Promoting education and awareness locally (and globally), the company recently won at the 2015 Fish 2.0 competition, where competitors in the seafood industry pitch to highly connected investors and venture capitalists. This Shark Tank-inspired competition launched the company, making sustainable and traceable seafood easy, fun and, most importantly, necessary.
“Part physical, part personality, Salty Girl embodies everything—this company is about a connection to the marine environment and the ocean and making sure we support that for ourselves and future generations,” says Johnson.
With sustainability an ongoing process, the company continues to adjust and evaluate its practices. Partnering with Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch and FishWise.org, Salty Girl lists the port of landing and gear type for each wild-caught product. The packaging also includes easy to understand traceability information via codes, encouraging consumers to go online and trace their fish with details on who, what and where the seafood was harvested.
“The biggest thing to us is making sure customers have faith in our company and our brand,” says Johnson. “We want consumers to have as much information as possible so they can make smart food choices.”
Current product selections include Pacific rockfish with garlic fresh veggies, black cod with sweet and smoky teriyaki and Coho salmon with lemon pepper and garlic (all gluten-free). In addition, smoked albacore tuna and sockeye salmon can be ordered online. Each item is traceable to the source on the back of the package, from Alaska to the Oregon coast.
“This is really our dream product. We are 100% our customers,” says Johnson. “It’s been a long road, but having somebody to go through it with—you can’t put it into words, but I wouldn’t be here without my business partner.”
Since graduating in 2014, the women at Salty Girl Seafood have successfully created a business model that drives sustainability—one that promises to see that the health of the oceans, fisheries and fishing communities continue far into our future. At the helm of the movement are two salty girls, redefining the industry to drive positive change in our oceans.
“Starting something from nothing has been incredibly empowering. It’s been a real adventure,” says Eddy. “You don’t get greatness from sitting on your heels; to me that’s entrepreneurship.”
Salty Girl products and recipes can be found throughout natural food stores in California, the Pacific Northwest, the East Coast and online at saltygirlseafood.com.
This story was originally published in the Fall 2016 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine. (Editor’s Note: This story was revised for clarifications on October 11, 2016.)