Tuesday, March 27, 2018

SENA18: The Seafood Expo (Part 1)

"So long, and thanks for all the fish."
--Douglas Adams

I'm certainly thankful for all the seafood I tasted at the recent 2018 Seafood Expo North America (SENA). This was a tough year for SENA as a major snowstorm struck on their third day, significantly decreasing the number of attendees on that day as well as stranding some exhibitors and attendees in Boston for an extra day or two. In addition, I was unable to attend the first day of SENA, due to another commitment, so I only got to attend the Expo for one day. During that day, I immersed myself within the seafood industry, enjoying plenty of seafood samples and seeking out interesting stories.  

SENA is the largest seafood trade event in North America, continuing to grow each year, constantly breaking records on its size and attendance. Last year, over 1327 companies, representing 51 different countries, exhibited at the Expo and this year, that number rose to 1341 exhibitors, from 57 countries, including new ones such as Fiji, Oman, Ukraine and Venezuela. The total exhibit space grew from approximately 253,000 square feet to about 258,630 square feet. Walking down the 30+ aisles of the Expo makes for great cardio exercise and with the vast number of exhibitors, you're sure to find plenty of fascinating stories.

The basic Expo events occur each year from Sunday to Tuesday, over the course of 19 hours. This year, the program included over 30 conferences sessions, the 12th annual Oyster Shucking Competition, a Master Class on Oysters, a Maine Lobster cooking demo, and more. Something for everyone. You certainly can't attend every SENA event, so you need to pick and choose which you most desire to attend. This year, there were also over 20,000 attendees, from all over the world, making the Expo a truly international event.

SENA is my favorite food event each year, one which I have promoted and recommended year after year. Besides all the seafood samples, you'll also find ample fodder for many different story ideas. As an example, I've previously written as many as 22 articles based on stories I acquired from a single Seafood Expo. SENA touches on some of the most important issues facing our world. Every local writer who has any interest in seafood, sustainability, health, or food in general, should attend this Expo.

However, it seems few local writers actually go to SENA and those who do commonly write only a single article or two about it. These articles are often very basic, touching only on some of the most general issues about the Expo. Even the major local newspapers generally publish only one article, often a basic overview lacking any depth. That needs to change! We need more local writers to attend SENA and delve more deeply into the myriad issues of the seafood industry. We need more local writers to help promote seafood consumption and sustainability. We need more local writers to contribute to the discussion of these vital issues.  

It is obvious that a primary element of SENA is commerce, the buying and selling of seafood-related products and services. Nearly all of the exhibitors are there to make money while most of the attendees are there to spend money. Attendees are seeking seafood, both fresh and frozen, as well as various processed seafood products, from crab cakes to salmon bacon. Others are there to buy processing equipment, cooking supplies, packaging machinery, labeling equipment, conveyors, and much more. Still others are seeking services, from food safety to third party certification. Some of this commerce is international, with exhibitors and attendees from all over the world, trying to make deals.

What may not seem obvious is that SENA is not really about seafood. It's not??? Despite the many thousand pounds of seafood being showcased at the Expo, it is all merely a means to an end. SENA is actually about people and community. Seafood is only food, intended to provide sustenance and nutrition to people, and that is understood, though largely unspoken, by the exhibitors and attendees. SENA is much more about fishermen and fish farmers, distributors and retailers, inventors and importers. It is about all of the people involved in the seafood industry, and their economic well being. It is about the global economy as the seafood industry is truly international and affects people all across the world.

Concerns about seafood sustainability ultimately come down to the fate of people, whether future generations will have enough food to survive, and whether they will live in a clean world, with adequate resources. The fate of the oceans and the fish directly relates to the fate of mankind. When you understand that SENA is all about people, then the issues take on an even greater significance. We need to talk about this more, to ensure that everyone understands people are the primary concern. It is our future and nothing is more important than that.

Although SENA involves many serious and vital issues, it also has an element of fun, as well as plenty of tasty seafood samples. SENA is a showcase for new seafood products as well as place to display other seafood products which may have a storied history, such as Maine Lobster. Though it is common to find for sampling a variety of simple, fried seafoods, there are also some chefs who elevate their offerings, providing more interesting and delicious dishes, from Monkfish Stew to Salmon Meatballs. Over the course of a day at SENA, you can enjoy plenty of seafood, from oysters to uni, and you can repeat that for three days if you so desire.

I'll be posting additional articles about SENA in the near future, highlighting some of items which especially caught my attention this year. Plus, I want to highlight that SENA returns next year, March 17-19, 2019, and I strongly encourage all local writers to mark those dates down on their calendar and plan to attend next year. As I've mentioned before in other articles, there are about 4 times as many negative seafood articles in the media than positive ones. The seafood industry needs more champions to promote its many positive aspects and I call on local writers to step up and become one of those needed champions.

"We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch - we are going back from whence we came."
--John F. Kennedy

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