Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

October 23, 2023

Amid financial losses, Portland Fish Exchange may fold into pier authority

Shot of gloved hands handling fish at the Portland Fish Exchange File Photo / Jim Neuger Newly caught fish are sorted at the Portland Fish Exchange in this file photo from 2020.

The Portland Fish Exchange, the financially struggling auction house where southern Maine's daily catch has been bought and sold since 1986, may soon have a new operator.

The exchange is poised to merge into the Portland Fish Pier Authority, which oversees the city-owned wharf on Commercial Street, after leaders from both quasi-public organizations last week unanimously recommended the tie-up.

The authority's board of directors is scheduled Wednesday to review a merger plan and may then recommend it to the City Council, which would have the final say.

The fish exchange, on the eastern side of the pier, houses auctions of fresh seafood and acts as a financial intermediary for buying and selling. On most days of the week, commercial fishing vessels offload at the exchange, which sorts, grades and weighs the fish. They are then held in the facility’s 22,000-square-foot refrigerated warehouse awaiting auction buyers.

aerial of wharf and buildings and cars
Courtesy /
The Portland Fish Exchange is shown in the center of this aerial view of the Portland Fish Pier, looking south.

But in recent years the Portland Fish Exchange has had to contend with fewer groundfish landings, as well as declining revenues and the effects of changes in climate, regulations and the economy. The challenges have led the PFE to consider various business responses, including a proposal last year to outsource some functions.

The exchange has also turned frequently to the authority for financial help. In fact, at the Wednesday meeting the authority is also scheduled to consider a request to fund $45,000 toward the exchange's current $125,000 budget deficit. The exchange is also asking for $15,000 to help pay its share of costs for a new ice machine.

Robert Odlin, president of the Portland Fish Exchange, wrote in an Oct. 10 memo that the deficit is "based on many factors" including fish landings, property maintenance, payroll "and the general effects of inflation on the cost of doing business in Maine this year."

Under the proposed merger plan, the exchange would continue to do business and would be an operational unit of the Portland Fish Pier Authority.

The authority's board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday at 3 p.m. and more information can be found here.

Sign up for Enews

Related Content


Order a PDF