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Lobster Prices Are on the Rise Just in Time for Peak Season

Lobster Prices Are on the Rise Just in Time for Peak Season



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Changing water temperatures in New England are causing the average prices of lobster to increase by $2 per pound

Your annual lobster bake may cost a little bit more this year.

Nothing says summer like cracking open a beautiful lobster shell with a beer and good friends by your side. Already, prices of lobster per pound are at least $1 to $2 more than last year.

According to Business Insider, warmer water temperature cause lobsters to molt earlier in the year, creating a lobster boom by the time fishing season starts. In 2012, the year of the last East Coast “ocean heat wave,” lobster abundance caused the lowest prices for the popular shellfish since the 1930s, according to University of Maine research professor Richard Wahle. However, since then, Atlantic Ocean waters have cooled off.The serious cold snap in New England this year will cause even more damage: Colder water temperatures + a predicted later molting season = fewer lobsters and significantly higher prices.

Researchers predict that molting season will occur in late July or early August, which will create a ripple effect in supply and demand internationally. This may not be a fluke occurrence, either. With fewer lobster larvae in the waters around New England, this could be a blow to the previously booming lobster business, according to Wahle.


3.4: The Effect of Demand and Supply Shifts on Equilibrium

​2.) Use the line drawing tool to draw a supply curve that shifts to the leftleft by lessless than the demand line. Label this line ​'S2​'.

​3.) Use the point drawing tool to identify the new point of equilibrium. Label this point

The​ student's remarks​ (that, because of these​ events, we​ can't know for certain whether the price of premium bottled water will rise or​ fall) is

​Source: Siobhan​ Hughes, Natalie​ Andrews, and Kristina​ Peterson, "Senate Looks to Move Fast on Trump Administration​ Hearings, Health​ Law," Wall Street Journal​, January​ 8, 2017.

​Source: Marvin G.​ Perez, "Coffee-Loving Millennials Push Demand to a​ Record," bloomberg.com, October​ 30, 2016.

Use a demand and supply graph of the coffee market to illustrate how the equilibrium quantity of coffee can increase as a result of these events. Be sure that all curves on your graphs are properly​ labeled, that you show any shifts in those​ curves, and that you indicate the initial and final equilibrium points.

​1.) Using the line drawing​ tool, graph the effect of the growth in millennial demand for coffee by drawing a new demand curve. Label your curve ​'D2​.'

​2.) Using the line drawing​ tool, graph the effect of dry weather and droughts on coffee crops by drawing a new supply curve. Label your curve ​'S2​.'

a. Can we use this information to be certain whether the equilibrium price of orange juice will increase or​ decrease?

b. Can we use this information to be certain whether the equilibrium quantity of orange juice will increase or​ decrease?
Use a demand and supply graph to illustrate your answers to the questions above.

​Source: Jay​ Harlow, "Lobster: An Affordable​ Luxury," Sallybernstein.com.

To show whether the price of lobster is higher or lower during the fall than during the​ summer,

​1.) Use the line drawing tool to draw a lobster supply curve (Ssummer) and a lobster demand curve (Dsummer) for the summer. Properly label the lines.

​2.) Use the line drawing tool to draw a lobster supply curve
​(SFall​) and a lobster demand curve (DFall​) for the fall that reflects improved fishing conditions and that vacationers have gone home. Properly label the lines.

​"the enormous imports of cheap bananas into the United States tend to curtail the domestic consumption of fresh fruits produced in the United​ States."

​Source: Quoted in Douglas A.​ Irwin, Peddling​ Protectionism: Smoot-Hawley and the Great​ Depression, Princeton,​ NJ: Princeton University​ Press, 2011, p. 22.

This producer apparently assumed apples and bananas to be__________.

In a graph​ (not shown) of the banana market in the United​ States, the imposition of a tariff on banana imports would _________________________.

​Source: Andrew​ Ward, "BP Warns of Price Pressures from​ Long-Term Oil​ Glut," Financial Times​, January​ 25, 2017.

Is the​ student's analysis​ correct? Illustrate your answer with a demand and supply graph.

​1.) Using the line drawing​ tool, graph the effect of growth in U.S. shale oil by drawing a new supply curve. Label your curve ​'S2​.'

​2.) Using the line drawing​ tool, graph the effect of the increasing use of electric vehicles by drawing a new demand curve. Label your curve ​'D2​.'

​Source: Lee A.​ Craig, Barry​ Goodwin, and Thomas​ Grennes, "The Effect of Mechanical Refrigeration on Nutrition in the​ U.S.," Social Science History​, Vol.​ 28, No. 2​ (Summer 2004), pp.​ 327-328.

​1.) Use the line drawing tool to draw new demand and supply curves illustrating the changes described above. Properly label the lines.

​2.) Use the point drawing tool to plot the 2018 equilibrium. Properly label the point.

​"Increased production leads to a lower​ price, which in turn increases​ demand."

She drew the graph to the right and explained it as​ follows: "Electrolytes are an input to some brands of premium bottled​ water, so a fall in the price of electrolytes will cause the supply curve for premium bottled water to shift to the right​ (from S1 to S2). Because this shift in the supply curve results in a lower price (P2), consumers will want to buy more premium bottled water and the demand curve will shift to the right​ (from D1 to D2) We know that more premium bottled water will be​ sold, but we​ can't be sure whether the price of premium bottled water will rise or fall. That depends on whether the supply curve or the demand curve has shifted farther to the right. I assume that the effect on supply is greater than the effect on​ demand, so I show the final equilibrium price (P3) as being lower than the initial equilibrium price (P1)."

Match each scenario with the appropriate diagram.
a. A decrease in the supply of sports​ drinks: 4

b. A drop in the average household income in the United States from​$56,000 to​$52,000: 3

c. An improvement in the bottling technology for premium bottled​ water: 2

Given the above​ developments:

​1.) Use the line drawing tool to draw a new demand curve. Label this line ​'D2​'.


Grocery & Bakery | Soybean Oil

Global vegetable oil prices have remained firm amid increased demand, lower palm oil stocks, and perceived dry weather in South America as the country waits on its upcoming crop to come to fruition. When adding up the soybean shipments to China from January to November of this year, the totals are 3x higher than 2019! This is mostly due to a rebuilding of their stocks after Covid-19 and the increased demand needed to feed their rebuilt hog herds. It may seem like a distant memory, but you'll recall one of the biggest stories of 2019 was African Swine Fever and its destruction of the Chinese hog supply (Approx. 50% down). The hog inventories have since rebounded to 85% of what it once was, but the biggest change is in the diet. The new farms which have come online are using a more consistent, soy-based diet than what a lot of the backyard farms of the past had used. Ag commodities have responded with price levels not seen since 2014. Prices are expected to remain firm at least into the first quarter of 2020, awaiting the production results from South America. A good crop should help alleviate pricing pressure. If there are any disruptions, we could see prices move higher.


Peak Tourist Season in Belize

Belize combines the rugged beauty of the jungles of Central America with the pristine coastline of the Caribbean islands. Yet, unlike its neighbors to the north (Tulum, Cancun) and east (the Cayman Islands, Jamaica), Belize is not on every traveler’s radar, at least not yet. Though many regions of the country remain gloriously untouched—the Maya mountains, the Cayo jungle, and numerous of the nation’s off-shore islands—destinations such as San Pedro become incrementally more popular in the wintertime.

The peak season arrives in November, starting with Thanksgiving, and ends in mid-April, after the last of the revelers enjoying spring break boards their return flight home. The heaviest rush of visitors descends upon its tropical soil from mid-December to mid-January. During this time, the cost of travel—hotel rates, airline tickets, regional activities—rises accordingly, as there is a higher demand.

Cost-conscious visitors should consider holding off on booking their stay until early spring when the prices drop, but temperatures do not. Aside from the often-fleeting afternoon shower (to be expected in a land known for its rainforest), the weather remains warm and sunny in Belize year-round.


Livelihood lobster fishing cast adrift: How DFO’s inaction has history repeating itself

St. Mary’s Bay in southwestern Nova Scotia is full of lobster. It is one of the most plentiful spots within the most lucrative lobster fishing area (LFA 34, technically) in Canada. It is also—as its name suggests—a bay. Flanked by the long peninsula of Digby Neck and its islands, the bay’s long, narrow body of water is relatively calm and its depth relatively shallow compared to the larger fishing area it lays in. These qualities combined make it a very attractive place to fish.

Its resources are in high demand by Indigenous and non-Indigenous fishers alike, and for more than 20 years it has seen tensions between the two communities turn from boil to simmer, to boil again. Recently, it made headlines internationally. Tensions in the area erupted into violence and destruction after the Sipekne’katik First Nation launched its own, self-regulated fishery, outside of the commercial season, based on Mi’kmaq treaty rights.

To Alex McDonald, one of the oldest still-fishing Indigenous lobster boat captains of the area, the chaos this year was nothing new.

“You know what, I've been at this so fucking long, two, three hundred non-natives come in to the wharf causing shit is nothing new,” he says. “I'm so used to it, I just brush it off ‘cause I know it's bullshit.”

Since he was a child, McDonald has been hunting and fishing under his treaty rights his grandfather introduced him to, long before today’s generation heard of the term “moderate livelihood” and even before the Supreme Court’s Marshall ruling in 1999.

Last fall—before the COVID-19 pandemic, before this year’s violence—I went aboard McDonald’s boat to see how he fished.

  • McDonald working aboard the French Lilly on a calm grey morning in November, 2019.
  • Stefan Sinclair-Fortin

“T he water’s flat as hell,” McDonald says in his gruff Boston accent, as he steers his fishing boat out to sea. The 43-foot, aqua-green boat named the French Lilly leaves Saulnierville wharf in St. Mary’s Bay. Its diesel engine chugs away loudly in the calm morning. A few snowflakes gently fall from the sky some are caught by the boat’s draft and follow along for a moment before moving on.

McDonald follows his GPS to where he has laid his traps. He keeps an eye on the pixelated screen of his depth finder, looking for rocky bottom where lobsters like to live. “Inside that dip would be a good spot,” he says.

The French Lilly is McDonald’s seventh boat, fishing its fifth season with him now in November, 2019. He has been fishing for over 20 years. Before, he worked in construction doing drywall and masonry work, and spent a period of his life working around Boston—where he got his accent. He likes fishing more than construction, and he says because he has no bad habits he was able to save up enough money to buy his first boat.

The commercial lobster fishing season here isn’t scheduled to open for another 11 days, but McDonald already has traps soaking in the water. On the ocean’s calm, grey horizon, three other boats are seen fishing. Like McDonald, they are all Indigenous fishers who have the right to fish year-round. Some may be fishing to feed themselves, while others, like McDonald, are fishing to sell their catch.

Livelihood fishing has a controversial past. It has been a point of tension between Indigenous and non-Indigenous fishers, with fisheries officers caught in between. It is a term created by the Supreme Court of Canada, which lacks clarity and has been left to stagnate. For over 20 years, McDonald has been navigating its murky waters.

  • Lobster traps are required by DFO to have biodegradable panels to prevent "ghost fishing," if the trap is lost at sea.
  • Stefan Sinclair-Fortin

I n 1993, Donald Marshall Jr. of the Membertou First Nation was charged with fishing and selling eels out of season and without a licence. He argued that he had the right to do so, as stated in the Peace and Friendship Treaties, signed between the Mi’kmaq and the British in the 18th century. But he was convicted in provincial court. He appealed the conviction, and in September 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada acquitted Marshall of all charges, confirming his right to support himself.

The ruling stated: “The accused’s treaty rights are limited to securing ‘necessaries’ (which should be construed in the modern context as equivalent to a moderate livelihood).” It said a moderate livelihood is less than “the open-ended accumulation of wealth,” but more than barely scraping by, as “Bare subsistence has thankfully receded over the last couple of centuries as an appropriate standard of life” for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

Many non-Indigenous fishers were outraged by the court’s ruling. Threatened by what they perceived as the unregulated access Indigenous people would have to the resource, they protested.

The West Nova Fisherman’s Coalition—a group of non-Indigenous, commercial fishers—applied to the Supreme Court for a rehearing of Marshall’s case. The motion was denied. However, in November 1999 the court offered a clarification of its initial ruling, stating that the federal and provincial governments had the power “to regulate the exercise of a treaty right where justified on conservation or other grounds.” Those other grounds include “compelling and substantial public objectives which may include economic and regional fairness,” but protecting the fishing stocks is the really important thing: “The paramount regulatory objective is conservation and responsibility for it is placed squarely on the minister responsible.”

That minister was, and is, the head of the federal department of fisheries and oceans, which is also called Fisheries and Oceans Canada, but universally known as DFO. In 1999, DFO was dealing with the collapse of cod stocks in the Atlantic and attendant criticism from both conservation-minded people and commercial cod fishers the Marshall decisions publicly added another contentious issue to its portfolio.

The court handed DFO a loosely defined responsibility, its ambiguous boundaries marked by the Indigenous right to whatever a “moderate livelihood” is, and the government’s right to regulate that treaty right as long as it could claim to be acting in the interests of “conservation” or whatever “other grounds” it dared. In this legal grey area, the DFO had to decide how much fishing was too much.

A t the time of the Supreme Court rulings, David Bishara was a detachment supervisor with the DFO in southern Nova Scotia. He’s no longer with the department. When we speak in 2019, he is working as a marine broker, selling fishing licences and quotas. Sitting in his office, a few family photos on his cluttered desk, his memories from decades earlier are strong.

“When the ruling came out, it was basically ‘OK, here we go,’ and ‘How is this going to be managed,’” Bishara says. “We knew there was going to be violence, we knew that there was going to be troubles between the native, non-native community between the fishing industry and the native communities, it was expected by everyone.”

Bishara remembers feeling tension in the air like electricity, as Indigenous fishers slowly began testing the waters. In the year 2000, the tension reached a peak as both sides dug in. Indigenous fishers were going to exercise their rights at all costs, and non-Indigenous fishers in disagreement were going to try to stop them.

“That’s when the proverbial shit hit the fan,” says Bishara. “That’s when the violence, the extreme enforcement, the threats from the non-native community, the threats from the native community…that’s when everything erupted everywhere.”

Under pressure from the commercial fishing industry, the DFO stepped up enforcement. Indigenous fishers maintained they were within their treaty rights and pushed back. Alex McDonald was there, too, and remembers feeling like they were at war.

“They brought in the RCMP with fucking boats and everything. I mean they upped the forces big time,” says McDonald. “It felt like we were on a battlefield. It was stressful, it was fucking, oh it was miserable.”

One summer morning, Bishara, with a team of DFO and RCMP officers, was sent to make arrests of an Indigenous fishing crew for overfishing. It was McDonald’s boat, a predecessor of the French Lilly.

Video taken by the DFO captures the incident. DFO boats surround McDonald’s boat at the wharf. Indigenous fishers stand their ground, grabbing poles and wooden boards, daring the DFO to try and board. Chaos erupts: fists, bats, poles are seen swinging, and people on both sides fall into the water.

“I was one of the ones that went in the water,” says Bishara. As he went to grab a young Indigenous fisher, the operator of Bishara’s boat reversed in a panic, causing both Bishara and the fisher to fall into the water.

“And you know what’s interesting, is the young guy that I was supposed to grab, we grabbed each other but neither one of us wanted to do anything. Neither one of us,” Bishara says. “And I’m thinking, *thank God*. Thank God, because I didn’t want to hit him, I didn’t want to haul out my gun, I didn’t want to have to do any of that stuff. I didn’t even want to be there.”

The people who were arrested were taken to the Digby RCMP building. As things calmed down, someone brought in coffee to share. Everyone was offered a cup, except for one person. Viewed as a ringleader and an instigator, none of the officers would approach McDonald. Looking in the room where McDonald sat, Bishara felt bad for him. He gathered his lunch of meat, cheese and pita bread, and entered the room. He told McDonald who he was, that he was Lebanese and that he felt they had a lot in common his family had also dealt with prejudice and racism. McDonald said he had worked with Lebanese people in the United States and liked them. Sharing Bishara’s lunch, they continued to chat.

A fter being part of many heated exchanges, Bishara could see first-hand that the DFO’s strategy of intense enforcement wasn’t working. He bypassed his chain of command and sent a letter straight to DFO’s regional director: He wasn’t willing to subject his subordinates to that level of violence and stress anymore. The regional director asked Bishara what he thought they should do.

“‘You’re starting from the top down, start from the bottom up,’” Bishara says he told the regional director. “Honest to God, all I could think about is what my father would have said, so that’s what I told him. He said, ‘Do you think we can do something?’ I said, ‘Give me a chance and we’ll see what we can do.’”

Sometime later, Bishara got in touch with McDonald, who had recently become chief of his band, the Sipekne’katik First Nation (then known as Indian Brook). He asked if they could meet. McDonald agreed. They met unofficially Bishara didn’t involve any DFO “big brass.” He offered an apology and asked if they could start over. McDonald remembers this as the only time that someone from the DFO has apologized to him.

From that meeting, they agreed to remain in communication and to let each other know if they heard of any tensions that were arising. They would speak with their respective communities and try to calm things down before they had the potential to erupt into violence.

Bishara believes because of the cooperation they established, the blatant disregard and disrespect between the communities stopped. For a long period of time, the rough waters calmed, and the need for intensive enforcement disappeared.

Perhaps DFO “big brass” could have seen this detente as an opportunity to do the hard work of giving practical shape to the Supreme Court’s grey area. It was a chance after one predictable crisis to figure out how to avoid the next one. But the opportunity was wasted. McDonald and Bishara moved on from their leadership roles. What exactly a “moderate livelihood” looks like remains undefined.

Seeing the relationship between the communities regress into violence and destruction in the fall of 2020 would have felt like déjà vu for Bishara, had he not seen it coming.

"About seven years ago I started to complain to DFO that this was going to blow. and that’s exactly what happened,” says Bishara at the end of 2020.

After leaving the DFO, he watched from the sidelines as things turned into a “horrible hornet’s nest”. He says he saw DFO’s inaction lead to abuses of the Marshall decision. More and more lobster was caught without any management plan or regard for conservation and both Indigenous and non-Indigenous players cashed in.

“Non-native fishermen were involved, non-native buyers were involved, money was made by everybody, there were drugs involved, there was organized crime, god knows what else is involved," says Bishara.

A t the wharf where McDonald docks, non-Indigenous fishers climb back and forth from the wharf to their boats, loading gear and making repairs in preparation for the opening of the season. In November 2019, They’re willing to talk about livelihood fishing, so long as their names aren’t mentioned.

“Then they’d burn my fucking boat. Geez man, they’d burn my fucking boat. We already had a boat burned here,” says one man. “I’ve done all this, I’ve been to the media, I’ve had the death threats and the phone calls. Come down here, they stole everything off my fucking boat.”

Tensions are already on the rise, pointing to where they will get to in the fall of 2020. A new generation of fishers and fishery officers is now having to negotiate the same grey area that their predecessors once dealt with.

“The senior advisors that were involved have retired,” says Bishara "The people that have come into fisheries and oceans since then don't have a connection with the communities. They don't have an understanding. They don't know the fishing culture, they don't know the fishing industry.”

The world has also changed since 1999. The technological advancements and political differences of today could be fanning the flames. A wave of right-wing populism has swept over the globe and racist opinions are more freely expressed. Internet groups and social media circulate uninformed opinions and misinformation, while algorithmically curated feeds of information relentlessly reinforce people’s biases, polarizing people. The willingness to understand one another’s communities and history could be shrinking, along with the middle ground needed for cooperation.

Non-Indigenous fishers are forced to the shore in the summer by DFO regulations, and watch from the wharves as Indigenous fishers haul in their catches. Some can’t help but feel like they’re watching helplessly as money is being taken out of their own pockets. Some argue that the playing field isn’t fair. But the most-voiced concern is for conservation, the subject given so much weight by the Supreme Court.

Because there has been no framework put in place for livelihood fishing, catches have gone unrecorded. No one knows exactly how many lobsters have been taken out of the bay over the years and what the long-term effects will be. Commercial lobster landings in LFA 34 have declined since peaking 2016, leaving many non-Indigenous fishers to blame the increase of out-of-commercial season fishing they see happening in the bay.

“It’s a big issue, they take more than a little of the stock. People don’t know what they take out of here in the summer. The trucks go by all the time. I see the crates, it ain’t good,” says one fisher. “It can’t take the 12 months a year.”


B iologist Aaron MacNeil, who specializes in fisheries, conservation and statistics, says it’s normal to see some fluctuation in the numbers. Though there has been a decline, he says it’s not yet nearing a point of concern.

“In St. Mary’s Bay the catch per unit effort is at 82 percent,” says MacNeil in the fall of 2020. Catch per unit effort is a measurement scientists use to judge the health of lobster populations. In LFA 34, it is based on catch amounts recorded by commercial fishers in their logbooks. This means last year the commercial fishery brought in 82 percent of its average yearly catch from the bay—based on a 20-year moving average.

The self-regulated moderate livelihood fishery launched by Sipekne’katik First Nation on September 17, 2020, was fishing 500 traps at its peak. Biologists have said the relatively small increase of traps being fished in the area won't have any adverse effects on the lobster population. MacNeil agrees and says it’s an easy claim to make when comparing 500 traps to the almost 400,000 traps fished commercially in LFA 34—even if the 500 traps are all fished in the smaller area of St. Mary’s Bay.

But more fishing happens in the bay than just Sipekne'katik’s livelihood fishery. It is fished by other bands including nearby Bear River and Acadia First Nations. And in addition to livelihood fishing, the bands fish food, social, and ceremonial licences as well.

“I think part of the confusion here is that there’re three fisheries operating in that bay. There’re the two commercial fisheries—Native and non-Native—and then there’s the food, social and ceremonial fishery,” says MacNeil.

The FSC fishery allows Indigenous people to be able to fish to feed themselves, their families and their communities. Unlike livelihood fishing, it is recognized by DFO who issue fishing licences and trap identification tags to the First Nation communities. Usually an individual band member can fish up to three traps all year round. But the FSC fishery was not created to provide income to Indigenous fishers and lobster caught under an FSC licence can not be sold.

“I often hear ‘you have no idea what’s going on,’” says MacNeil. “What they’re talking about is the size of the food, social, and ceremonial fishery. And they’re right, I have no data on that, all I have is the hearsay from the non-native fishermen that there’s something in the order of 8000 traps in that bay, and that could be possible. But from a scientific perspective it’s very hard to comment on that.”

According to the DFO, limits on FSC harvesting is negotiated between them and individual First Nations. When asked if FSC catches are recorded by DFO science, and if logbooks are used by fishers to record catches, like in the commercial fishery, a DFO spokesperson responded in an email:

“Commercial logbooks are not used to report FSC landings. DFO works with Indigenous communities to understand their FSC fishing needs and activities and to obtain catch monitoring data. Monitoring and catch reporting requirements are reflected in the conditions of the licence.”

MacNeil thinks there needs to be more done to understand what is really going on in the bay.

“There's just so much rumour and not enough science. I think what this conflict highlights, is that we have very little science going on for our most important fishery,” says MacNeil. “I think the time has come for DFO to put more resources into fishery-independent information about Nova Scotia lobster.”

More science could also confirm or dismiss some of the many claims that fishers make, such as St. Mary’s Bay being a lobster spawning ground. A theory that suggests lobsters migrate to the area to breed in the summer months is currently not supported (or dismissed) by any data MacNeil knows of.

Another less-shared point of tension felt by non-Indigenous fishers is that the amount of lobster they catch goes down during the commercial season. Fishers catch around four to five kilograms per haul during the first few weeks of fishing, and within six to eight weeks it drops down to one kilogram. The main reason why is thought to be because the lobster haven’t been fished for several months, giving the populations a chance to grow. And it makes sense: There should be more lobster in the water before fishing starts, than after two months of fishing.

But this means commercial fishers are disproportionately counting on the money they earn from the higher catches landed at the beginning of the commercial season. Fishers who are heavily invested in the industry, carrying large loans with aggressive re-payment terms, fear the pre-season fishing they see happening is cutting into their earnings and is affecting their own livelihoods. Many fishers say they would be fine with livelihood fishing so long as it takes place within the commercial season.

David Bishara doesn’t think a separate Indigenous commercial fishery (like the one Sipekne’katik First Nation launched in September) is the way forward. He says having two different commercial fisheries with different seasons creates a double standard that will never work. It will only lead to more tension between the communities and he thinks things will get much worse.

He says he doesn’t dispute Indigenous people’s treaty rights, but thinks a balance needs to be met. Even though the DFO has so far failed miserably to meet the needs for Indigenous people, it’s still the DFO’s responsibility to step up and make a fishery that will work for everyone. He thinks if the government didn’t let things slide for so long the situation today could have been better.

"They've done an extremely poor job of managing it,” says Bishara. "It's just poor gutless bureaucrats and they’ve failed the rest of the country. The fishermen I know, on both sides, are good people and all want the same thing. they want a roof over their head, they want food, they want to share in the bounty, they want to provide for their families.”

But McDonald says Indigenous fishers will always need their own time to fish two months outside of the commercial season, away from non-Indigenous fishers will always be necessary. He says he has experienced harassment and vandalism of his gear even when he’s fished with a commercial licence during the regular season.

“They still cut your traps, they still ‘whoo whoo’ on the radio, they still cause shit at the wharf for being Indian, so either way it's very hard for us to fish amongst them,” says McDonald. “The prejudice is there, and it will always be there. You can't stop it.”

At the wharf, McDonald tries to maintain good relations by making it less obvious he’s been out fishing. When docked, all fishing gear is kept out of sight, to not rub it in that he’s fishing outside the commercial season. On this day last fall, it seems to be working.

“That green boat right there, he does everything like he’s supposed to. He was just here talking to me, I know him pretty good,” said another fisher. “He goes out once or twice a week. He could go out every day if he wanted to, but he doesn’t.”

“He don’t want to be mentioned and I don’t blame him. Keeps life simple for him,” says McDonald. “Let’s see if that single trap is there.” He steers his boat to what he calls his test trap, not too far from the wharf. Whether the trap is testing the lobster population or the DFO isn’t clear.

The deckhand spots the small buoy and points it out. “OK, good eye, good eye,” says McDonald. “The tide’s coming in too, so we’ll have to work fast.” The deckhand grabs the buoy from the water and wraps the rope it’s attached to around the wheel of the electric hauler. It pulls the line up with speed.

The trap emerges from the water. It appears to be in a state of decay, rusting and growing seaweed. About 10 lobsters are inside. “That’s a small catch, but this trap doesn’t fish well,” McDonald says. “It never did, that’s why we don’t care about it. They can take it if they want.”

The deckhand opens the hatch of the trap and quickly removes the lobsters, placing them in large plastic bins. The empty bait sack is replaced with a full one and the trap is dropped back into the water.

The lobsters are then measured, and the undersized juveniles are tossed back in the water. Female lobsters carrying eggs are v-notched and thrown back too. V-notching is a conservation technique used by lobster fishers—they cut a “V” shape into the lobster’s tail, harmless to the lobster—which notifies other fishers who might catch it later that it’s a fertile female who once carried eggs, and should be thrown back so it can continue to populate. Only the lobsters that are large enough, carry no eggs and are not v-notched are kept by McDonald and his deckhand. Rubber bands are put around their claws.

McDonald believes conservation is important. “There should be something put in place you know what I mean. A hundred percent, I believe that,” he says. But how could a livelihood fishery be managed, what would it look like? “It would look like the very first ones we did,” says McDonald. “I wrote them.”

  • In November 2019, McDonald is fishing 15 traps. Sipekne'katik's moderate livelihood fishery, launched in September 2020, allows up to 50 traps per boat.
  • Stefan Sinclair-Fortin

S et far back from the ocean is the small white bungalow where McDonald lives. Inside, he makes a cup of green tea and sits down at his kitchen table with his take-out lunch of fish and chips.

Beside him on the table is a case thick with paper. He starts to fish through the documents, pulling out management plans, commissioned aquaculture studies and correspondence letters between his band and the DFO dating back to 1997. “We were fishing under that prior to Marshall,” he says.

Before Marshall won his case in 1999, members of the Sipekne’katik First Nation, who were confident he would win, drafted their first management plan to deal with livelihood fishing. The plan included trap numbers per boat, boat sizes and the minimum size of a catchable lobster. It outlined how the plan would be enforced, and how the band would work with DFO to enforce it.

(In the fall of 2020, I asked McDonald about the Sipekne’katik’s management plan that is currently being used for their self-regulated fishery. He said it looks very similar to these plans drafted years ago.)

But after the Marshall ruling, the DFO never agreed to work with any of the proposed management plans, and no new government framework was created to address the need for livelihood fishing. Instead, DFO tried to absorb First Nation fishing into the existing commercial fishery. A controversial buyback program was created by the government, benefiting many non-Indigenous fishers: Commercial licences were bought back from retiring fishers, as well as their used gear, at inflated prices. The gear and licences, as well as money, were offered to the First Nations communities in the Maritimes, in exchange for signed agreements that they would fish under the DFO’s rules. Many communities that were strapped for cash jumped on the opportunity. But some, including the Sipekne’katik First Nation, refused to sign.

Eventually the government gave Sipekne’katik a relatively small number of commercial licences. These licences are owned communally and leased by the band to fishers per fishing season. Sometimes they are leased to non-Indigenous fishers, which has been a contentious issue within the band. Though this system does bring back revenue to the band, the limited number of licences, and high prices they’re leased for, limits access to individual band members and falls short of meeting everyone's needs.

C ommercially fished lobster traps need identification tags issued by the DFO to be attached to them. In November of 2019, McDonald fishes with no tags attached to his traps. Any traps without government-issued tags are un-authorized in the eyes of a DFO officer, as there has been no framework created to deal with livelihood fishing. (This year the Sipekne’katik First Nation has issued its own tags for its self-regulated fishery. But until it finds a place within the government’s fisheries act, their tags will remain un-authorized.)

If a DFO boat happens to find McDonald’s traps, they will be seized, and their catch dumped back into the water. If his traps are found by certain non-Indigenous fishers, the lines may be cut, making it very difficult for him to retrieve them from the ocean floor. If they are found by certain other Indigenous fishers, the catches may be robbed. “Sometimes we’re our worst enemies,” says McDonald.

So, to try and avoid all of this, McDonald’s buoys, which mark his traps, are small. They’re about the size of a softball and are dark in colour on the ocean’s surface they’re virtually impossible to see from a distance. Other than randomly running a boat into one, they can only be found through the markers on McDonald’s GPS.

As McDonald approaches the area where he has laid his second set of traps, there’s a problem—he can’t find his buoy. He circles the boat around. “We’re only at 17 fathoms, we should see it,” he says. Because his buoys are undersized, sometimes they become submerged by the bay’s massive tidal swings, as the strong currents can hold them down. He circles his boat around his GPS marker, positioning his boat broadside between the incoming tide and where the buoy is supposed to be. This is a technique that’s supposed to block the push of the current for a moment, allowing the buoy to pop up to the surface. But it doesn’t.

“The DFO could have cleaned me out,” he says. Giving up on the lost buoy, McDonald steers towards his final line of traps.

But again, there’s no sign of his buoy. “We should be right on top of it.” He circles his boat around, nothing. Then a second time, still nothing. “Get the grapple, let’s do this shit,” he says to his deckhand. The deckhand hauls out a heavy box. I ask what it is. “A lot of work, that’s what this is.” From the box he pulls out something that looks like a medieval weapon. It’s heavy and looks to be made of cast iron a cone, covered with hooks, about the length of a person’s forearm. Attached to a line, it’s dropped into the water and dragged across the bottom, about 20 fathoms down. McDonald is fishing for his own fishing gear.

Eventually the grapple catches something and the line becomes tight. It’s hauled up, and out of the depths comes a yellow trap in poor condition. Overgrown with seaweed, its line has been cut, but it’s not McDonald’s. Tangled up with the neglected trap is McDonald’s line, leading to the first of his 10 traps. “You see what we have to resort to, dragging this shit up!” The tangled mess of lines is sorted, and McDonald’s traps are hauled up one by one. The old trap is tossed back into the water. McDonald says that he doesn’t like the idea of adding more plastic into the ocean, but the old trap will create a small artificial reef, benefiting lobster and other sea life.

McDonald points to the buoy that was supposed to be on the surface marking his traps. It’s dark and small, not much larger than a clenched fist. One small part of the difficulties and dangerous tactics he has to endure, just to continue doing something he’s always had the right to do. “Cowboys and Indians, it’s the way it’s always been.”

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Mark and Julie Bennett, RV Love

Mark and Julie Bennett are authors of the bestselling book Living the RV Life – Your Ultimate Guide to Life on the Road, and co-creators of the RVLove blog and RV Success School and Hit the Road RV Summit

2020 was full of surprises and the year certainly shaped up differently to how we expected when it started. How 2021 will shake out is anyone’s guess, but here are some of our thoughts:

The 2021 Camping Season will be huge!

RV Shows – Quartzsite, AZ is going ahead in January, so is Florida, it seems. The California RV Show was permanently canceled. We do see RV shows happening around the country, regionally and locally, but don’t expect the attendance levels of years gone by. RVer buying practices have had to adapt, and online research and shopping still will be preferred. But people want to see RVs in person, which they may prefer do at local dealerships rather than big, crowded shows. We see more virtual events becoming accepted and ‘the norm’, in the future.

Campgrounds –. These have been overcrowded in many parts of the country, due to the influx of new RVers and increased preference for RV camping in general. Prices are going up which may deter some RVers and drive them to invest in off-grid systems with solar and batteries to avoid or reduce camping costs. We also predict some developers who previously focused on residential and commercial property will pivot to invest in building or improving more camping resorts around the country based on the demand.

RV Sales – Sales will continue steadily in 2021 but soften compared to 2020. We do see an increase in used RVs hitting the market by the fall for two reasons. One – as the pandemic concerns settle down and other forms of travel open up. And Two – many of those who jumped into RVing quickly without doing the proper research will come to realize they don’t want to deal with the hassles that come with RV ownership. The ongoing need for repairs and maintenance, plus the challenges of finding campground bookings and affordable storage, will be too much for some, and we see a glut of used RVs hitting the market within a year from now.

RV Rentals – Demand will remain very strong for the foreseeable future and be a big area of growth, especially as more used RVs come up for sale. More dealers will offer the option to rent. Many RVers will rent their RV to offset their costs, or even buy additional RVs, to get into the RV rental business, similar to how many homeowners got into the AirBnb business and bought more properties to capitalize on that trend.

RV Parts – With supply chain shortages being an issue across the board, the RV industry is feeling it too. We see the shortage of parts being an ongoing concern for RV manufacturers, RV repair shops, and RV owners alike until the supply chain catches up. This will cause additional frustrations for customers (especially newbies not used to this) who may experience extended delays while waiting for replacement parts. This may be the catalyst that sees more used RVs on the market as owners try to offload them.

RV Remote Workers – With more companies now seeing the benefits of a remote workforce, we believe many people will see an RV as an ideal way to travel while working full time, as we have done since 2014. There will be greater demands for RVs with a workspace or flex space, and people renovating RVs to suit their needs. RV manufacturers will (hopefully) recognize the need to create new floor plans and improved layouts to cater to this fast-growing market segment. Campgrounds may also seize the opportunity to upgrade their internet connectivity and even create a co-working room or hotspot style space for guests to work from during their stays.


Save money and avoid crowds

Prices for vacation rentals on Vrbo typically drop during shoulder season, the time period after Labor Day and before the holiday travel season. Families not tied to strict in-person school or work commitments can benefit from fewer crowds and lower prices by choosing later travel dates.

For example, you can find a drop of at least 20% in average nightly rates for vacation homes in popular destinations like Cape Cod, Massachusetts Cape May, New Jersey and Ocean City, Maryland, in August through October compared to prime summer travel dates.


Review: Lobster with a view in Santa Monica

You’d think that with all of Santa Monica’s coastline, there would be more restaurants right on the beach, places where you could enjoy local seafood and revel in the landscape of sea and sand. Not counting hotel dining rooms, the list is far too short. Even then, most are across Ocean Boulevard on the land side of the street. And with square footage prices so high, few independent restaurateurs or chefs have the means to own a restaurant on the shore.

When the Lobster opened in 1999, right by the water and the Santa Monica Pier, it was a very big deal. Allison Thurber, who had headed up the kitchen at Water Grill, was opening chef. The fact that she’s allergic to lobster didn’t seem to phase anyone involved. (File that fact away for your next foodie trivia contest.) And feeding the hordes who descended on the restaurant for their lobster fix was no problem for this consummate professional. The food itself got mixed reviews, but the crustaceans were always impeccably fresh and cooked with skill and attention.

Thurber moved on last year, and in November the restaurant recruited another Water Grill alum as chef. Collin Crannell was chef de cuisine during Michael Cimarusti’s tenure there. Since then, he’s cooked around, most recently at La Botte for the last three years, and he brings a global spin to the seafood menu at the Lobster. For Crannell, 40, the Santa Monica seafood restaurant is a big step up in terms of action. It’s not Gladstone’s, but close — always packed and open seven days a week. Running this kitchen is like running the commissary for a small army. And the kitchen sometimes falters.

Set beside the entrance to the Santa Monica Pier, the Lobster is a tourist magnet of the first degree. It had its beginnings in 1923 as the Lobster Shack, a tiny place just 900 square feet. The glory days were the ‘50s and ‘60s, after Mateo Castillo, a former dishwasher, became the owner. Shuttered in 1985, the shack sat empty until a group of a dozen investors, including the Roberts family behind Topanga Fish Market and Reel Inn, put together a partnership to secure the site and build a bigger, brasher seafood restaurant. The new Lobster was built on two levels cantilevered out to take in a 180-degree view of sea and sand.

It sounds very like the Brothers Grimm fairy tale “The Fisherman and His Wife,” in which the greedy wife insists her husband ask an enchanted flounder to give them a cottage in place of their little shack. Not content with that, she wanted a stone palace instead, then to be king, emperor, pope, God … we all know how that ended. Not well.

The Lobster, though, is thriving in its seaside digs. Even in this difficult economy. The restaurant is the place for live Maine — or, in season, spiny — lobster consumed within shouting distance of the ocean. With its updated menu, the Lobster isn’t stuck in the past. No foams or gelees or liquid nitrogen fogs here. Crannell’s cooking is more about spices and casual collisions of ingredients, not all of them successful. The simpler the preparation, the better the execution. With a restaurant this busy, you can’t get that fussy.

The customers arrive in waves, just like the surf outside. Hungry, boisterous, with cocktails and drinks in the bar preceding lunch or dinner. By the time guests get to the table, they want their food now. And the kitchen gives it to them. If you’re of the leisurely dining persuasion, a meal here can feel rushed, as if the servers, invariably friendly and happy to see you, are intent on turning the tables as fast as possible. For many guests, the ones who write to me to complain about slow service everywhere, this would be a plus. If you prefer to take your time, say so upfront.

Let’s cut to the chase: the lobster. Steamed live Maine lobster, starting at 11/2 pounds and priced by the pound (right now $24), arrives langorous and lovely on a plate with a crock of drawn butter and emerald sauteed Swiss chard. The green’s bright earthiness is terrific against the sweetness of the lobster. A 21/2 pound grilled Maine lobster slathered in olive oil and herbs is perfectly cooked, even the big meaty claws. The kitchen tends to have a heavy hand, though. It’s tasty, but a bit greasy.

In season, the restaurant is one of the few to offer spiny lobsters, a sublime and truly local treat. They’re tricky to cook, though, and my 2-pounder ($41 per pound) one night unfortunately is overcooked. Still, the fact that Crannell is offering these local crustaceans is something to celebrate.

Of course, you can get fine oysters on the half shell, usually Kumamotos and Malpeques. A delicious bay scallop ceviche with kumquats piled into a glass comes with handsome hand-made crackers sprinkled with caraway seeds. The crackers are oddly sweet, though. Wild Mexican shrimp cocktail is excellent, with a punchy cocktail sauce. Calamari are crispy as advertised, ready and willing to be dipped in an anchovy-spiked aioli.

Tempura shrimp, though, hardly warrants the name tempura. The heavy batter is more like something you’d put on a corn dog, but you’ll find yourself dragging the shrimp through a sweet chile-spiked sauce for more. Yellowfin tuna crudo lags in execution too. The poor fish is so overwhelmed with soy sauce you can’t taste the fish. An excess of capers doesn’t help either. And trendy Kurobuta pork belly paired with New Bedford day boat scallops could have worked if the sherry hoisin sauce hadn’t been so strong.

Aside from seafood, you might want to start with the rough-hewn house-made hummus served with triangles of grilled warm pita. To make it relevant for a seafood restaurant, I guess, it’s piled with rosy rock shrimp, which are more a distraction than an addition. Crab cake comes with a vibrant Thai slaw: The crab cake itself is dull with the texture of sawdust. With the appetizers, it’s up, down, up, down.

If you’re not having lobster, chances are you’re having fish. And that has its ups and downs too. Grilled wild New Bedford striped bass is a fine piece of fish, surrounded by some squid, rock shrimp and Manila clams — all good except for the cannellini beans that are stiff as spackle where they should be loose. Pacific sole in a simple preparation of butter, lemon, capers and artichokes is too rubbery to produce the effect Dover sole had on Julia Child the first time she tasted it in France. At least in the movie, she groaned in pleasure as her husband patted her on the knee, saying, “I know, I know,” soothingly.

Barramundi is overcooked too. It’s a good idea to specify medium-rare when you order. For me, the tendency to overcook means the food isn’t always as carefully prepared as it would be if the kitchen were in less of a hurry.

The wine list is limited, not at all the huge compendium at Water Grill or Providence, but it has some decent bottles to go with your lobster that won’t break the bank, such as the Reverdy Sancerre or Martin Codax Albarino. For creamy California Chardonnays, like Flowers or Patz & Hall, the price is higher.

Be aware that the restaurant is punishingly loud, and it doesn’t seem to make much difference where you sit. Going at an hour when it’s less busy is an option. Or else taking one of the handful of seats at the small outdoor bar facing the palisades where M.F.K. Fisher and her family camped in the ‘30s.

Desserts don’t make much of an impression other than that they’re generally very sweet. Blackberry cobbler served warm with pecan streusel and a ball of ice cream on top is pleasant enough. A lemon pudding cake is tender and light.

Crannell has taken the Lobster in hand with an updated menu, but getting the kitchen at this busy restaurant to perform consistently is a lot harder than writing a new menu. Still, for a tourist restaurant on the beach, it’s better than most. And when you can have a decent lobster looking out at the view, it’s something. It just could be so much more.

Rating: One and a half stars

Location: 1602 Ocean Ave. (next to the entrance to the Santa Monica Pier), Santa Monica (310) 458-9294 https://www.thelobster.com.

Price: Oyster and shellfish, $14.50 to $60 appetizers, $8 to $16 soup and salad, $9 to $23 lobster and shellfish, $16 to $46 and from $24 to $41 per pound finfish and other entrees, $20 to $55 sides, $4 to $7 desserts, $9. Corkage fee, $25.

Details: Open 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Full bar. Valet parking, $5.50 for the first three hours, $7.50 thereafter, with validation.

Rating is based on food, service and ambience, with price taken into account in relation to quality. Four stars: Outstanding on every level. Three stars: Excellent. Two stars: Very good. One star: Good. No star: Poor to satisfactory.

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S. Irene Virbila is a former restaurant critic and wine columnist for the Los Angeles Times. She left in 2015.

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Best time to take a USA river cruise

Yes, the Mississippi River is prone to seasonal floods, too. Those beautiful, four-story wedding cake paddle wheelers just can’t fit under the bridges. Bring on the motor coach tours, just like in Europe. The best time of year to plan a river cruise on the Mississippi seems to be not too much different than in Europe.

Due to icing conditions, upper Mississippi River cruises end in November or December. Holiday cruises on the lower Mississippi River tend to be round-trip from New Orleans and not upstream to Memphis and beyond. Summers on the Mississippi are hot, humid and did I mention hot?

Read more: How to choose the Best River Cruise In Europe

Columbia and Snake Rivers in the Pacific Northwest are also seasonal cruises. Summer temperatures in the high desert can reach into the 100s. Fall cruises can be a bit rainy as your river ship closes in on the Pacific Ocean near Astoria, Oregon. Wildfires in the Pacific Northwest can make air quality a major issue.


THE RISE & FALL OF A STAR / How the king of California Cuisine lost an empire

4 of 12 Tower used San Francisco's social elite to build a steady clientele for Stars. His engaging and sophisticated mannercharmed the likes of Claudia de Quesada and Susan Brubaker in 1995. Show More Show Less

5 of 12 STARS WORLD-WIDE: Above, waiters whisk food to diners at Stars Manila, adorned with photographs from Stars in San Francisco. Special to the Chronicle by Chito Vecina Show More Show Less

7 of 12 Jeremiah Tower at his newly opened STARS restaurant in 1984. Chronicle File Photo by Pete Breinig Show More Show Less

8 of 12 THROUGH THE YEARS: Jeremiah Tower in his young chef days Show More Show Less

10 of 12 SOCIETY'S DARLING: Tower used San Francisco's social elite to build a steady clientele for Stars. Chronicle Photo by John O'Hara Show More Show Less

11 of 12 Jeremiah Tower's new restaurant,Stars, in Manila, Philippines. PHOTO BY MELVYN CALDERON-AsiaPix/FOR THE CHRONICLE Show More Show Less

ON September 6, the last night of its life, Stars could not hide its age.

The San Francisco restaurant no longer glowed with the light of chandeliers and Tiffany lamps. Dirt showed on the beige stars woven into the forest green carpet. Hundreds of photographs of the famous, who for 15 years had made Stars the site of their own fabulous dinner party, had been stripped from the walls.

And in the basement, stuffed into a box with pictures of Willie Brown, David Letterman and Tommy Tune, was a white chef's jacket embroidered with the name Jeremiah Tower.

Stars, Tower's shrine to the sexy rebirth of American regional cooking and all things glittery, had fallen. And the man who once reigned as California's most creative chef and presided over the biggest party in San Francisco during the height of the greed-is-good '80s had closed up shop and left town. It will be reincarnated on Friday, with the same name. But it will be an entirely different restaurant. And Tower won't be part of it.

When Stars opened in 1984 on a desolate alley near the Civic Center, socialite Denise Hale and the rest of the city's social cream led the charge. The stars of theater, music and politics weren't far behind. Mikhail Gorbachev and Danny Kaye. Joe DiMaggio and Rudolph Nureyev. Luciano Pavarotti and Lauren Hutton. Danielle Steel and Liza Minnelli. They came to eat Tower's version of the new California cuisine, marvel at his brilliant sauces and giggle over late-night hot dogs served with sauerkraut and Champagne.

The wait staff was regarded as the best in the city. Chefs from all over made pilgrimages to sit near the open kitchen and simply watch the wild Tower-led crew of hot young cooks.

But Stars shone brightest in its dining room, where Tower floated from table to bar to kitchen and back again, a flute of Champagne in hand. Tall and handsome, he dressed in European suits or chef's whites, with a perfect white apron draped down to his ankles. He possessed an impeccable palate, an appetite for alcohol, a famous temper and a rich cache of stories from his travels around the world.

With only a few words spoken with an accent that was a patchwork of time spent in Great Britain, Australia and his native East Coast, he could make diners who stumbled into his charming web feel as though they were the most important people in the room. And the next day, he might not know their names.

"Stars had a comfortable feeling but at the same time was elegant," says Hale, who popularized the concept of the A List and was named one of the country's most influential women by Vanity Fair in 1998. "It was like Le Cirque. Once you went to Jeremiah, you knew you were with someone who really knew how to do it. It's very simple, really. It was the place."

From his early days in the 1970s as the chef at Chez Panisse to his rise to the prestigious James Beard Foundation's Chef of the Year in 1996, Tower became a California food legend. He popularized the American brasserie and is one of a handful of chefs who helped Americans fall back in love with their own food.

ONE LAST NIGHT

Goat cheese on salad, salsa on fish, individual thin-crusted pizzas -- Tower had a part in creating them and then turning them into staples in America's restaurants. He excelled at juxtaposing flavors. He insisted on ingredients that were the best, the freshest and the most local, and served them with a strong dash of sass.

But on this night in early September, the night of the Last Supper, the star had clearly faded. A sprinkling of the socially important had shown up, as much to offer support for the new restaurant that would emerge in the space in October as to grab one more hit of the old Stars magic.

The menu featured Stars standards -- roast pork with mango salsa steak tartare with ancho chile puree cornmeal blinis with lobster and caviar and enough butter, as Tower always urged, to drip down diners' wrists.

There were former cooks and waiters, many of whom credit their cars and condos to the $400 a night they made in Stars' heyday. Many describe their tenure at Stars as the best and the worst time of their lives.

"Maybe 80 percent of the city's best chefs today went through the Stars kitchen. Everyone wanted to get it on their resume," says BayTV chef Joey Altman, who Tower fired in 1986 and who has since gone on to open Wild Hare in Menlo Park. "But it was kind of like working for an alcoholic parent. One day was Christmas and the next day you were banished from the kitchen."

In the crowd was Mark Franz, Tower's protege who essentially ran the Stars kitchen for a decade but who left in a bitter break about three years ago to open the well-received Farallon. He took with him several other former Stars staffers, including pastry chef Emily Luchetti. He loves the man he calls his brother, even though the two didn't speak for two years after Franz left.

"In those days you could break the rules," Franz says. "JT loved to use local stuff and put it together in a classical way. We used all these products people had never heard of but were right in their backyard."

Franz also remembers working for a man who could be unpredictable, moody and an unrelenting perfectionist.

"You never knew if you were going to get your ass kicked or what. You could really get roasted for doing the wrong thing," Franz says. "But he was always a gentleman to me."

On the last night of Stars life, with the walls empty and the grand piano quiet, Franz shook his head. "It's like being at your ex-wife's funeral."

Of course, the evening's buzz centered on whether Tower, 57, would show. It wouldn't be unlike him. He had been in San Francisco a month earlier. He stayed at a Nob Hill hotel, helped a former chef celebrate her 50th birthday, did a little business and gathered his collection of photographs.

But he would not be at his restaurant's Last Supper. And by midnight, the new owners began to dismantle Tower's vehicle to fame and a place that had changed the way America cooks.

Tower, who declined repeated requests from The Chronicle for an interview, was 6,000 miles away in Manila. A new set of investors had opened a Stars there in April. Having sold off all of his empire, Tower is banished from connecting his name to Stars restaurants anywhere in the world save the Philippines.

THE ARCHITECT IN BERKELEY

The way Tower told it in interviews, he walked into the Chez Panisse kitchen in 1972 and was asked to improve the nightly soup. He added white wine, cream and salt. Owner Alice Waters and her crew were floored.

"I don't recall if it was a soup or what he did," Waters said recently when asked about what made her hire him. "He had a lot of confidence and I had none. He would just come in and do something wonderful every day. I needed that."

Cut off from his family's financial support and armed with a masters' degree in architecture from Harvard University and a vague plan to find work doing underwater design in Hawaii, Tower landed in California. He decided to apply for a job at Chez Panisse because he was broke and because that was where he had once eaten a memorable berry tart. His previous cooking experience amounted to a sandwich-making stint in a London pub.

Years later, people still debate whether Tower or Waters invented California cuisine. Likely it was a synergy of talent colored by the state of California's food in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Laura Chenel was starting to market her goat cheese. Bruce Aidells was showing up at the back doors of restaurants selling andouille sausage he'd made in his kitchen.

Demurs Waters: "It was just a matter of very good timing."

Still, a rivalry emerged. Adding to it were the breakups of their relationships, both intimate and professional, which weren't pretty, according to several people who were around the pair at the time.

Although he had no formal training, Tower's perspective on excellent food had been well formed early on. Born in Stamford, Conn., he and his brother and sister followed his parents around the world -- his father was an international salesman of movie sound equipment.

Tower was weaned in the dining rooms of cruise ships and hotels, and later on fine old wines and caviar-covered blinis served at his Russian uncle's apartment in Washington, D.C. In college, he charmed his roommates with chicken livers sauteed in Madeira and multi-course dinners made with whatever was on hand.

In the early Chez Panisse days, when a three-course dinner cost less than $8, Tower's confidence, sometimes more than the food itself, carried the day.

"I remember one time he made salt cod -- grilled salt cod, I think," Waters says. "I don't even think he soaked it. I said, 'Jeremiah, I think it's too salty. How can I sell it in the dining room?' He said, 'Alice, tell them to drink lots of red wine with it. It's great. It's what they do in Provence.' "

She did and people ate it up.

"You do have to have that kind of confidence to be a chef," she says. "Many, many times I totally believed and never questioned."

Everyone fell in love with him, recalls Gourmet editor and former New York Times restaurant critic Ruth Riechl, who worked in Berkeley during the 1970s and early '80s.

"In Berkeley then there was this feeling like, 'Oh, it's OK' and that was good enough. With him, OK wasn't good enough. He brought this amazing style into the community and everybody -- men and women -- were in love with him. He was like a character out of a movie. We were all walking around in Birkenstocks and here comes this English gentleman."

Tower left Chez Panisse in 1978. Around that time, Waters had helped arrange a dinner for James Beard in Big Sur. One of Tower's courses, recalls Chronicle columnist and former Beard assistant Marion Cunningham, was simply a big, black truffle presented to every diner on a white plate. Dessert was tangerine sorbet served in hollowed out tangerines that hung from a live tree.

After the event, Waters wrote Tower a letter praising his skills and admiring his person. It was, she says, a love letter. Tower would later frame it and hang it in Stars.

"(It was) a little bit of malicious vengeance," he would tell a reporter shortly after Stars opened. "People can see in her own handwriting just who is whose disciple."

TOWER TAKES ON THE CITY

Tower left Chez Panisse and landed at the Balboa Cafe, owned by Cathe and Doyle Moon. The Moons, who are now out of the San Francisco restaurant business, gave Tower the Balboa as a sort of trial for what would become his first national, high-profile chef job at the Santa Fe Bar and Grill.

But neither the Balboa nor the Santa Fe were enough. In July 1984, Tower and the Moons opened Stars. Big, elegant, fun and lively, Stars produced the city's cutting-edge food. Tower's own sense of culinary style, polished at the hand of his mentor, French chef Richard Olney, was at its pinnacle.

"When he first conceived of Stars, his model was probably '21' in New York," says Laurance deVries, Stars' first general manager. "He had people who knew San Francisco society working with him."

In a recent interview, deVries said the last time he saw Tower was in court. Neither side would discuss the case, and deVries would only say that he has been estranged for 12 years from a man he called "ruthless."

Tower is no stranger to lawsuits. In fact, he might be one of the most deposed chefs in the country.

He ended his relationship with the Moons in court in 1988. After leaving the Santa Fe in 1986, complaining publicly about how the Moons were handling things, the relationship quickly deteriorated. It appeared that Stars might have to be sold to satisfy both partners, but after a protracted battle, Tower kept the restaurant by offering the Moons $1.35 million. The Moons countered with an ill-fated suit challenging Tower's management of Stars. In an interview at the time, he called himself "the black widow spider of partners," and when it was all over, Tower celebrated by buying a BMW motorcycle.

But other lawsuits followed. A waiter who had contracted AIDS sued Tower and won $30,000 in 1993 after claiming Tower had fired him because of his condition. Tower, who would regularly participate in AIDS fund-raisers as well as other charity events, claimed in court he didn't know the waiter had AIDS. Tower landed in court again over the name of Speedo 690, a short-lived restaurant he opened in 1989.

The end of the 1980s marked the beginning of what would be a flurry of expansions and closures of Stars and its offshoots.

By that time, some could argue that Tower had become the nation's first true celebrity chef. He was a subject of a $100 million ad campaign that profiled Dewars scotch drinkers. Next to an image of Tower wearing a tuxedo and a three-quarter grin, the copy proclaimed "Aristocrat, confident and a self-described monarchist."

But 1989 was also the year the first cracks began to appear in the Stars empire.

Franz, who left in a bitter break-up with Tower in 1996, says Tower himself traced it to the Loma Prieta earthquake. Overnight, the bustling Civic Center area turned into a near ghost town. Stars went from serving 250 lunches a day to almost zero. Franz says Tower told him, "Mark, this is kind of the beginning of the end."

DECONSTRUCTING TOWER

Other factors were also conspiring to end Tower's Stars empire. The high-rolling '80s morphed into the recession of the early 1990s. The era of the big expense account and fashionable two-martini power lunch was over. And, whether due to his duties as a celebrity chef or his own disinterest, he spent less and less time at Stars. Reviews show the food suffered, prices went up and people who came expecting to see the star of Stars left disappointed and didn't return.

Tower began to spend more time with his new romantic partner, Arthur Gallego, and hired him as his public relations manager. At the same time, Tower was selling off pieces of the Stars name, gathering more investors and partners and expanding faster than prudence might have warranted. A string of operations like StarBake bakery, StarMart take-out and cookware shop, a venture in Hong Kong and Stars restaurants in Singapore, Palo Alto and Oakville came and went.

In 1996, Tower was named Chef of the Year by the New York-based James Beard Foundation -- an honor that had California's food elite scratching their heads. By that time, the Stars empire had all but crumbled.

By 1998, Stars San Francisco was losing $1 million a year, according to Gallego, who is now in New York.

That year, to unload a flood of debts and satisfy a string of investors, Tower signed away ownership of the trademarked Stars name and its concept to San Francisco businessman Andrew Yap. Tower's role was reduced to marketing and creative consultant, says Stanley Morris, managing partner of the group that now owns every Stars except the one in Manila.

After a year that saw the opening of a new Stars in Seattle, Tower and the company that now owned his restaurants severed their relationship.

Gallego, who was with Stars until 1997, says he still sees and talks with Tower. Like some who were close to Tower, Gallego remains one of his great defenders. He says that between the lawsuit with the Moons, the earthquake and the simple fact that the energy Tower put into Stars could not be sustained forever, Stars faded. Criticism of Tower's business practices and personal style didn't help.

"All we do in this society is promote and ask people to be confident and magnetic and outspoken and when we finally encounter someone who is, we shoot them down," Gallego said. "I think there was a lot of jealousy." So where does that leave Tower in America's culinary history? On one side are detractors like Mimi Sheraton, a former New York Times food critic who now writes for magazines such as Vanity Fair. "I'm just not aware of him as innovator with a nationwide influence. I think if you went up to people here (in New York) and asked, 'Who was Wolfgang Puck and Alice Waters,' they'd know. I really don't believe, except for the most dedicated foodies and those very tuned into California cuisine, they would even know his name."

THE FINAL CHAPTER

But chefs like Bizou's Loretta Keller, a veteran of the Stars kitchen who fed him twice during his last trip to San Francisco, says Tower's food endures.

"Some of his dishes are so brilliant I never get tired of making them. There's a dish of grilled figs with prosciutto, arugula and berry vinaigrette. I put mint mascarpone in each fig and drizzle the vinaigrette over it. That is really a JT dish."

He possesses one of the most remarkable memories for flavors she has ever encountered, she says. "And he had this sort of tireless sort of creativity that ultimately could be argued was his demise. He could never leave well enough alone."

But like so many of Tower's former collegues, Keller says Tower can be "abusive and insensitive." And he doesn't care much whether he leaves bridges to his past intact. "He has an arrogance about him in personal relationships and places. Once he's done it, he's done it."


Watch the video: Η γραφική πόλη του Αστακού με τα σμαραγδένια νερά. Astakos the city with the emerald waters