Sea Changes in Seafood Markets

by Rona Kobell

Chesapeake Quarterly’s editor, inquires about crabs at D.C.’s Maine Avenue Fish Market at the Wharf. Photo, Nicole Lehming / MDSG
Chesapeake Quarterly’s editor, inquires about crabs at D.C.’s Maine Avenue Fish Market at the Wharf. Photo, Nicole Lehming / MDSG

It wasn’t that long ago that we got up close and personal with our fish. We knew the names of the men — and some women —who caught them, cut them, and sold them. 

At local open-air fish markets from Boston to Baltimore, on wharves crowded with incoming vessels from the Chesapeake and Atlantic, the seafood economy was on full display.

Today, most of us who buy fish find it under plastic at the grocery store. And it usually comes from far away: Atlantic salmon farmed in Norway, halibut caught wild in Alaska.

No doubt today’s seafood is safer. But the distance we’ve put between us and our fish has also created a dissonance between the health of our bay and that of ourselves. It’s healthy for us to eat more fish, but isn’t it also a sign of a healthy Chesapeake if the fish come from here?

For this issue of Chesapeake Quarterly, Baltimore writer Brennen Jensen dives into the history of Baltimore’s famous seafood market — and its future, as an “eat-and-catch local” movement gains a foothold. We also look at the essential role that Sea Grant plays, nationally, in keeping seafood safe. Here in Maryland, Sea Grant’s Cathy Liu has helped many seafood processors reduce their contamination risks; you can read all about her contributions in this issue. Farther afield, there is Constantinos Mylonas, who used funding from Maryland Sea Grant at a crucial point in his studies to help him develop brood stock management techniques in blue fin tuna. He is applying those ideas in Greece in hopes of growing that country’s aquaculture industry.

We also introduce readers to our new Knauss fellows, who have studied marine science and will now spend a year in the offices of the executives who help set the agendas for coastal and oceans policy. You’ll get to meet our science management and policy intern, Eva May, as well. And we’ll reconnect with Emily Liljestrand, a former Maryland Sea Grant fellow, who is using new models to interpret historical data and learn where menhaden traveled in the 1960s, how many died on the way, and what those statistics can tell us about the way we fish now.

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