Best of Boston

Seafood on the menu as Scots do busi­ness in North Amer­ica

Fish Farmer - - Contents - BY HAMISH MAC­DONELL

IT was the cullen skink that did it. They came from all around, partly be­cause it smelled so good, partly be­cause word had spread and partly be­cause it was so dif­fer­ent from the nib­bles be­ing of­fered at ev­ery other stall. It was day one of Seafood Expo North Amer­ica (SENA), the mas­sive event in the Boston con­ven­tion cen­tre which draws seafood pro­duc­ers, buy­ers, dis­trib­u­tors and jour­nal­ists from all over the world ev­ery March.

The Scot­tish stand was not the big­gest or showiest in the huge hall this year but it had cullen skink: and that seemed to make a dif­fer­ence.

John and Ca­tri­ona Frankitti, of Fish for Health, who or­gan­ised much of the Scot­tish pres­ence, started serv­ing the fa­mous smoked had­dock and potato soup early on that first day and they didn’t seem to stop.

When all the other sam­ples be­ing handed out across the hall could be mea­sured in mil­lime­tres, the gen­er­ous cups of Scot­tish soup proved an un­doubted win­ner.

In an event as big as SENA, where every­body is try­ing to make them­selves ap­pear big­ger, bet­ter and brighter than ev­ery­one else, a point of dif­fer­ence is in­valu­able.

If the cullen skink was one point of dif­fer­ence then Mark Green­away was an­other.

This chef from Ed­in­burgh spent his days pre­par­ing dishes on the cook­ing sur­face at the front of the Scot­tish stand and only seemed to break from that when he was on the main stage do­ing the same thing.

For the three-day event, the Scot­tish stand be­came the hub for trade, meet­ings, ne­go­ti­a­tions and re­la­tion­ship build­ing.

There is a sec­tion in the hall de­voted to tech­nol­ogy with wa­ter pu­ri­fiers

rub­bing shoul­ders with pack­ag­ing com­pa­nies but, re­ally, this is an event for the buy­ers and dis­trib­u­tors.

Some of the en­quiries were straight­for­ward: how can we get Scot­tish salmon to a restau­rant in Pitts­burgh?

Oth­ers were harder to deal with: I want Scot­tish sar­dines, I want them from Aberdeen and I want to import them into the United States in tins.

But John and Ca­tri­ona and the oth­ers there dealt with them all, skil­fully and pa­tiently, leav­ing none disappoint­ed.

What goes on in the hall is only one part of this con­ven­tion, how­ever.

A reg­u­lar se­ries of talks, lec­tures and panel dis­cus­sions takes place in rooms around the top of the venue, work­ing through is­sues as var­ied as sus­tain­abil­ity in tilapia farm­ing to fed­eral fish­ing lim­its off the US coast.

But there’s more too, out­side the hall. A meet­ing of the In­ter­na­tional Salmon Farm­ers As­so­ci­a­tion (with the Scot­tish Salmon Pro­duc­ers Or­gan­i­sa­tion closely in­volved), in a cor­po­rate board­room in down­town Boston, worked on plans for the first proper global com­mu­ni­ca­tions ap­proach to the salmon farm­ing sec­tor.

This could – and should – be an im­por­tant de­vel­op­ment. The ra­tio­nale is sim­ple: if the reg­u­la­tors and the sec­tor’s crit­ics com­mu­ni­cate across bor­ders, then the PR teams should do so too.

For a con­ven­tion new­bie, like my­self, the expo was in­valu­able for learning from oth­ers: the Cana­dian east coast farm­ers, the west coast farm­ers, the salmon pro­duc­ers from Maine, from Chile, from Nor­way and from Ice­land.

All have as­so­ci­a­tions sim­i­lar to the SSPO, all have been through – and are go­ing through – sim­i­lar is­sues as the Scot­tish sec­tor and, as I found on ev­ery oc­ca­sion and at ev­ery meet­ing with them, all have valu­able ad­vice and guid­ance to of­fer.

It is easy to be­lieve the expo is a suc­cess for ev­ery­one: it may not be.

Left and op­po­site: Scot­tish seafood on show in Boston.

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