Products, Customers and Price


Fishermen selling their catch through alternative markets need to determine what products customers will buy, including type, quantity, portion size and packaging. Some common product options are: 

  • Live
  • Dressed
  • Headed and Gutted
  • Chunks (Portions)
  • Nuggets
  • Fillets
  • Smoked
  • Canned
  • Jerky

Fishermen may face competition when selling seafood that is identical or very similar to domestic and overseas products. Creating value-added products, such as vacuum-packed fillets or smoked pâté, can provide new marketing opportunities (see Resources below). However, fishermen producing these products are considered processors and thus are subject to additional seafood safety regulations (see Seafood Safety). Fishermen providing these products also likely will require additional resources (financial, human, physical) and/or arrangements with a processor or seafood market. 


Consider these tips to help decide what product types will work with your fishing operation:

  • Gather feedback from family, friends, chefs and local market managers to help identify:
    • types of products customers desire.
    • amount and frequency that a product is likely to be purchased.
    • potential customer base (e.g., consumers from some cultures may be more likely to purchase whole fish than others).
  • Balance customer needs with the resources (financial, human and physical) required to produce product(s).

Attention to these details can save time and money in the long run.

See resources below for additional information. 


Products, Customers and Price


Fishermen need to consider where and how their product will be sold. What location will be served, and will product be sold directly to consumers or to others (e.g., restaurants, institutions, retail markets)? The answers to these questions may be influenced by one or more factors, such as:

  • Access to nearby communities with high seafood demand. Urban areas are popular places to market seafood because they offer a large number of potential customers. However, also consider rural areas; while they have fewer people that often are more dispersed, their access to high quality seafood can be limited. Also, areas with little recreational or subsistence fishing may provide opportunities for seafood marketing; potential customers are not catching fish on their own.
  • Connections with people in distant areas. Often fishermen use their connections with family, friends and acquaintances elsewhere to set up alternative markets that serve customers far from where they fish.
  • Access to reliable shipping (truck/air). Fishermen have found this to be especially important if they land product at a port that is far from populated communities and/or viable markets.

Building a Customer Base

Once the market type and location have been determined, a customer base can be built using:

  • Word-of-mouth. A powerful way for building a customer base, where customers let others know about the product. Restaurants also may tell their customers whose product is being served and where to obtain it (e.g., off-the-boat sales, fishermen’s/farmers’ markets). 
  • eServices. Third-party companies that help fishermen connect with potential customers (see eServices).
  • Promotional activities. Traditional promotional materials (e.g., flyers, signs, ads in print and broadcast media), internet-based promotion (via a web presence), social media networking, and branding that let the public know about seafood businesses and products (see Promoting your Product).

See resources below for additional information.

Products, Customers and Price


The price of a fisherman’s product should not only reflect it’s high quality, but also the additional expenses (labor, time, materials) of producing and distributing the product to the consumer. Key factors that influence the price a fisherman can get for his/her product include:

  • Quality of the product
  • Accessibility of the product
  • Local prices for similar products
  • Values and preferences of clientele
  • Customer service
  • Brand recognition
  • Whether the product is sold directly or via others to the consumer 

See the resources below for information on setting a price for product while addressing these and other factors.


Fishermen already engaged in alternative marketing provided these tips about pricing:

  • Take pride in your product. Describe to your customers how the pricing reflects the high quality of your product and service.
    • Avoid bargaining when selling directly to consumers. This undercuts the value of your product and the additional effort that you have put in to providing it more directly to the consumer. 
    • Consider providing a price break to those who resell” your product to the consumer (e.g., restaurants, food service operators). They are taking on some parts of the marketing process for you.
  • Consider current seafood pricing to set your target profit margin. Get advice from other fishermen using alternative markets, look at pricing at retail markets, and use business tools (see business Resources) to identify a target profit margin that enables you to cover your fishing and marketing costs.

See the resources below for information on strategies and considerations for pricing product.



Calculating profitability for a direct marketing operation
AK Sea Grant.
Determining marketing costs and returns in alternative marketing channels
Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems.
Developing pricing strategies for direct marketers
AK Sea Grant.
Direct marketing and value added products.
Maryland Rural Enterprise Development Center. University of MD Extension.


Direct marketing and value added products.
Maryland Rural Enterprise Development Center. University of MD Extension.
National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Provides information on popular US seafood, including product types, nutritional value and recipes, aas well as the species, fisheries and management. 
Guidance for Industry: The Seafood List – FDA’s Guide to Acceptable Market Names for Seafood Sold in Interstate Commerce.
US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
OR State University Seafood Network Information Center. Provides links to sources of information on canning, chilling, refrigeration, and freezing seafood; time and temperature monitoring, energy considerations, and more.
Ready-to-sell: Developing value-added seafood products
NC Sea Grant.
TAA Staying Up to Date on Seafood Market Trends. Video. 
University of MN Center for Farm Financial Management.

Additional permits and other documentation usually are needed to establish an alternative market. Be sure to consult with resource management, public health and business authorities before selling your seafood.

Information provided on this page was synthesized from interviews with fishermen and buyers, and from the Fishermen’s Direct Marketing Manual, the Small Farm and Direct Marketing Handbook, ATTRA publications, and other resources (see About this Website and Resources).