Fishermen’s and Farmers' Markets

Fishermen’s and farmers' markets are temporary or fixed retail markets where space is obtained (usually for a small fee) for a specified day and time. Through this alternative market, fishermen sell their seafood directly to consumers and, when permitted, local chefs and caterers. Fishermen’s markets usually are located at a local harbor/port, whereas farmers’ markets often are located elsewhere in town. These markets tend to be well established in the community, and may provide general advertising to attract customers. The diversity of vendors and products also typically attracts a larger and more diverse group of potential customers compared to more individualized markets (e.g., off-the-boat sales). The regular face-to-face interactions with consumers can help build a loyal customer base, with the likelihood of expanding via word-of-mouth. Note that fees, insurance, time commitment and other requirements for vendors vary among these markets.

To evaluate whether this type of alternative market is an option for you, explore the benefits and challenges (in addition to those on the Considerations page), key questions, tips and resources in the boxes below.

Fishermen’s and Farmers' Markets

Benefits and Challenges

  • Often well attended, with potential to attract and establish a loyal customer base
  • Advertising provided by market
  • Face-to-face interactions with customers allow you to:
    • educate them
    • obtain their feedback
    • build long-term relationships with them, which may provide support when needed
  • Opportunity to brand your business, enhancing product recognition and sales
  • You have the opportunity to control product quality from the time of capture until it is in the hands of the customer 

  • Have to abide by market rules and regulations, and usually pay fees and/or sign a contract
  • May be difficult to get a space in well established markets 
  • Sales may be vulnerable to varying customer flow, competing events, or bad weather 
  • May need to travel to market(s) located far from your boat to maximize sales
  • Sales may be limited by competition with other fishermen selling similar product at the same time
  • Processing into portions, fillets or steaks likely needed to meet customer demand, requiring additional resources (financial, human, and physical) and/or arrangements with a processor or seafood market
DuPuy Sale
Fishermen’s and Farmers' Markets

Key Questions

Here are some questions to ask yourself and others about the operations of and personal considerations for this market type. Contact proper authorities to obtain up-to-date information and specific requirements for your business.

  • Does the market operate at times when you have product available? 
  • Does the market include enough seafood consumers to make it profitable for you? 
  • If other vendors are marketing the same product, will the demand be high enough to support you and the others? 
  • What are the market’s rules and requirements?
    •  What is the application process, deadline and fees? 
    •  Do you need to reapply each year or will your space be renewed automatically?
    •  Are you required to carry particular liability or other insurance?
    •  Who may and may not sell: fishermen, family members, local buyers, others?
    •  If you have little or no catch one week, are you permitted to sell seafood caught by another fisherman?
    •  What times must you (or someone working with you) be at the market?
    •  Will you have easy access to your truck from your stall?  
  • Do you have the proper equipment and supplies for maintaining safe, high quality product while handling, holding and selling it? 

  • What will you do with product that does not sell?

  • Do you need to process your catch? If so, what additional facilities, supplies, equipment, personnel and permits are needed?

    • How will you address additional seafood safety issues? What kind of control measures, monitoring procedures and records are needed to document the use of safe handling practices?

Fish Market
Fishermen’s and Farmers' Markets


Consult with resource management, public health and business authorities before selling your seafood. In some states, requirements for selling to the public are different from those for selling to retailers, chefs and other food service providers (see Permits and More).


  • Be prepared with: several large coolers, ice or ice packs, thermometers for coolers, folding table(s), canopy, neatly lettered signs for your business, markers and small signs for prices and labels.
  • Organize your catch by weight, size and type in your storage container, and make a map of this arrangement. This will help you and others locate the desired product quickly and minimize product exposure to warmer temperatures.
  • Determine how you will handle unsold product at the end of the market: 
    • Do not discount your product at the end of the day – this will undercut your efforts to be paid the full value for your high quality product.
    • Set a time that all pre-ordered product must be picked up so you have time to sell it to others if needed.
  • Provide or have customers bring a cooler or insulated bag with ice or ice packs to maintain safe, high quality product during transport.


  • For markets with multiple seafood vendors, discuss the need for everyone to maintain a high quality product to support the value of the product.
  • Build a positive working relationship with the market manager(s). 
  • Work with other market vendors to develop recipes that include each other’s products for distribution to customers.
  • Consider partnering with a local seafood market or others who have the proper permits, facilities, and trained personnel to process your customers’ purchases (e.g., cook shellfish, cut and wrap steaks/filets). Providers of this service may charge a fee to be paid by you or your customer. 
  • Consider collecting email addresses from customers to enable communications outside of the sales venue, including notifying them of product availability.
  • Describe how your pricing reflects the high quality of your product and service. 
  • Maintain strong customer relations; sell your product yourself. The more customers interact with and learn from you, the greater the likelihood they will continue to buy from you. 
    •  Provide customers with information on safe storage and handling of product, recipes, the catch, yourself and your boat, and related stories. 
    •  Consider providing free samples, especially for less familiar products. 
    •  Try to be consistent in your availability, hours and location; even if you have very little product, it’s important to show up.
Other Sellers at DuPuy Sale
Fishermen’s and Farmers' Markets


Connecting Farmer's Markets to a New World of Opportunities
US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Provides a link to the National Farmers Market Directory, and links for obtaining a listing in the directory.
Farmers Markets and Local Food Marketing
US Department of Agriculture (USDA). 
Farmers Market Coalition.
A nonprofit organization with a mission “to strengthen farmers markets for the benefit of farmers, consumers, and communities.” Provides information for farmers (and other producers) and develops and provides educational programming and networking opportunities for farmers market managers and vendors.
Food Hubs: Building Stronger Infrastructure for Small and Mid-Size Producers
US Department of Agriculture (USDA). 
Getting Started with the Water Harvest Program.
VA Sea Grant. A guide for fishermen to earn more for their catch by selling direct at farmers' markets.
Tips for Selling at Farmers Markets
ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture. National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service.
Washington State Farmers Market Manual
WA State University Small Farms Program, WA Department of Agriculture & WA State Farmers Market Association. 

West Coast State-Specific

California Certified Farmers Market.
CA Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). Provides information for CA farmers markets and community supported agriculture programs, e.g., a directory of farmers markets by county, application and certification forms, legislative and other policy information, links to county agricultural commissioners.
Oregon Farmers Market Association.
A nonprofit organization that promotes, supports and helps establish OR farmers' markets; provides services and educational assistance to market members; and helps connect rural and urban communities.
Washington State Farmers Market Association.
A nonprofit organization that supports and promotes WA farmers markets; its resource center page provides links to market assessment and business planning tools for farmers' markets.

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).