The Super Bowl Of Seafood: SENA Boston 2023

Back in 2019 I had a great time in Boston during my first visit to Seafood Expo North America. However, I’ve been too occupied with my real job to even consider visiting this year. Then out of the blue my friends over at WiseFish sent me an invitation! What great people to offer me another chance to visit one of the most significant seafood industry events in the world. So to my Icelandic friends over at Wise Fish: TAKK FYRIR SÍÐAST (Thank you for last time).

SENA 2023 above

We only had time to visit one day and we started early, and left when my legs and stomach said no more. It was a whirlwind, and so crammed with vendors that I’m sad that I missed several companies that I’ve featured here on Buying Seafood.


This time I was accompanied by my new Social Media Manager – my wife Danielle who, usually is not as adventurous as I am when it comes to seafood. But I have to say I was impressed with the various samples she tried…most but not everything we ate was very good.

A LIST OF SPECIES THAT WE TRIED – IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER

Salmon- Eel-Jack mackerel-Tuna-Shrimp-Clams-Oysters-Krill-Blue catfish-Barramundi- Scallops-Abalone-Blue crab-Cod-Walleye-Pollock-Mussels-Seaweed-Surimi

Thoughts on SENA 2023

seafood boat

More salmon than ever! The convention was awash in hues of pink to orange farmed Atlantic salmon. All the heavy hitters were here, joined by various others from around the world, selling product that ranged from organic top-quality farmed fish to salmon that makes you wonder why even bother.

The vast majority of salmon we tried was very good, and our first stop was to Bakkafrost, one of the companies that make up Faroe Island Salmon. Not only did their sushi chef prepare some delicious sashimi, their reps also told me how their feed pellets are up to 50% fish, made from the scraps leftover from processing. They also now have a processing plant in New Jersey to handle the salmon that are flown in fresh from Faroe Islands. The standard for most Norwegian farmed salmon is about 30% and the nice guys I talked to from Chile seem to use even less than that.

I like salmon as much as the next guy, but we have to find an alternative to feed-lot style aquaculture. I also find it interesting that out of the farmed salmon I really like – none are from the United States. I prefer Faroe Islands, the organic farms in Scotland, and the top-tier brands from Norway.

Probably the best of the smoked salmon we tried was from Skipness Smokehouse – an artisanal smokehouse from Scotland. He sources his fish from Loch Duart and smokes in small batches. It was wonderful and stood out even though by that point we had eaten the equivalent of a whole salmon. They are also looking for a distributor to get this fantastic smoked salmon to the American market, so hopefully they can find one soon.

fresh sea scallops

Salmon, Tuna, Scallops, Oysters, Shrimp were the stars as usual with lobster in the mix as well. There was tuna poke everywhere and it was fun to try all the different combinations.

Farmed was much more prevalent than wild at least that was my impression walking around, even without talking to reps. Most of the salmon, shrimp, and oysters are farmed of course. There was also farmed tuna, which I found surprising, halibut farming is growing in popularity and farmed branzino from Europe can now be found across the country. The biggest surprise? Farmed cod from Norway…it was tasty but I don’t know how I feel about this product coming to the American market to compete with our wild fisheries.

Of course I have to mention the delicious barramundi prepared by my friends at Australis. This is a farmed fish that I approve and it a great alternative to farmed salmon.

Seaweed is making inroads into the larger seafood market. No longer a niche, seaweed in various forms and products have gone mainstream. The best of the seaweed products we sampled were from Blue Evolution, who run seaweed farms in Alaska and Baja California.

Chile Pavilion

Large South American presence: Compared to 2019, South America stood out more to me with sizeable national pavilions. Chile had LOTS of farmed salmon and steelhead trout but also we also met the folks from Orizon, who specialize in wild caught canned seafood like their jack mackerel products.

Ukrainian Krill? This was the most surprising product I sampled, provided by Krill USA, a Ukrainian company. I don’t know much about this industry or the product but I was intrigued enough to get a sample and I will be doing a review in the near future.

Wild-caught fish companies griping about lack of domestic processing: We met some nice guys from Nova Scotia selling salted and smoked cod, cusk, hake and more…much of which comes from Gloucester! Not only do they have the processing power up there, but there is also a good demand for salted fish, which allows them to make full use of their supply and also buy from boats when the fresh fish price is bad.

Maryland Catfish Chowder

Chesapeake blue catfish from Maryland’s Best: One wild caught fish that I really enjoyed is an invasive blue catfish from Maryland. The blue catfish chowder was the best thing the two of us sampled during the Seafood Expo. I’m usually not a catfish fan, unless it’s fried and has a nice sauce to cover it up. This was not “catfishy” at all and made me curious about yet another invasive, but delicious species that threatens habitat. If you can’t beat ’em, eat ’em!

International show lacked a strong local/regional presence especially from my hometown of Gloucester, Massachusetts. I can’t believe that the oldest and most famous fishing port in North America, had no official presence at SENA 2023, even as we celebrate our 400th anniversary. Don’t get me wrong there were plenty of local companies, but I felt they were buried among the national pavilions and the larger companies. I think it would have been nice to have something like that for the more local companies. Like a “seafood from New England” setup like so many other regions had.

Should I be mad? A disappointing moment was when we met up with a local company who will remain nameless, that is using local imagery for their branding. Yet when asked about their sourcing – NONE of it was local. Canadian Lobster, Clams from Washington State and/or Maine.

Conclusion – Seafood Expo North America

Overall we had a lot of fun and at a lot of tasty and some unique seafood products. However I did feel a little discouraged with the continued salmon/tuna dominance. I also see no end in sight to the massive imports of seafood in the US many species like cod, haddock and lobster all in direct competition to our local fisheries.

I also have to admit I was a bit unprepared, and did not have a full gameplan. The invite from WiseFish was unexpected but very appreciated. I apologize to friends I’ve made through this website over the years if I missed your booth – but it’s never too early to start making plans for SENA 2024!