Boston Fish Pier

Seaport Boulevard and D Street, South Boston

Boston Fish Pier, May 2016. Photo by Newton Court. Public Domain. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Constructed in 1911-1913, the Boston Fish Pier has been the focal point of the city’s fish industry for over a century. According to one study, the efficient and sophisticated nature of the Pier made it a model for the world’s fishing industry in the early 1900s. In 1936, 339 million pounds of fresh fish passed through the Boston Fish Pier. By 1975, however, the amount was 22 million pounds, a manifestation of a dramatic decrease in fish stock due to overfishing, a decline that has intensified since. Massachusetts once had, for example, the world’s richest cod stock. Today, the cod catch is a tiny fraction of what it was.

As a result, the Boston Fish Pier, now owned by the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport), has undergone substantial changes in recent decades. Originally focused on the landing and distribution of fresh fish caught in the waters off of Massachusetts, the majority of the fish now processed and sold there arrive from afar. One wholesaler and retailer housed at the Pier reported to The Boston Globe in 2016 that 75 percent of his fish was transported from overseas, arriving in Boston by plane or ship.

The Boston Fish Pier is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is located in the Seaport District of South Boston and consists of three buildings, all of which were constructed in 1910-1914; one of them serves as a multipurpose function facility. As of 2020, the pier complex housed 20 commercial fishing boats and 19 seafood-related businesses.

While Massport subsidizes the rents of its tenants, many associated with the pier fear for its future. The key reasons are the lucrative nature of the space the pier occupies in an economically booming Seaport where the fishing business is an outlier and the ever-changing nature of the food industry.

Boston Fish Pier, circa 1910-1930. Public Domain. Source: Arts Department, Boston Public Library, via Digital Commonwealth.

Getting there:

About 1.1 miles (about a 20-minute walk) from South Station (Red Line). The Silver Line bus from South Station passes close by.

To learn more:

David Abel, “A Milestone in the War Over the True State of Cod,” The Boston Globe, April 3, 2017.

Michael Bodley, “Fish Pier’s Seafood Business Evolving with the Industry,” The Boston Globe, June 16, 2016.

William Francis Gavin (Secretary of the Commonwealth), “Boston Fish Pier for Nomination to the National Register of Historic Places” (press release), March 21, 2017.

Hanna Krueger, “The Last of the Seafaring Life, at the Boston Fish Pier,” The Boston Globe, February 15, 2020.

Mark Kurlansky, Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World, New York: Penguin Books, 1997.

Mintz Associates, Boston Fish Pier Feasibility Study, Boston: Mintz Associates, Sept. 15, 1976.

Hyae In Park, Alex Poniatowski, Meryl Prendergast, and Calli Remillard, “Boston’s Last Fishing Pier,” Northeastern University School of Journalism, 2019.

Alana Semuels, Cape Cod’s Namesake Fish Population Rapidly Disappearing, Los Angeles Times, August 30, 2014.