Developers, Vendors Fight Over Fish Market Future

Developer Says Market Will Stay.

Customers line up to buy fresh seafood at Jesse Taylor's Seafood. Photo courtesy of Erika R. Whitehead.

WASHINGTON — As the new $2 billion Wharf Development Project progresses, rumors and reports have been circulating throughout the Washington area that the landmark Municipal Fish Market, which attracts customers weekly from as far away as northern Virginia and southern Maryland, will disappear with the new construction.

Wanda Brown, who drives nearly 30 miles to visit the fish market monthly, would be one of the thousands of customers saddened by its departure.

The market provides her not only with fresh seafood, but an enjoyable shopping experience as well, Brown said.

“For me its quality seafood compared to a lot of the local grocers,” she said. “When I’m shopping for my family I look for something that hasn’t sat out for a long period of time. Just good quality seafood. That’s the reason we’re driving from Woodbridge to get to this area for good food, good seafood. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. It’s been here for a long time, it supports the area. I feel safe when I come here. Why change it?”

Hoffman-Madison Waterfront, the company responsible for the new development, said residents can relax  The fish market isn’t going anywhere. 

“The Municipal Fish Market has served the D.C. region for 200 years, and we look forward to not only providing a great selection of fresh seafood to those who come to The Wharf, but also upgrading the market experience,” Monty Hoffman of Hoffman-Madison Waterfront said in a statement.

“The fish market will always be a terrific asset to The Wharf experience, and we are enriching the market environment with improvements to the property including new public restrooms, lighting, landscaping and below-grade garage parking. Our plans for the Municipal Fish Market celebrate the existing fish market retail barges while enhancing an authentic waterfront experience.”

Those may be comforting words to consumers, but some vendors currently at the market fear that while the facility may still be there, they won’t.

Billy White, owner of Captain White’s Seafood City and Salt Water Seafood, filed a preliminary injunction in August against Hoffman-Madison to keep the developer from evicting his companies from the fish market.

White claims the developers have blocked parking lots, obstructed customers and legally tried to evict him since the development project got underway in 2014.

White has owned Captain White’s Seafood City for 45 years and Salt Water Seafood for approximately two years. He preferred not to comment on litigation; however, he shared his passion for upholding his businesses at the fish market.

Customers line up at Salt Water Seafood. Photo by Erika. R Whitehead.

“The D.C. Fish Market is the greatest place on earth, and I’ve been here 45 years and I’m still working it, still loving it and all the people around us,” he said. “The neighborhood depends on us, and we’re going to be here. My favorite part is when most of the people come here and they smile and say that they’ve ‘never seen anything like this in my life.’”

Marco Bond has been selling fish at Captain White’s for seven years. He stresses the importance of maintaining the fish market in its entirety, despite incoming development plans and construction.

“I love it,” Bond said.  “It’s a good environment, a good way for us to make money to take care of our families. It brings everyone together, and it’s a nice atmosphere.”

Shane Ball, a Washington l resident who makes fish deliveries to the market twice monthly, said he would like the market to stay, but wants changes. Ball said he feels the market is too congested.

“It’s too busy man,” said Ball while delivering at the market one weekend. “Can’t get in and out at times.”

Ball supports the idea of doing something new with the fish market, including having better offerings to customers.

“I think it’d be a good idea,” he said. “You can find quality a lot better than this.”