The Portland Phoenix

Portland Fish Exchange hires new manager

fishing nets

Nets coiled on a fishing boat docked at the Portland Fish Pier on Sept. 16, 2022. The Portland Fish Exchange has battled financial struggles and staffing issues, leading to frustrations with waterfront companies. (Portland Phoenix/Jim Neuger)

The Portland Fish Exchange has answered a key question about its leadership that has been in flux since last summer.

The Fish Exchange, an open-marketplace seafood auction overseen by a city-appointed board, hired a former marketing manager from seafood packing company Bristol Seafood to take over its operations. Officials and board members have been at odds about the position.

Robert Vanmeter was hired as the executive director. Vanmeter has more than 20 years of combined waterfront experience at Bristol Seafood and Nova Seafood, both on Commercial Street, and in Alaska. Vanmeter began his role on March 13 and was introduced at the Portland Fish Pier Authority (FPA) board meeting.

The exchange has been considering operational changes for almost a year, after members of the Portland Fish Pier Authority (FPA), the entity that oversees businesses on the pier, had to subsidize the exchange to keep it running on the back end of the pandemic.

FPA members agreed to continue providing necessary funds to the exchange as long as they agreed to explore a new governance model. That process has had its ups and downs, but reached a solution Monday. Members of the FPA voted unanimously to establish a new 11-member committee which would effectively represent the two boards and add more representation from the fishing industry.

“This was a challenging conversation,” said Meredith Mendelson, chair of the FPA and deputy commissioner at the Maine Department of Marine Resources. “The interests of the different boards were not always aligned, but I’m really glad we’re here with relatively strong agreement about things.”



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