Portland Fish Exchange consolidates with lease to seafood processor

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PORTLAND — In what it called the most significant realignment in its 25-year history, the Portland Fish Exchange on Tuesday announced it has agreed to lease about a third of its space to a local seafood processor.

The 10-year deal with Cozy Harbor Seafood is valued at $1.1 million, the exchange said in a press release. It said the space became available because of a significant decline in fish landings.

At its peak, the exchange auctioned off 30 million pounds of groundfish annually, according to the press release. But in recent years, in part because of federal limits on the fishing fleet, that figure has dropped to about 10 million pounds, leaving the exchange with much more space than it needed.

General Manager Bert Jongerden said the combination of rental income and lower operating expenses will help the wholesale fish auction house sustain itself financially in the coming years.

Cozy Harbor will occupy 11,000 square feet of the exchange’s 30,000-square-foot building on Portland’s central waterfront. The lease includes a pier, employee parking and truck docks.

The company will staff its new facility with 25 employees, most of whom will transfer from its main plant on St. John Street. As many as 10 new jobs will be created in the expansion, according to John S. Norton, the firm’s president.

Cozy Harbor will begin occupying the space in October. The company has had a long relationship with and is a regular buyer on the exchange, according to the press release. In addition to serving on an advisory board to help the city of Portland establish the exchange, Cozy Harbor bought the first lot of fish auctioned when the exchange opened in 1986.