Massachusetts Food System Collaborative
Massachusetts Food System Collaborative

Fishing: Goal 2

The local seafood system will have strong markets, support livelihoods, and increase consumer demand.

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.

Recommendation 2.1: Improve livelihood viability and prospects for the seafood industry workforce, including fishermen, lobstermen, shellfish harvesters, aquaculturalists, seafood processors, and researchers.

Action 2.1.1: Ensure that fishermen’s access to commercial fisheries is maintained and improved.

Action 2.1.2: Support new and established retail and wholesale infrastructure through low interest business loans or grants and other programs.

Action 2.1.3: Implement a fisheries training curriculum that educates the fisheries labor force in the local seafood supply chain, and develops skills of small operators and processors, including in value chain education, sustainable high-tech gear, and alternative and low-energy boat design.

Action 2.1.4: Provide fish and shellfish industry workforce with living wages and full-time work, through such measures as diversifying and expanding markets or developing processing cooperatives. Markets for finfish and shellfish are different. As permitted for the different species, direct to consumer markets and wholesale markets should be expanded.

Action 2.1.5: Ensure safe work environments and training and advancement opportunities for seafood processing workforce.

Action 2.1.6: Support continuing leasing of shellfish aquaculture under municipal control for small, local harvesters and aquaculturists.

Action 2.1.7: Support groundfish fishing fleets that range in size and gear type.

Recommendation 2.2: Increase consumer education on local seafood.

Action 2.2.1: Fund, develop, and implement educational curriculum and events to increase consumer awareness of the benefits of eating fresh, local seafood, as well as precautions to take to ensure that fish eaten comes from unpolluted waters, and that exposure to heavy metals in fish is minimized. Revisit past New England Seafood Series programming by UMass Extension Nutrition Education Program, and consider rededicating funding.

Action 2.2.2: Develop a toolkit for seafood marketers to easily educate consumers.

Recommendation 2.3: Expand local seafood markets, product development, and seafood supply chain innovations.

Action 2.3.1: Perform a review of regulations related to the seafood supply chain, and recommend reformation of those that are overly-restrictive or outdated.

Action 2.3.2: Fund and ensure longevity of the DMF Seafood Marketing Program, steering committee, and coordinator position.

Action 2.3.3: Where permitted for different species, open and expand markets for local seafood including: grocery stores; community supported fisheries programs; farmers markets; public markets; institutional distribution including to universities, colleges, hospitals, prisons, public schools; and wholesale distribution.

Action 2.3.4: Create markets for diverse fish and shellfish species to encourage the harvesting of a range of fish and shellfish species to ensure stable livelihoods and ecological resiliency.

Action 2.3.5: Expand the markets for a variety of locally-abundant fish species (i.e. Mackerel and Whiting), and lesser known species (i.e. Arcadian redfish, dogfish, and scup) and invasive species (i.e. green crab which is threatening shellfish habitat).

Action 2.3.6: Support value-added seafood product development. Examples include edible seafood products like smoked fish, or non-food products like fish emulsion fertilizer.

Action 2.3.7: Determine feasibility and develop seafood innovation districts that include elements such as test kitchens, laboratories for developing value-added products and innovative technologies to recover and utilize waste, and start-up accelerators to develop new businesses. Include support systems such as active collaboration with food policy councils, grant writing, marketing studies, business planning, and early-stage financing.

Action 2.3.8: Support seafood product development and innovation in culinary schools, and universities, colleges, and primary schools that operate culinary programs.

Action 2.3.9: Support shellfish operations in diversifying the shellfish species farmed and harvested. These species could include quahogs, clams, mussels, oysters, and other shellfish.

Action 2.3.10: Support growth of local businesses that aid in developing the local seafood supply chain. These could be businesses providing equipment, services, or other innovations that advance local seafood distribution.

Recommendation 2.4: Improve local seafood infrastructure and supply chain systems.

Action 2.4.1: Expand and fund mechanisms for source-tracking for locally landed fish and shellfish, so that all fisheries in Massachusetts are tracking and recording details about their catches, and fisheries data is improved. Source tracking technology developed by the seafood distributor Red’s Best could be considered as a model.

Action 2.4.2: Incentivize municipalities to encourage shellfish restoration and harvesting and sustainable aquaculture enterprise.

Action 2.4.3: Upgrade and expand current aggregation methods, processing, facilities, and equipment, based on research and in the context of expanding the local seafood industry and building equity and sustainability into the value chain.

[1] NOAA Economics Program. (2012). Fisheries Economics of the U.S. 2012, National Overview. Accessed September 2015 from

[2] Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2009-2013). Consumer Expenditure Index. and US Census (2009-2013).

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Massachusetts Food System Collaborative