Direct Sales to Consumer Help Keep Shellfishermen Afloat

WELLFLEET – During the COVID-19 pandemic, shellfishermen were forced to shift the ways they get their catch to customers, but some changes might be here to stay.

Wellfleet Fishermen’s Association President Ginny Parker said the pandemic brought with it new challenges for the industry—particularly shut downs for the restaurants that purchase the catch—but fishermen were ready to adjust.

In order to get shellfish to consumers, the association and fishermen set up a more direct sales channel in the form of the Wellfleet Fishermen’s Farmers Market with the assistance of the town and state Division of Marine Fisheries. 

“That has actually introduced almost a new market for us,” said Parker.

“We are seeing this new passion spring up from local year-rounders and also second homeowners who have now joined us during COVID for eating shellfish, learning how to open oysters and cook clams at home.”

Parker said that the system has worked so well that she sees it staying around even after COVID vaccinations return the region to a “new normal.”

“They drive from Boston every weekend to pick up shellfish, they drive down from the canal to pick up shellfish. Now we have other towns that are following our lead and starting their own markets.”

Parker said that the organization is the process of helping the Town of Barnstable set up a similar market, and that Bourne and Chatham have shown interest as well. 

Those purchasing the shellfish arrive at the market in their cars and can meet the fishermen who are providing the food, all while abiding by all COVID safety protocols. 

She also said that the net amount of money shellfishermen make in this way is more than double what it would have been during this part of the year through a traditional dealer before.

Parker said that there has been over 1,700 sales and over 900 customers throughout the season, strong numbers despite the ongoing outbreak. 

More information on the Wellfleet Shellfishermen’s Association and the market can be found on their website, where they also post recipes for those cooking at home during the pandemic.

To listen to our Sunday Journal segment with the President of the Wellfleet Shellfishermen’s Association Ginny Parker, click here.

About Grady Culhane

Grady Culhane is a Cape Cod native currently living in Eastham. He studied media communications at Cape Cod Community College and joined the News Center in 2019.
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