The State’s seafood industry has shifted from serving local and domestic markets, to serving primarily the export-driven commodity market. Fishermen face significant challenges, from price and market constraints to catch limitations. Market shifts in the seafood industry have made it increasingly difficult for small fishing, shellfish, and aquaculture operations to sustain themselves. As more of the fishing workforce nears retirement, there is also an anticipated labor shortage that compromises the industry’s future.
Embedded in these challenges are significant opportunities. With Massachusetts ranking third nationally in total seafood sales ($8.4 billion),1 and its residents spending an estimated $314 million annually on seafood,2 there is a significant opportunity to make sure that more of the seafood bought by Massachusetts residents is from Massachusetts waters. While markets for local farm products have matured over the past decades, the Massachusetts seafood industry is newly exploring opportunities to expand local and domestic distribution of the State’s catch. Efforts by local groceries, community supported fisheries and institutional procurement by hospitals and schools are enabling fishermen to reorient their businesses to local markets, and earn more for their catch than is possible in international trade. These models are also enabling more Massachusetts residents to access and consume locally-caught and landed seafood. As Massachusetts continues to expand local markets for seafood, innovative market models, strategies to train an incoming workforce, and improved efforts to educate residents on the value of local seafood are important in supporting the growth of the industry.