Regulation Changes & Fish Farms; How Local Fish Markets Stay Relevant 

Story by: Marshall Shive

Seafood lovers and seafood restaurants across Jacksonville rely on commercial fishing to supply them with the highest quality and freshest fish, but how are the small family-owned businesses fighting against the big competition in the River City? The Trout River Fish Co. is family owned and operated. Located across the street from the Trout River fishing pier on N Main St. the small mom and pop shop has consistently brought in business for the past six decades.  

David Cowart, a lifelong employee at the Trout River Fish Co. explained the origins of the shop and its role it has played in the Jacksonville fishing community.  

“Trout River Fish Company was started around 60 years ago by a man named Mr. Marvin, and it’s been like a pillar to the community ever since. Everybody comes here to get fresh seafood. Fresh crabs, fish, and shrimp, we also provide fresh bait and tackle. Plus, it provides our family with jobs.” Said Cowart.  

Cowart was very clear about what sets them apart from the rest of the seafood markets in Jacksonville. Highlighting the services, they offer that are unique to their shop. 

“Here we provide a lot of things. We provide rods, reels, life jackets, knowledge of local fishing spots, educating people on how to tie knots, and we’ll even spool your reel for you. We like to create memories families won’t forget.” Stated Cowart.  

Not only did Cowart talk about the good of running a family-owned fish market, but he also got into detail about the future of the ever-arising hardships of running a locally owned business for all fish markets alike.  

“It’s hard to predict the future of this mom-and-pop shop. There was covid and the lockdown regulations that was hard on us. Then once that ended size regulations on certain fish got stricter. Specifically, flounder, bag limit regulations and size regulations have recently changed.”  

Cowart also acknowledged the wildlife conservation side of the regulations and how they’re necessary for sustainable fishing. He also weighed out the cons of the constant regulation changes. 

“I understand there has to be regulations to prevent overfishing and keep our business alive, but the regulation changes put a big strain on all fish markets because it’s hard to get fish out to the customers when regulations are constantly changing.” Explained Cowart.  

One final hardship of the seafood market business is the expansion of farmed raised fish. Not only the expansion but the people’s reliance on it, as of recent more people have gravitated towards farm raised fish for a more organic dining experience as opposed to the fish market fish which are often brought in that morning already deceased. Although kept fresh on ice throughout the transportation process.  

These small changes might have minor impacts as we see it now but if these trends keep going in this direction the fresh fish supplier market could get a lot more competitive.