Interviewee: Larry Collins

Role: President, San Francisco Community Fishing Association

Date of Interview: January 23, 2015

Collection: Preserving the Working Waterfront

Click on the link below to view the interview.

Larry Collins Interview

Abstract: Larry Collins, President of the San Francisco Community Fishing Association discusses the context, origins, and development of the fishing association. He describes the need for access to fish, markets, and infrastructure in order for working waterfronts to succeed. He explains that the fishing association was created in an effort to address the needs of the small boat fishermen in San Francisco as catch share programs posed challenges to this fleet. With the protection afforded to the association under a grant from the State of California, the association is thriving and serves as a cooperative model for west coast communities.

Transcript: My name is Larry Collins. I'm the President of the San Francisco Community Fishing Association. I started this place, found the funding, found the leases, got it up and running, got the members to join. I buy and sell and do the logistics for all their fish, collect the money and get them paid, and basically manage the dock.

My wife and I started fishing in 1984 or '85, I can't remember which. We started very early on in our career to become involved in fish politics because we saw the way it was going. To have a working waterfront you basically need access to the fish, access to the markets, and infrastructure to handle the logistics of moving the fish off the boats and onto and--into the markets. So early on I saw that access to the fish was getting harder and harder to come by, and I noticed the crumbling infrastructure and noticed that the big boats tended to get more access and better taken care of than the small boats.

And so my whole career I've worked on trying to preserve the small-boat fisheries on the West Coast because I believe that super-efficiency is not sustainable, and I believe that the small-boat portfolio fishing business model works way better as far as bringing fresh food into the local communities. And it's important as far as our food security

We opened this place in February of '11 and it was really kind of the end of the bottom of things. We settled into the neighborhood and we're good neighbors and it's working out better for everybody than they thought it would. I mean a lot of them didn't think we were going to make it and now on any summer day, when you look up and down the dock, you see most of the activity under the red hoist here, more so than anybody else's hoist.

The way you make something like this work is by developing relationships. That's the most important capital you have in doing something like this, is developing relationships with people and agencies and government and other businesses. The business succeeds or fails because of relationships.

The guys that have done this for 30, 40, 50, 60 years, those guys understand the working waterfront. Because we've been to every port up and down the coast and some ports work better than other ports. So I'm always getting input about how to make this work better. And they're not shy. And that's my role as a manager.

Access to fish, fuel and ice, and unloading infrastructure and markets. That's the basis of any working port community. And if you have those things, that community will thrive. And we don't have those things in a lot of communities. And access is a problem in every community. This market here is just so perfectly designed for that way of thinking in the Bay Area. You know, know your farmer, know your fisherman. It's the perfect place. It just lends itself to that kind of small-scale, high-quality production. And that's what we're trying to do here.

This collection is part of an effort to document oral histories that focus on the application of specific tools for sustaining working waterfronts across the country To learn more about the Preserving the Working Waterfront Oral History project, click here.