(Jan. 18, 2019) The annual commercial fishing and aquaculture expo, the only one in the Mid-Atlantic region, kicks off at the Ocean City convention center on 40th Street this weekend.

The Maryland Watermen’s Association will host its 45th annual East Coast Commercial Fishermen’s and Aquaculture Trade Expo with more than 4,000 people expected throughout the three-day event, Jan. 18-20.

“The show was created to expose all the latest and newest equipment and gear, and what’s going on as far as regulations and requirements on commercial fishing,” Event Coordinator Victoria Brown said.

Last year, around 4,000 people attended the show.

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Rick Miller, of Miller’s Marine Service, out of Chestertown, Maryland, poses along with a number of motors during the 44th annual East Coast Commercial Fishermen’s and Aquaculture Trade Expo at the convention center last year.

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

However, due to the partial government shutdown, vendors and guest speakers from organizations such as NOAA will not be available to attend the expo.

“We’re really saddened the government people won’t be there this year,” Brown said.

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. with a focus on aquaculture and topics including trends in shellfish cultivation, grant research and seafood marketing.

“[Visitors] really learn more about the commercial watermen and what they truly are like,” Brown said. “There’re thousands of them there. We also have environmentalists and we all do work together. There is a lot of synergy between the different organizations.”

Tina Berger from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will finish off the seminars at 2:30 p.m., providing an overview of some of the recent species of concern and what is being proposed for the future, as well as document grant programs the organization operates to support the industry.

New to the expo this year is fresh seafood tastings provided by the Department of Natural Resources Department of Agriculture with Seafood Marketing.

“It’s just a lot of fun,” Brown said. “You don’t realize how much equipment and gear and what an impact on the economy these guys actually [have] out there to doing these jobs.”

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.

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, and a three-day pass costs $25. 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 at info@marylandwatermen.com.  

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