BOSTON — Vaughn Stinson on Monday waded through the crowds at the Seafood Expo North America trade show, where more than 1,100 vendors from 47 countries were buying and selling every kind of marine life consumed by humans.
“I’ve begun to wonder if there are any fish left in the ocean,” remarked Stinson, director of the Maine Tourism Association, who was attending the show for the first time.
The show, produced by Portland-based Diversified Communications, is the largest seafood trade show in North America. The three-day show runs through Tuesday.
The “Boston fish show,” as it is commonly called, is on the calendar for everybody who is in the fish business, said Albert Carver, a lobster dealer from Beals Island.
“It’s a must,” he said. “Everybody I do business with is here.”
Carver said the show also gives him a chance to see some of the latest trends in packaging and processing equipment. He said companies continue to develop new ways to sell frozen lobster, including cutting up whole lobsters into chunks of meat, with bits of shell included in the meat.
In all, 17 Maine companies have rented booths at the enormous Boston Conventions & Exhibitions Center in South Boston.
Nearly all of the Maine companies are in the lobster industry, such as Cozy Harbor Seafood and Ready Seafood of Portland, Linda Bean’s Maine Lobster of Rockland and Greenhead Lobster of Kittery.
The only exceptions are Ducktrap River of Belfast, which sells smoked salmon, Schlotterbeck-Foss Co. of Portland, which sells fish sauces, and Ocean Approved of Portland, which sells kelp.
Michael Marceau, co-owner of the Lobster Co. in Kennebunkport, said the show is an opportunity to meet with his customers, most of whom are from overseas. The company ships live lobsters, primarily to Asia.
His company is paying between $4,000 and $5,000 for booth space at the show, and it’s well worth the money because of the potential to get lucrative new business.
“If you get just one new customer from the show, the show is a success,” said Marceau, who has come to the show since it began 33 years ago.
He seemed to be having good success Monday. Gui Tang Quin, a fish importer from Hang Zhaw, China, stopped by the booth and expressed interest in making a large order. He brought his own translator for negotiations.
“In China, everybody wants live lobster,” he said.
The Chinese have not heard of Maine, so there is no allure in the Maine brand, he said.
However, putting the word “Maine” on a package is a powerful lure for U.S. customers, said Alex Trent of True North Salmon, a farmed-salmon company based in New Brunswick.
Although most of the company’s salmon are raised in Canadian waters in the Bay of Fundy, the company’s packaging says that the salmon come from the “Gulf of Maine.”
The Bay of Fundy is part of the Gulf of Maine, Trent explained.
“The only place that beats Canada in recognition of quality is Maine,’ he said.
Many of the Asian sellers and buyers were smartly dressed.
The guys from Maine were easy to spot in the crowd. Alonzo Alley, owner of Island Tank Systems in East Machias, wore blue jeans, a work shirt and an old hat marked with a camouflage pattern.
“I ain’t going to wear no suit and tie,” he said. “I’m not here to impress anybody. Our product sells itself.”
Alley’s company makes concrete holding pools for lobsters and crabs. Rather than rent a booth, he walked around the show and introduced himself to potential customers.
On Monday, the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative brought in a chef and a marine biologist to teach customers about lobster biology and how to cook them. On Monday evening, the group held a reception at a nearby meeting hall that was attended by Gov. Paul LePage.
Marianne LaCroix, the group’s acting director, said Maine fishermen are fortunate that the show is so close to Maine because they can come to Boston and see how Maine lobsters are part of a global industry.
“They get to see how what they do fits in with the whole world of seafood,” she said.
Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at: