Seafood Buying Clubs

Seafood buying clubs are organized groups of people (clubs) that periodically place bulk orders for seafood with a fisherman and then distribute the pre-ordered product(s) among themselves. Typically, someone other than a fisherman organizes a club for family, friends, co-workers, social club members or others interested in purchasing seafood. The organizer serves as a liaison between the fisherman and the club, coordinating delivery and distribution of the seafood order. For this type of marketing arrangement, the fisherman’s direct interactions with club members depend on the level of his/her involvement in communications and/or product delivery.

Club Orders

The frequency and size of seafood orders by such clubs can vary, although a minimum order size and/or number of orders per year may be required. While clubs may be willing to try non-traditional seafood products, more often orders are for a specific type of seafood desired by club members. Payment may occur when the order is placed or when it is delivered. Clubs may be located near the fisherman’s community or far away, with products shipped via airlines or next-day delivery services.

Forming a Club

Although fishermen often rely on someone else to form a club, they can develop one themselves or advertise their willingness to provide seafood to new or existing food buying clubs. This can be done via a website (see Resources below) or through direct communication with customers who may know others interested in forming a club. They also may be able to work with established food buying clubs that purchase agricultural products, or with local fish markets and distributors who may be interested in assisting with a club.

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.

Seafood Buying Clubs

Benefits and Challenges

  • Provides a relatively efficient way to distribute a substantial amount of product to many customers 
  • Scalable and flexible in terms of products offered and number of clubs served
  • Opportunity to save time and money on transportation and distribution by making a single delivery or shipment that serves multiple customers
  • Club members may provide processing
  • Requires a capable and reliable organizer to coordinate and distribute orders to club members
  • For clubs outside your area, requires time and effort working with airlines and next-day delivery services to ensure reliable, timely service
  • May result in lower price per pound compared to alternative markets that focus on individual, not group, sales 
  • Product availability may not coincide with the time when club members would like to receive seafood
  • If shipping product:
    • Packaging and shipping expenses may be substantial, depending on product form and delivery method
    • You assume risk for issues such as loss of quality, leaky packaging, and/or broken seals
Seafood Buying Clubs

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.

  • What quantity of seafood will the buying club need? Will you require a minimum order and/or offer volume discounts?
  • How often do club members want to order seafood? 
    • Would they like to be contacted when you have product available?
    • Are there specific times of year when they would like product?
  • What types of seafood do your customers like? Are they willing to try less familiar products?
  • Do you have the proper equipment and supplies for maintaining a high quality product and ensuring seafood safety while handling, holding and distributing it?
  • Are your members willing and able to process/portion out their order? If so, how will they maintain a safe, high quality product? What resources can you provide them (e.g., brochure, video)?
Seafood Buying Clubs


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).


  • Consider approaching established local agriculture buying clubs to see if they would like to buy seafood as well.
  • Provide information about your products and their seasonality so clubs can organize their orders for appropriate times of the year. 
  • Work with club organizer to educate members on safe and efficient product cutting and portioning to minimize your need to do so before the order is sent out.
  • Educate club organizer about the importance of having members use a cooler with ice or ice packs to maintain safe, high quality product during transport.
  • Consider reaching out to employees of larger local businesses, schools, hospitals, or other institutions to form a buying club.


  • Build a positive working relationship with the food buying club organizer.
  • Notify clubs in advance of times when you expect to have product.
  • Consider developing and providing recipes to send with product notifications and/or deliveries. 
  • Consider developing an eList and/or a website as a means for connecting with customers (see eMarkets).
Seafood Buying Clubs

Promotional website that includes software to help manage food buying clubs.
Start a Buying Club.
Internet Farmer & Buying Club Software. Question and answer guidance for consumers considering starting a buying club.
Tips for Selling to Aggregators/Grower Marketing Coops.
ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture. National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service.
Tips From Successful Buying Clubs.
Coop Directory Service.
Also click here for examples of seafood buying club websites.

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).