50 years of Fish Expo

Back in 1986, Fish Expo, the world’s leading commercial fishing exposition, celebrated its 20th anniversary.

The November 1986 issue of National Fisherman celebrated the 20th annual Fish Expo event.Within minutes of the Bayside Exposition Center that housed the annual fishing event lies Boston Harbor — the site of a significant inshore commercial fishing industry. A 37-square-mile body of water, Boston Harbor, or what is properly known as the inner harbor, is bounded by Deer Island on the north and Point Allerton to the south. The harbor supports a handful of fisheries, and the November ’86 issue of National Fisherman tried to squeeze information on all of them into one tight feature.

The harbor supports one of the East Coast’s major lobster fisheries that landed 3.9 million pounds with a dockside value of $9.6 million the previous year. According to the Boston Harbor Lobstermen’s Association at the time, there were roughly 90 full-time boats, mostly 30- and 40-footers, tending lobster gear there, with numbers swelling up to 150 during the summer.

The article went on to explore how the harbor sustained a soft-shell clam industry, a monthlong winter fishery for blackback flounder for draggermen and gillnetters, a few fishermen setting tub trawls for flounder and cod, and a small-scale menhaden fishery for bait. This isn’t counting the numerous recreational fisheries.

Around that time, a new group representing the concerns of Boston area fishermen and environmentalists was seeking to galvanize a massive cleanup of the harbor. Save the Harbor, Save the Bay was planning to launch a water-quality-monitoring program that fall.

1986 also marked 11 years since we began the tradition of NF Highliner Awards. That year’s recipients included longtime fishermen and industry leader Jake Dykstra of Point Judith, R.I., New England groundfish veteran Richard McLellan out of Boothbay, Maine, and longtime Florida Keys fisherman Bill Moore.

That year, NF also presented its first Industry Excellence award to the Point Judith Fisherman’s Cooperative Association, the “longest-lived and most politically active finfish co-op on the East Coast.”

We enjoy looking back at the past as well as keeping a keen eye toward the future. Pacific Marine Expo, the West Coast successor to Fish Expo, is scheduled to take place Nov. 17-19 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. Check out the event site for a list of events, speakers and exhibitors. And don’t forget to register!

About the author

Samuel Hill

Samuel Hill is the former associate editor for National Fisherman. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine where he got his start in journalism at the campus’ newspaper, the Free Press. He has also written for the Bangor Daily News, the Outline, Motherboard and other publications about technology and culture.

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