Most of us don’t give much, if any, thought about how fish are handled from the boat to the market, but it is in this process we trust that our seafood is being handled and processed with the utmost care.
There are many ways that fish are maintained once they have been abducted from the water by a fishing boat.
On the Skipper’s fishing vessels Megan Marie and Gabby G, the fish are held in totes that are packed in a salt water and ice solution and then stored in the refrigerated hold. The totes hold approximately 100-120 lbs of fish and stack upon each other. This method makes for a higher quality product because the totes prevent the fish from being crushed and banged around in an open pen. Not all fishing boats have this capability. Once the boat docks, the crew begins the “pack out” process. In addition to the crew on the boat, there is a team of folks’ shore side, called the “dock workers” that have pre-assembled boxes, ice and set up a processing line for packing the fish off the boat and into the boxes. Lastly, a “lumper” or two will be hired to assist in the pack out process to augment the boat crew. There are usually seals and schoolies in the New Bedford, MA harbor begging like dogs as random fish spill overboard.
The pack out process can take several hours. There are usually a couple guys in the “hold” preparing the totes to be hoisted out of the boat and up on to the dock. The totes are emptied onto a conveyor belt where the shoreside team is picking over the fish and packing them into boxes that will be shipped to Hunt’s Point, NY for the Seafood Market. In Hunt’s Point, there are 4-5 purveyor’s that receive the fish to broker on behalf of the boat.
Once the boxed fish arrives at Hunts Point, the brokers sell the fish for the best price. The Whiting fishery is a volatile market. Prices fluctuate dramatically depending on the time of the month or how much Canadian product has been brought to market at the same time. This typically happens when the prices are high, the Canadian products can be brought to the market and influence the domestic market price in a negative way to the boat. One of the tell-tale signs for determining how favorable prices would be for the domestic product was directly related to how many tractor trailers from Canada were lined up at New York market.
The typical buyer profile would include Restaurants, Small Fish Markets, Pet Food makers, or air freight exports to Spain.