International seafood buyers visit waterfront
By Joe Cohen
NEW BEDFORD — A group of international fish buyers spent Tuesday on the city's waterfront and then got a lesson in the science of scallops — being told that marine science led to "best practices" that increased scallop harvests and protected the shellfish from becoming overfished.
The European and Asian buyers came to the city from the 2008 International Boston Seafood Show and toured the working scallop boat Pacer, which is operated by Fleet fisheries, and were taken on tours of city fish plants.
Among the lighter highlights was the opportunity to hold a 45- to 50-pound lobster, something Dennis Yen of the Taiwanese firm Yens said was particularly interesting.
Despite the diversions, the trip was largely about business, with buyers from nations including Serbia, Poland, France and Mexico touring facilities such as Mar-Lees Seafood, Northern Pelagic Group and the Whaling City Seafood Display Auction.
With its status as the top commercial fishing port in the United States based on value of catch landed, the city was showing off its plants and products to the international buyers in the hopes of generating increased and new business.
They were brought to the waterfront in large part through the efforts of the Massachusetts Export Center. They wrapped up their visit with lunch at Cafe Funchal.
It was there that keynote speaker Dr. Kevin D.E. Stokesbury of the UMass School for Marine Sciences and Technology explained how the fishing and marine science communities collaborated for years on research for scallops and other fish to the benefit of all parties.
Dr. Stokesbury said records kept since 1890 reflected the "boom and bust cycles" of fishing. He noted the changes brought about by the implementation of the 200-mile limit in 1984 and the 1994 regulations that altered fishing restrictions from the amount of fish taken to the amount of time boats spend fishing.
Restrictions put in place to protect fish species threatened to bankrupt some fishermen, Dr. Stokesbury said.
Then marine science came into play, he said. Through the collaboration of the industry and the UMass marine sciences program, it was learned that there are optimum locations and times to take scallops, which would allow boats to fish for less time with better results.
With better management, he said, the scallop industry dramatically increased the value of its catch.
Other species can benefit from marine science research and the results being applied to fishing management and regulation, as well, he said.