The San Mateo County Harbor District Board of Commissioners last week unanimously voted to allow the three wholesale companies to sell processed fish and seafood products from their leased spaces at the end of Johnson Pier.

The new lease agreement with three companies, Morning Star Fisheries, McHenry Fisheries, and Three Captains Seafood Products, allows them to sell processed, cooked, boned or filleted seafood to the public but only during non-loading hours on the pier. Unlike off-the-boat sales, the wholesalers are required to get a permit from the San Mateo County Health Department.

The agreement also increases the district’s fee from off-the-dock gross sales from 2.5 percent to 3 percent. According to a staff report, the Harbor District received $298 in fiscal year 2018-2019, $411 in fiscal year 2019-2020, and $158 during the pandemic-riddled 2020-2021 fiscal year.

The Revenue and Income Ad Hoc Committee of the Harbor District was worried about overcrowding Johnson Pier during commercial hours, when boats are loading or unloading fish. It initially recommended the wholesalers could sell during loading or unloading hours only if a customer was escorted by an employee of the fish buyer. But the wholesale companies last month indicated they were not interested in selling at their buildings during operational hours.

“That would significantly reduce the traffic on busy weekends off the pier and to the market,” General Manager Jim Pruett said.

The topic of expanding the lease came before the board in August and prompted the district to consider establishing a seafood market in Pillar Point Harbor that would be akin to Half Moon Bay’s Coastside Farmers Market. The board will discuss estimated costs for the proposed market at its Dec. 15 meeting.

Because of regulations that require each fisherman at a seafood market to have a boatload of facilities, including handwashing stations, toilets, garbage and protective coverings, the Harbor District is considering its own seafood market that could provide blanket coverage and pay for facilities fishermen could use. A staff report noted that the south end of Parking Lot A, currently permit-only parking, would be the most likely place for the market during weekends and holidays.

“I think it’s a great idea to explore this, and it could solve a lot of problems,” Commissioner Ed Larenas said.

August Howell is a staff writer for the Review covering city government and public safety. Previously, he was the Review’s community, arts and sports reporter. He studied journalism at the University of Oregon.

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