The longtime general manager of the city-owned Portland Fish Exchange has announced that he plans to retire at the end of the year.

Bert Jongerden was hired as general manager in 2007, managing the seafood auction house at a time when groundfish landings in Maine were experiencing a decline due to consolidation of the fishing fleet and the relocation of fishing boats lured by better income opportunities to Massachusetts ports.

Bert Jongerden at his desk at the Portland Fish Exchange in May 2009. Doug Jones/Staff Photographer

In 2008, the Fish Exchange moved its auction to an internet-based platform, which replaced the traditional auction where buyers would shout out their bids. The seafood auction house was established nearly 35 years ago

The Fish Exchange’s board of directors has already begun a search for Jongerden’s replacement, according to a news release issued by city spokeswoman Jessica Grondin. The nonprofit corporation’s board is appointed by the Portland City Council.

When it opened in 1986, the Fish Exchange transformed Maine’s seafood marketplace by placing the daily harvest of freshly caught cod, haddock, flounder and other groundfish in a refrigerated warehouse where the catch could be inspected by wholesale buyers. All of the fish was sold during a noontime auction and shipped out by truck in the afternoon.

Jongerden’s replacement will be responsible for bringing new opportunities that could benefit commercial fishermen and Maine’s emerging aquaculture industry.

But the seafood industry has been upended by the spread of the coronavirus, halting sales in restaurants and sending fishermen and dealers scrambling for new markets. Some fishermen have tied up boats until the pandemic ends. In April, Jongerden told The Associated Press that the auction house typically moves up t0 60,000 pounds of fish a week, but was down to less than a third of that total.

The Fish Exchange is located 6 Portland Fish Pier, off Commercial Street in Portland. Jongerden was born in Eemnes, Netherlands, moving to Portland with his parents in 1960. He began his seafood career in sales and production in the 1980s, when he worked at Hobson’s Wharf in Portland.

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