“Where's the crab guy?

That seems to be the question on the minds of a lot of Hollywood Farmers' Market patrons who, in just a few months, have come to count on Santa Barbara's John Wilson for fresh yellow and red rock crab, line-caught halibut and snapper and, occasionally, ridgeback shrimp. Many of those customers have been awaiting the start of spiny lobster season, which Wilson has been talking up since mid-summer and is set to start on October 7. But then, as suddenly as Wilson appeared, he was gone.

Alexandra Agajanian, the Assistant Market Manager for the Hollywood Farmers' Market (as well as Lemon Grove) says that Wilson's spot among the stone fruits and grapes caught the attention of both the Health Department and the Department of Agriculture, who finally said that John needed to be moved because the wild-caught fish and crab he was selling was a “non-certifiable agriculture product.” That means that because Wilson has no control over the waters he fishes like, for example, Carlsbad Aquafarm, who sell oysters in the same area, he would have to be moved out of the ag section. But there is already a long-time fishmonger in the food vendor section, so the politics and space issues precluded moving him there.

Wilson was relocated–but no one could find him. Frustrated and without better options, he has been focusing his energy on getting ready for lobster season, skipping the market for nearly a month. A few intrepid and hungry customers have made the trip up to meet Wilson at Santa Barbara Harbor to get their hands on some of his fresh-caught seafood. But fortunately for fans, Wilson is scheduled to be back at the Hollywood Farmers' Market this Sunday, albeit now at the far end of Ivar near Sunset. He says he's made a big sign and will put one down near his old spot to help direct people. Agajanian adds, “you can always check with the information booth on Selma and Ivar if you're having trouble finding him.”

Leah Greenstein writes at SpicySaltySweet.com and is the co-founder of the Food Blog Code of Ethics.

LA Weekly