2008 Annual Report
Gulf of Maine Research Institute

Deepening Our Impact: Community

Seafood Supply Chain Roundtable

In May 2011, GMRI facilitated a path breaking meeting of stakeholders at all levels of the Northeast groundfish supply. Fishermen, sector managers, dealers, auction representatives, processors, and retailers came together in a roundtable to discuss ways to increase the value of Northeast groundfish under the recent shift to a sector management system.

Buying and selling groundfish in New England has always been somewhat of a gamble. Retailers, dealers and processors agree on volumes and prices well in advance of the fish actually being landed. Fishermen leave port not knowing what their catch will be worth when they return. Changes in supply and prices affect all levels of the supply chain, sometimes positively but loss is all too frequent. The quality and marketing of the fish is also affected.  The result is decreased value of groundfish at every step of the supply chain, from fisherman to seafood buyer. Better communication and collaboration within the industry are the keys to achieving consistency and predictability in price, availability, and quality that benefit everyone.

The supply chain roundtable created a unique opportunity to explore challenges and potential improvements to the current system. Processors, distributors and retailers want to know the likely supply of groundfish weeks and months before it is landed. Fishermen need to be equipped with information on demand, including quality specifications, in order to fish to meet the market’s needs. Participants all agreed to take steps to begin implementing workable solutions.

Fishermen have begun reaching out to other fishermen to organize information sharing about fish harvests, ranging from catch allocations and seasonality of various species, across sectors and with processors and retailers. Following the meeting, one fisherman reported back to us about his efforts to organize a “coalition of the willing.”

“I am pleased to report that I have had approximately 25 vessels so far that were receptive to trying this unique approach to solving a host of age old problems. Frankly speaking no one said no…. What was incredibly obvious was the willingness of these men to start to do something positive with this new system that they had been provided with. I sensed that they have all realized its potential from the start and seemed to be waiting for a cue to begin their course back to greater general health…. Enthusiasm is contagious. I am so incredibly inspired by the spirit of these men, once more, acting collectively as New Englanders have for 300 years.  How wonderful to watch the audacity of hope, again rise up and out of the ashes of the discontent that has been so painfully prevalent in our recent past.”

Processors, distributors and retailers have committed to discussing how much groundfish they can sell with the fishermen. Other members of the roundtable are looking into ways to enable buying and selling of catch before harvest in order to make costs more predictable.

GMRI was joined in this effort by CapLog (an organization that provides business and financial advice to fisheries) and funding was provided by the Environmental Defense Fund through a grant from the Educational Foundation of America.

 

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