By Christine Blank, Contributing Editor
Published on Friday, June 08, 2012
More processors and fishermen looking for an alternative to the spot auction model for live fish are taking part in a new Internet-based seafood exchange service called FYSH-X.
Gloucester, Mass.-based Open Ocean Trading formally launched the forward-contracting service on 1 May after a soft launch at the International Boston Seafood Show in mid-March.. On FYSH-X’s exchange, participating vessels from the Northeast United States list the species and amount they plan to catch or harvest, along with biographies about their companies. Buyers can negotiate with the vessel for the catch for free, then, if the contract is executed, a FYSH-X per-pound fee based on species is split between the buyer and the seller.
While the exchange currently has nearly 80 members, around 10 seafood processors and 10 commercial fishermen are currently trading product.
“We are always looking for new buyers and sellers. We can already ship anywhere in the U.S. and are working import and export services,” said Keith Flett, founder and CEO of Open Ocean Trading. An example of a recent exchange was a mid-size processor who contracted with a day boat for 4,000 pounds of yellowtail flounder, deliverable over the course of two weeks.
Flett is working on educating the seafood industry about the new alternative to the spot auction model.
“It is always challenging to change behavior and get people to think longer term, especially in this industry,” he said. “Fishermen are so reliant on the spot auction system … in the Northeast.”
However, many fishermen have been very open to contracting their catches in advance. “They are willing to structure their business,” said Flett. Processors are also open to buying fish under contract, so they can guarantee a certain amount of finished product to their buyers, he added.
So far, larger restaurant and retail chains that have looked at the exchange are hesitant to try it and opt to continue working with their larger suppliers. “A lot of their contracts are in frozen seafood, which we plan to delve into,” said Flett.
Open Ocean is in the process of integrating its systems with Traceall in Glasgow, Scotland, so buyers can identify where their product is coming from. “When a vessel is reporting, it [Traceall’s system] captures the data and puts it in an HTML file for buyers. The data is very clean because it is what they are reporting to the government anyway,” said Flett.