Portland Fish Exchange under new business management

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The Portland Fish Exchange has seen landings decline in recent months, but a strong July gives its new trading manager hope for improvement.

PORTLAND, Maine – Thursday’s heat didn’t stop thousands of pounds of fish from entering the port at the Portland Fish Exchange.

Haddock, hake, flounder, pollock and halibut were just a few of the groundfish sorted into bins early that morning.

Just over 16,000 pounds were brought in on Thursday as the last bottom fishing boat weighed in. It’s starting to become a common sight for Michael Foster, the fish exchange’s new business manager.

Foster says this week’s tow weighed more than all the fish that was brought in during June, a sign of improvement in the auction, which has seen dwindling landings in recent months.

He says the fish auction is looking for ways to improve its financial situation, and there are several reasons for the recent increase in landings by fishermen.

“Right now there’s some of the money through the CARES Act giving rebates to fishermen…they’re able to catch more money, put more money in their pockets with those rebates. , and now on July 1, they have more ground to fish…they can fish closer, catch more fish, more high-quality fish,” Foster said.

In its historical landings data, the fish exchange said it handled just 5,000 pounds of fish in May when it forecast 22,000.

June was similar to that expected at 63,000 lbs but only carried 33,000.

But July more than doubled its expectations, budgeting 75,000 pounds but bringing in 186,000 instead.

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Foster shared with NEWS CENTER Maine the comparison to 2021. During that year for the months of June and July, the exchange handled 99,753 pounds of fish.

For the same period this year, the exchange handled 212,260 books.

For fish shoppers like Brendan Landry of Tru Fin Seafood, it’s a welcome sight.

“The Fish Exchange is really the heart of everything bottom fishing here in Portland… bidding has been very strong and good for buyers,” Landry said.

But Foster says he is focused on ensuring the fish market enjoys the good times.

“Fishermen and the fish market [need] to adapt and we are doing that…fishermen have done that and we need to do more at the fish market,” Foster said.

And while bottom fishers face hurdles from regulations and climate change, Foster says the fish exchange is diversifying what’s selling.

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“We will definitely be looking at other products…we are also looking at landing bluefin tuna here, by adapting and bringing other species or other industries here, we can help increase our revenue stream” , Foster said.

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