Upbeat atmosphere in Boston

The 2011 International Boston Seafood Show is in the books. After three days of meeting and greeting — and wheeling and dealing — seafood buyers and sellers are taking a collective breath.

The atmosphere of this year’s event was upbeat. And with the tragedy in Japan fresh in everyone’s mind, the event had the potential to take on a dour feel. But seafood is a resilient, closely knit community, always willing to lend a hand in a time of need. Everyone I talked to on the show floor was quick to point out that people — not product — come first, and that once the people of Japan get back on their feet, then talk of the catastrophe’s effect on the global seafood trade can commence.

The upbeat atmosphere at the event had a lot to do with demand. Demand is growing, and exhibitors seemed more concerned with the lack of availability than anything else. A few key species, including tilapia and pangasius, are in tight supply.

And it’s not going to get any easier to source these key species. The elephant in the room is Asia’s middle class. As pointed out in Monday’s seminar “Averting an Impending Seafood Shortage,” two-thirds of the world’s middle class will reside in Asia by 2013, which will have a gigantic impact on global seafood demand.

But it’s increasingly obvious that the global economy is well on the road to recovery after the financial collapse of late 2008. And a lot of big-name buyers were roaming the show floor, anxious to ask exhibitors about what they had to offer.

Now let’s hope this anxiousness translates to an increase in U.S. per-capita seafood consumption, which is stuck at about 16 pounds. Reaching 17 pounds may be in the not-so-distant future, if restaurateurs and retailers can get their hands on the product they need.


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