At the Boston Seafood Show

Karl Wells
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Stunning displays of fresh fish from Newfoundland, including farmed salmon, steelhead trout, mussels

It was a bright, beautiful day as my plane touched down at Boston's Logan International Airport. Landing at Logan was a bit like landing on a tiny island at first.

The runway the Air Canada Dash 8 landed on was built on a peninsula that juts out into huge Boston Harbour. Seeing water through windows on either side of the plane was a little disconcerting, knowing the plane was only yards above ground or water.

Newfoundland chef Steve Watson serves samples at the Boston Seafood Show.

It was a bright, beautiful day as my plane touched down at Boston's Logan International Airport. Landing at Logan was a bit like landing on a tiny island at first.

The runway the Air Canada Dash 8 landed on was built on a peninsula that juts out into huge Boston Harbour. Seeing water through windows on either side of the plane was a little disconcerting, knowing the plane was only yards above ground or water.

Still, I was excited to be in Beantown, home of Harvard, Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market, Old Ironsides and - for the next three days at least - home of the 2009 International Boston Seafood Show. That's why I was in Boston. I'd been hearing about the Boston Seafood Show for many years and about Newfoundland and Labrador's participation in it. Now I was finally going to experience the show for myself.

I had a few hours before the show began, so I headed for the old market area of Boston - Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market.

I was hungry and wanted to taste Boston's famous chowder or "chowda" as the locals call it. I checked out the Union Oyster House, the oldest restaurant in America, established in 1826. They had chowder but the place was filled to the gunwales.

Eventually I got a take-away bowl from a vendor at Quincy Market. It was the best chowder I've ever had, creamy and full of flavour.

Overwhelmed

The International Boston Seafood Show was held at the massive Boston Convention and Exhibition Centre. The adjectives massive and spectacular are apt. The place must be several football fields in length. I was a tad overwhelmed as I stood at the top of the escalator and surveyed a scene filled with hundreds of booths representing a multitude of fishing nations. The colour blue dominated. I guess when you're selling seafood it's good to stick with the colour of the sea on a sunny day

As I made my way to the Newfoundland and Labrador pavilion I saw stunning displays of fresh fish. I was familiar with many of the species but some were new to me, like, for example: moonfish, California white sturgeon, Texas redfish, Scottish halibut, butterfish and barramundi. Barramundi, a native Australian fish, is a very interesting product. A company called Australis transports the young barramundi fry from Australia to the U.S. and then grows them in indoor tanks in New York. Aquaculture or fish farming played a prominent role at the Boston Seafood Show.

When I reached the Newfoundland and Labrador pavilion, resplendent in colourful photos of our seafood products, I realized that aquaculture is quite important in our marketing as well, after crab and shrimp that is. Newfoundland and Labrador aquaculture producers had their own section at the provincial pavilion, but were also a part of the Canadian Aquaculture booth nearby. Memorial University scientist and aquaculture specialist, Cyr Coutourier, was pleased with the reception our farm products were receiving.

Quality Canadian

"We've found it very interesting, but also very useful to know that people are really interested in Canadian farm products and 'Newfoundland' farm products as well. You know, we produce some very, very nice products.

They recognize the Canadian brand, even though we don't have a brand, as being a safe wholesome product that's environmentally sustainable and I think that's one of the things that's really come through to me today. So I think it's good and the flavour is there as well. And the people just love the flavour of our products."

Greg Brake of Newfoundland's Norlantic Processors Ltd. was at the show as well.

When I arrived, he and chef Steve Watson were discussing the positioning of his company's mussels and mussel salad product, alongside the farmed salmon and steelhead, in the aquaculture display cooler.

"I'm here at the Boston Seafood Show trying to sell our mussel products. We do fresh, frozen, and a marinated mussel salad and we're hoping to drum up some interest here with various distributors in the East Coast of the U.S," Brake said.

The mussel salad was very tasty, as were the mussels cooked in beer with cream by chef Watson. A chap tasting the mussels only did so after confirming they were Canadian. The widespread belief that Canadian products are very safe seemed quite important to people with whom I spoke.

Coutourier explained, for example, that with some European mussels there's a bacteria that might cause stomach upset. However, our blue mussels are rigorously inspected and are very clean food. Having eaten hundreds of them, I can vouch for that.

Diverse

As I was viewing the bountiful and diverse seafood display put together by our local delegation from the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, I was surprised to see creatures like whelks (a type of sea snail) and sea cucumber. Apparently they're popular in places like China. The sea cucumbers are turned into a powder that's sold in capsules.

According to Fisheries and Aquacutlure Minister Tom Hedderson, the Newfoundland and Labrador fishing industry is worth a billion dollars a year and aquaculture is worth approximately $63 million a year.

"It's the fastest growing part of our industry and right now we are poised for tremendous growth over the next couple of years and we're hoping to go to a point where we are comparable in production to at least the other jurisdictions, especially New Brunswick and B.C.," Hedderson said. "And we have now good plans. We have a strong association. We've got good solid players. This year in the upcoming budget you're going to see some significant gains as we look at trying to make sure that we have the infrastructure to catch up with the growth."

Newfoundland and Labrador had a big presence at Boston, but Canada in general had a major presence, as did the United States, Japan and China. Among other countries present were: Ireland, Vietnam, Oman, Malaysia, Korea, Mexico, India, Chile, Philippines and Peru. Many Pacific areas were represented including Hawaii.

Eco-friendly

One of the Hawaiian processors at the Boston Seafood Show was Kona Blue Water Farms. They farm a fish that's gained lots of recognition recently because it was served to U.S. President Barack Obama and his family. It's called Kona Kampachi, a type of yellowtail. Kona Kampachi is perfect for sushi and sashimi. The Obamas loved it, apparently. No doubt it's also popular because it's touted as being sustainable and "ecologically responsible." It was a familiar refrain at Boston and certainly not unfamiliar to Hedderson.

"We need to make sure that the world knows that we have a sustainable, a viable and a competitive fishing industry and that the carbon footprint that we're leaving is miniscule or is as less as we possibly can. We've got to meet that demand. On the aquaculture side, again, bio-security and the sustainability. Making sure that we're going into that industry with our eyes wide open and moving that along to a level that's comparable to where we should be. So, basically that's the priority, to continue on all the good work that's been done to this point and to make sure that our renewal and our projected growth in aquaculture is done in a sustainable manner."

My impression, from having spoken extensively with our minister of fisheries and aquaculture and others, is that, despite the devastation we've seen in the cod fishery, there is a great deal to be optimistic about in the industry. Diversification is key to future success, not only in terms of what we're catching and growing but also processing.

Jason Russell is with Atlantic Treasure International, a Conception Bay company that's smoking mackerel, caplin, herring and cod. He was in Boston looking for business as well. He displayed a refreshing optimism that I've seen in many young business people.

And thankfully, there seem to be many young people in our provincial seafood industry. Hopefully, they will lead us into a bright new sustainable future.

Organizations: Logan International Airport, Air Canada Dash 8, Union Oyster House Boston Convention Australis Canadian Aquaculture Norlantic Processors Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture

Geographic location: Boston, Newfoundland and Labrador, California United States Beantown Texas Australia New York China East Coast New Brunswick Canada Japan Ireland Vietnam Oman Malaysia Korea Mexico India Chile Philippines Peru Hawaii Conception Bay

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • True
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    Nothing about aquaculture is sustainable. It takes 10 pounds of fish to make 1 pound of farmed fish. Few fish can eat a vegetarian diet and they require other biomass of fish to eat. Farmed fish are far worse to the environment than wild caught fish. It's sad that in a place where fishing is such a large part of life that nobody realizes this.

    The author would also be better served by looking at the quality of Newfoundland products and what secondary processing is done to the fish/shellfish. Newfoundland has always had a low quality of fish due mostly to how the fishermen harvest the fish. Of course, nobody wants to own up to that problem as that would mean saying something politically unpopular.

  • True
    July 01, 2010 - 19:48

    Nothing about aquaculture is sustainable. It takes 10 pounds of fish to make 1 pound of farmed fish. Few fish can eat a vegetarian diet and they require other biomass of fish to eat. Farmed fish are far worse to the environment than wild caught fish. It's sad that in a place where fishing is such a large part of life that nobody realizes this.

    The author would also be better served by looking at the quality of Newfoundland products and what secondary processing is done to the fish/shellfish. Newfoundland has always had a low quality of fish due mostly to how the fishermen harvest the fish. Of course, nobody wants to own up to that problem as that would mean saying something politically unpopular.