eMarketing – or electronic marketing – involves the use of electronic technologies to sell products. It includes phone calls, texts, emails, websites and electronic applications (apps). Increasingly, fishermen are using eMarketing because it offers a way to communicate quickly with customers when product is available. In some cases, it can be used to arrange and/or complete sales transactions. While this page covers directed sales via electronic technologies, these and other methods (e.g., social media, web presence) also can be used for product promotion (see Promoting Your Product).

Types of eMarkets

eMarketing includes tools for increasing sales through an existing alternative market (eLists, eServices), or it can be an alternative market itself (online sales):

eLists: Fishermen connect with customers via electronic contact lists

An eList, or electronic contact list, is a simple form of eMarketing that fishermen use to communicate with their customers. Many fishermen develop a contact list when selling off the boat, at fishermen’s/farmers’ markets, through their own website (see Promoting Your Product) and/or various eServices. They then use the eList to notify customers when and where product will be available for purchase. If done using email or social media, one can contact a large group of people using a single message. In some cases, customers can pre-order (reserve) product, then pick it up and pay for it in person. 

eServices: Third parties connect fishermen with customers

eServices are third-party electronic services that help connect fishermen with customers. These services are available as online databases, mobile apps, and websites that target specific types of customers (e.g., chefs, markets) or the general public. Many may be used free of charge by both fishermen and customers. Often, these services are used to announce the availability of product when a fisherman returns from a fishing trip. Some services then may further advertise availability of the fisherman’s product through various social media outlets (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, blogs). While such services help connect fishermen with consumers, they do not provide a means for direct online sales transactions (see “Online Sales” below).  

Examples of Seafood-Related eServices

The following eServices typically allow customers to search by type of seafood, location, and/or fisherman. They also may provide directions to pick-up locations (as appropriate), pictures and information about the fishermen and fishing operations providing product, and recipes.


A database that customers can use to access product and contact information provided by fishermen and other seafood suppliers. This eService specializes in connecting seafood producers and distributors with buyers primarily from restaurants, retailers, markets and chefs (not the general public)

Fishline & Crabline

A smartphone application, with website and Facebook pages that help consumers find where to purchase fresh, locally-harvested seafood in California (may expand to other states). Fishermen provide their product availability and contact information via the app.

Louisiana Direct Seafood

A series of websites covering four coastal regions in Louisiana, with each website providing posts from fishermen describing their available catch and how and where consumers can purchase it. 


An online database that connects seafood producers and buyers with distributors, wholesalers, restaurants, and individual consumers. MarketMaker was developed for sales of agricultural products and has expanded to include seafood products. 

Online Sales: Sales completed electronically

For online sales, fishermen use the Internet to market their catch, with the order and payment (transaction) completed electronically rather than in person. Sales can be made via a fisherman’s own website or one developed and maintained by a third-party and/or a payment management company (see examples below). These third parties often require payment of a monthly fee along with a small percentage of sales.

 Online sales typically require product to be shipped to customers. This can increase the time it takes for the product to be consumed, increasing the risks associated with foodborne illnesses. As such, fishermen should get guidance from their local and state authorities about requirements (e.g., appropriate temperature) for maintaining quality and safe seafood while product is in transit (see Seafood Safety).

Online sales may be difficult to maintain. They require a consistent supply so orders can be filled reliably. Also, online information must be kept up to date so customers know when seafood is available for purchase. Successful online eMarkets typically offer more than one product or a single product that comes from multiple locations. Thus, this alternative market is used more commonly by groups of, rather than individual, fishermen. However, if an individual fisherman’s product has a longer shelf life (e.g., canned, smoked, jerky) and is available consistently, online sales may be a good alternative marketing option.

Examples of Third-Party Online Sales

Farmigo: An online service that helps fishermen establish an online store and manage orders, payments, and accounting reports. It can be used for online sales or to support sales through a CSF. Search the web for “farmigo fish” for examples of fishing businesses using Farmigo.

Small Farm Central: A webpage development service for farmers and fishermen that includes services for assembling and managing customer orders and payments, particularly for CSFs. Search the web for  “small farm central fish” for examples of fishing business using Small Farm Central.

Through this type of marketing arrangement, fishermen are often connected directly with customers, although face-to-face interaction may be limited. While online sales can be difficult to sustain if the supply of product is not consistent, fishermen have found eLists and eServices to be beneficial for connecting with customers when product is available.

To evaluate whether this type of alternative market is an option for you, explore the benefits and challenges (in addition to those on the Considerations page), key questions, tips and resources in the boxes below.


Benefits and Challenges

  • Opportunity to connect quickly with customers as soon as product is available; not limited to a designated market day 
  • May reduce transportation costs and time requirements if product is shipped 
  • Ability to reach a large customer base, independent of where you are based
  • Customer base readily expanded by linking with others online
  • Once posted, a website provides a continuous online presence that disseminates your business information widely 
  • Once established, eLists and eServices require minimal upkeep and data entry
  • Ability to share your story and your product more broadly without interacting directly with customers
  • Ordering through a well-designed website or via email/texting may be more convenient for customers 
  • Receiving customer orders or inquiries via email, text, phone or the web allows you to respond when it is most convenient for you 
  • May take time to establish your web presence without other forms of direct sales that help publicize your name and products
  • For online sales, need to develop or pay someone to develop a reliable, user-friendly and secure interface for marketing and sales
  • For online sales, must keep information and order form up to date to accurately reflect product availability
  • Lack of face-to-face personal connection with customers if selling online
  • May require follow-up communication when orders are placed 
  • Pre-orders and email lists may limit amount of product available for new customers
  • Packaging and shipping expenses may be high depending on product form and delivery method
  • For mail orders, you assume the risk for issues such as loss of quality, leaky packaging, broken seals 

Key Questions

Here are some questions to ask yourself and others about the operations of and personal considerations for this market type. Contact proper authorities to obtain up-to-date information and specific requirements for your business.

  • How will you create and maintain a website for your business; will you do it yourself or hire someone? 
  • For online sales, how will you develop a secure website for handling the online sales transactions?  
  • How will you respond to customer requests (telephone, text, email)? Can you do so in a timely manner? 
  • When distributing product, particularly if shipping, how will you maintain high quality and ensure seafood safety?
  • Have you accounted for website development/maintenance, packaging, and delivery/shipping costs in the pricing of your product?


Consult with resource management, public health and business authorities before selling your seafood. In some states, requirements for selling to the public are different from those for selling to retailers, chefs and other food service providers (see Permits and More).

  • A simple website that provides basic information about your business can be created with minimal effort (see Promoting Your Product), and can serve as a modern-day phonebook. 
  • A reliable, user-friendly website for online sales may be expensive and technically challenging to create but is essential.
  • Consider recruiting a high school or college student to help you develop a basic website; those with these skills may want to gain practical experience. 
  • Describe how your pricing reflects the high quality of your product and service.
  • When the amount of product is limited, consider distributing it on a first-come-first-serve basis or via a lottery.
  • If needed, consider making arrangements with another business for processing, packaging and/or cold storage. 
  • Include photos, maps and/or videos on your website to help your customers connect with you and the seafood they are buying.
  • If sales are completed online, consider also calling your customers to build a relationship with them.
  • Consider increasing your direct interactions with online customers to help build a relationship with them. For example, call them to discuss their satisfaction with your product and service and/or their interest in recipes and other fisheries information.




Save money by marketing your product with e-newsletters
Pacific Fishing Magazine.
Tips for Selling on the Internet
ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture. National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service. Advantages, considerations, key questions to ask yourself, tips for selling on the internet, and resources.
Using the Internet to Enhance Direct Market Sales of Seafood.
NC Sea Grant.

Additional permits and other documentation usually are needed to establish an alternative market. Be sure to consult with resource management, public health and business authorities before selling your seafood.

Information provided on this page was synthesized from interviews with fishermen and buyers, and from the Fishermen’s Direct Marketing Manual, the Small Farm and Direct Marketing Handbook, ATTRA publications, and other resources (see About this Website and Resources).