The Portland Fish Exchange (PFE) has bought and sold daily catch in 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 the decline in groundfish landings over the past few years, the exchange has had to cope with less product and a steep decline in the price of fish. Over a year ago, PFE was exploring other business avenues, seeking options for the delivery of services and management.

As stated in a June 2022 board meeting, “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,” according to a Maine Biz article from that time. In addition to PFE's proposal to outsource some of the facility's functions this year, they have also asked for financial assistance.

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 two weeks ago. PFE has frequently turned to the Portland Fish Pier Authority for financial requests. This past Wednesday, the authority was asked to consider a request to fund $45,000 toward the exchange’s current $125,000 budget deficit. In addition to $15,000 to help pay the share of costs for a new ice machine.

In an Oct. 10 memo the president of the Portland Fish Exchange, Robert Odlin, wrote, “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.”

The merger would keep PFE doing business and be an operational unit of the Portland Fish Pier Authority. Find more information on the Portland Fish Pier Authority Board Meeting here. 

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Carli is a Content Specialist for National Fisherman. She comes from a fourth-generation fishing family off the coast of Maine. Her background consists of growing her own business within the marine community. She resides on one of the islands off the coast of Maine while also supporting the lobster community she grew up in.

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