• Claire Wu

Fresh Off The Plane: Where does our favorite seafood come from?

Updated: Jul 10, 2019

The sky is still dark, and there are few cars on the street. But the parking lot in front of John Nagle Co. on the Boston Fish Pier is filled with trucks loaded with seafood products waiting to be unloaded. The seafood comes from all over the world, each box weighing 4-8,000 pounds. While most people are still in bed, Robert Nagle’s day has already started.

“Whatever the population that’s living in this country wants, that’s what we try to stock.”— ROBERT NAGLE

Staff members of John Nagle come in as early as 5am to provide the freshest seafoods to its customers

Boston is known for its seafood, people come here to try the famous clam chowder and lobsters. The city has a great advantage when it comes to serving great seafood cuisines as it’s close to the source. When it comes to the origin of people’s favorite seafoods, wholesalers plays an important role in purchasing and providing them to restaurants and markets around the country. The staff of John Nagle Co. arrives at the pier as early as 5 am just to process and distribute the freshest seafood to its customers.


Outside of the facilities, there were trucks loaded with boxes of seafood products. These trucks have just came from the airport, and are now ready to go and pick up more seafood products at the airport.



A staff member defrosting and separating the fish that’s been frozen together.

Nagle, the Vice President of John Nagle Co., walks through the front office, and walked into the processing facility. There, boxes of European sea bass are stacked to the ceiling. Each box contains a bag of fish, and an ice pack on top of it to keep the fish in its freshest condition. Staffs would check the quality of the fish and make sure the labels of it are accurate.


Next to it is room with a huge bucket filled with water, which is where they called processing room. “You can tell it’s a very fresh product because it comes out from the ocean, and it’s frozen right away,” Nagle said. He said the fish were then sent over to the facility while it’s still frozen. Here comes the next step, in which the staff would try to defrost and separate the fish in the bucket full of cold water.



Self-picked Seafood


Some prospective buyers would come on certain days to purchase the seafood products and distribute it to other states.

Nagle says while they have a lot of customers order seafood products from all around the country, there are some vendors from New Hampshire and Maine who would come all the way to Boston to pick up what they need. “We’re hustling pretty hard,” said a customer from Vermont, an expert in fresh seafood distribution efficiency, “we’re making sure that we don’t make mistakes and we’re filling the truck between Nagle and several other companies in Boston, then we go to other places as the rest of the world wakes up.” This buyer’s job is to pick up the seafood products within x amount of hours and distribute it to the customers in other states, so people who don’t live by the sea can also get fresh seafood. “We’re kind of different,” he said as he explained that the products that he picked out were all sold, because restaurant owners wouldn’t want them to call at 5 a.m. and ask what they need.


Seafood from all around the world

John Nagle Co. at your service

“If you give them what they want, the system will flow and [the customers] will come back.”— ROBERT NAGLE

There are many storage rooms within the facility, and each storage rooms are filled with boxes of seafood products coming from all around the world. Nagle explained, the reason why they’re supplementing seafood products from other products is because the resources aren’t available to in the quantities they used to be. “There’s no real production in Boston,” said Nagle. He said there were a lot of boats in Boston, but now it only has about 15 boats in total. “We owned some of the boats at one point, now the boats we owned had been sold,” Nagle said, “they weren’t sustainable.” In terms of capacity production, “nothing here is massive” said Nagle. At its current state, John Nagle Co. focuses more on cut to order. Nagle said the company focuses on buying and customizing the processing fish so more people know what they want.“We don’t cut a bunch of fish and let it sit around and hope someone buys it, Nagle said, “Basically, everything we cut it somebody said I want to buy it.”


With the idea of efficient distribution, customers can make a composition of anything they want, whether it’s fresh seafood, frozen seafood, live seafood, smoked seafood, or salt seafood. The Nagles believe that if you give them what they want, the system will flow and the customers will come back. That is why, they always have an openness for customers to tell them what they want. Just tell them what you need, they will find the source and find it for you.


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