The 2015 Seafood Expo North America (SENA) convention in Boston attracted about 1500 exhibitors—including a number of successful and current clients of Kennebec River Biosciences– and perhaps 20,000 attendees over three days,  who came equally for the informative technical presentations and the associated trade show.   This year’s themes favored ‘sustainability’ and ‘certification’ along with seafood product excellence.

Attendees viewed the latest seafood producing and processing technology in action along scores of corridors in the vast  exhibition space,  while they compared, sampled, bought, sold, contracted, kibitzed,  haggled and otherwise discussed the many economic, political, regulatory  and scientific aspects of the global seafood products sector.  The human diversity factors abounded….suits, flannel shirts, company logo shirts, black leather jackets, mermaid and Southern Belle costumes, Senegalese folk dress, chefs’ hats, grizzled beards, bald heads, tight lips, wide smiles were all in abundance…along with disembodied voices emanating from motorized life-size polar bears that were out and about on the convention floor.   Most attendees were between 40 and 50 years old; men outnumbered women about 3-1.  For seafood species themselves, the salmon-related exhibits seemed to dominate overall, followed by those about shrimp, tuna, tilapia, crab, and molluscs like oysters and mussels.  But there were also many booths displaying octopus, eel, barramundi, bass and a variety of  other types of wild-caught and increasingly cultured aquatic animals.  Most displays were highly professional and informative in nature.  Some of the large corporate displays were over 30 feet high and 750 square feet in size,  with brilliantly-colored high-tech computer presentations, impressive demonstrations, attractive counters, huge industrial stoves ad display cases,  plush seats, special carpeting and even private conference rooms.  Others were tiny, with two round plastic tables, a few metal chairs, and some pamphlets.

The SENA is a truly international venue,  since many seafood companies are, or are becoming, multinational in makeup.  Although Asian-based  exhibiting companies were highly .visible and probably in the majority for booth numbers if not attendees, my distinct impression was that North American enterprises (and increasingly Central/South American producers) are more than holding their own in terms of both quantity and quality of seafood production.  Exhibits covered every aspect of modern seafood production:  net technology, radar, feed extrusion, communications systems, containers of all types, safety equipment, ice-making technology, de-boning machines, fast-freezing processes, fillet cutting, refrigerated transport systems (land/sea/air), and many more.  There were also a substantial number of investment, risk-assessment, insurance, cash flow  and certification services  companies present, as well as many regional, national and multi-national  seafood trade associations and a few government regulatory agencies.   Many of the  individual booth display themes stressed the quality and availability of product (and its presentation) over quantity of product.   While most of the exhibit personnel in the aquaculture sector with whom I  spoke already had a basic-or-better awareness of the importance of animal health and biosecurity as necessary concepts to optimize in their operations, relatively fewer had much knowledge of the benefits that vaccines or risk assessment or movement certification could provide to their companies’ benefit, and were quite interested in learning more about the types of aquatic animal health testing and other value-added services that KRB could give to their operations.

Many comments were overheard among the exhibitors themselves about the need for both small and large-scale seafood producers to successfully ‘finish’ their products, meaning to have them as market-ready as possible when the product  leaves their facilities.  My distinct impression was that a good number of  the aquaculture-sector exhibitors present at the SENA  had successfully learned and were profiting from those lessons, in some cases after hard or otherwise daunting experiences with disease or other challenges impacting  their culture operations.  Since KRB supports and provides all sorts of Solutions for the Blue Revolution, I felt there are many overlapping areas of research and development interest—especially for disease testing and certification services– with aquaculturists of all types.

As a final observation–I generally make it a habit not to eat anything that I’m not fairly familiar with;  but of course that resolve evaporated on the first day after about 15 minutes of wandering past mouth-watering and eye-popping displays of smoked, fried, baked, rolled, steamed, raw, broiled, stewed, breaded, and otherwise deliciously prepared seafood of all types. ‘Wandering’ itself got considerably more difficult between 11AM and 1 PM on any given day, when movement turned  into human gridlock, so I needed to station myself during that time somewhere near whatever booth had the samples I might actively be looking for,  if I wanted to get any of those samples….

Dr. Peter Merrill, DVM is KRB’s Director of Professional and Regulatory Affairs, and served previously as Director of Animal Imports for USDA-APHIS.  We are pleased to say he has since recovered  fully from his visit to the Expo.