(Jan. 17, 2020) The annual commercial fishing and aquaculture expo, the only one in the Mid-Atlantic region, takes place at the Ocean City convention center on 40th Street, this weekend.

The Maryland Watermen’s Association will host its 46th annual East Coast Commercial Fishermen’s and Aquaculture Trade Expo, with more than 4,000 people expected throughout the three-day event, Jan. 17-19.

“It’s the only expo in the Mid-Atlantic geared specifically toward the commercial fishing industry,” Irene Connor, public relations specialist for the group, said. “It’s a great place to come if you’re in the industry and you want to keep abreast of the issues, be it aquaculture, legal things or things that are happening on a federal or state level.”

Last year, around 4,000 to 4,500 guests attended the show.

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Micky Fins executive chef Glenn Baublitz serves blue catfish during the 45th annual East Coast Commercial Fishermen’s and Aquaculture Trade Expo at the convention center on 40th Street last year.

More than 100 exhibitors will be selling commercial watermen gear and equipment including crab pots, oyster baskets, safety items, nets, buoys, rods, reels, crab pot wire, engines and clothing, as well as refrigeration and boats.

In addition, there will be vendors selling jewelry and toys for those who are less interested in bait and gear.

Last year, as a result of the partial government shutdown, vendors and guest speakers from organizations such as the Maryland Department of the Environment and NOAA were not able to attend the expo. A majority of those organizations are expected to attend this year.

On Friday night, there will be a cocktail party with an open bar from 6:30-8 p.m. featuring seafood hors d’oeuvres, salad, fruit and an oyster bar for $35 at the Clarion hotel on 101st Street.

After 8 p.m., it switches to a cash bar and there will be auction items donated from trade show vendors. Proceeds from the auction at 7:15 p.m. will benefit the Maryland Watermen’s Association.

Seminars will be held on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the convention center, with a focus on aquaculture and topics including trends in shellfish cultivation, maritime personal injury and aquaculture law. 

“While a lot of the people that come through are commercial fishermen, it is open to the public,” Connor said. “So, if you do sport fishing, too, or you’re just interested in the industry in general or just the sport, you’re welcome to come. There’s something for everybody.”

Tina Berger from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will speak during one of the seminars, providing an overview of some of the recent species of concern and what is being proposed for the future. 

Once again there will be fresh seafood tastings provided by the Department of Agriculture with Seafood Marketing.

The annual Waterman of the Year Contest will take place on Saturday around 2 p.m., where participants will compete for money, gear and prizes in individual skill competitions including net mending, rope splicing, knot tying and roping a piling. Children are also encouraged to participate.

“We really encourage the young kids to come out and compete because it helps make sure that the industry is going to continue and that there’s interest in it,” Connor said. “It really is enjoyable to see the kids come out and compete in the competition.”

To close out the show on Sunday at 3 p.m., the Maryland Watermen’s Association will hold a drawing for a Ford truck. The Association is selling 600 tickets at $100 each at the expo, in advance at marylandwatermen.com or by calling 410-216-6610.

Admission to the expo is $15 per day for adults, $25 for two days and a three-day pass costs $30. Children ages 12 and under get in free.

The expo runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.

For more information, call 410-216-6610 or email info@marylandwatermen.com.

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