Bert Jongerden, the longtime general manager of the Portland Fish Exchange who oversaw its diversification and transition to an internet-based platform for selling fish, will step down at the end of 2020, the exchange board of directors announced July 7.
The city-owned seafood auction house was established in 1985 and is a public non-profit corporation, with directors appointed by the Portland City Council. It transformed Maine’s seafood marketplace in 1986, when the exchange began placing daily harvests of cod, haddock, flounder and groundfish in a refrigerated warehouse for inspection by wholesale buyers. All of the fish was sold at daily noontime auctions and shipped out by truck in the afternoon, with payments to fishermen guaranteed by the Exchange.
Jongerden has spent most of his working life in the seafood trades and was hired as general manager in 2007. It was a time when groundfish landings were declining across New England and in Maine, the fishing fleet was consolidating with many Maine vessels relocating for other opportunities in Massachusetts ports, according to the directors.
The exchange replaced the traditional outcry auction of in-person bidding int 2008, moving to the internet for sales. Additionally, the exchange sought out new sources of income, leasing space in its 30,000 square foot Commercial Street building to other seafood tenants. The exchange also branched into warehousing lobster bait and handling other seafood not suited for sale by auction.
“Jongerden’s replacement will be tasked to continue bringing new opportunities to benefit commercial fishermen and Maine’s emerging aquaculture industry,” according to a statement from exchange directors.
Born in Eemnes, Netherlands, Jongerden came to Portland with his parents in 1960. He began his seafood career in sales and production in the 1980’s, working on Hobson’s Wharf in Portland.
“All of us will miss Bert," said Portland Fish Exchange president Tom Valleau. "He has been a wonderful friend and a hard-working manager.”