Portland Fish Exchange considers merging with pier authority amid financial losses

The Portland Fish Exchange

The Portland Fish Exchange (PFE) has bought and sold daily catch in the U.S. state of Maine since 1986. On the eastern side of the pier, the fish exchange houses auctions of fresh seafood and acts as a financial intermediary for buyers and sellers.

Almost every day of the week, commercial fishermen unload their vessels’ catch, which then gets sorted, graded, and weighed in-house at the fish exchange. With a capacity of 22,000 square feet of refrigerated storage, PFE can accommodate a substantial amount of product from local fishermen.

Due to a decline in groundfish landings, in addition to a steep decline in the price of fish, the exchange has struggled in recent years. Over a year ago, PFE was exploring other business avenues, seeking options for the delivery of services and management.

At a June 2022 PFE board meeting, the board considered a proposal to outsource some of the facility's functions and seek financial assistance.

“In order to ensure continuity of services to the groundfish fleet, the Portland Fish Exchange commits to seeking in good faith a more sustainable business model than the current system has provided for many years,” Mainebiz reported.

The PFE is now poised to merge into the Portland Fish Pier Authority, which oversees the city-owned wharf on Commercial Street, after leaders from both quasi-public organizations recommended a tie-up in October 2023. PFE has frequently turned to the Portland Fish Pier Authority for financial requests. On 1 November, the authority was asked to consider a request to fund USD 45,000 (EUR 42,000) toward the exchange’s current USD 125,000 (EUR 116,000) budget deficit, in addition to USD 15,000 (EUR 14,000) to help pay the share of costs for a new ice machine.

“The deficit is based on many factors, including fish landings, property maintenance, payroll, and the general effects of inflation on the cost of doing business in Maine this year,” Portland Fish Exchange President Robert Odlin wrote in a 10 October memo.

The merger would keep PFE in business as an operational unit of the Portland Fish Pier Authority, Odlin said.

Reporting by Carli Stewart

Photo courtesy of Portland Fish Exchange


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