Rapid research project, monthly fresh seafood trade fell by 20 percent from January to August, to 43 percent.
The pandemic is hurting the seafood industry, finding the largest COVID study on U.S. fishing, and shows that American fish traders could collapse or raise their bellies without more government support.
In a study conducted by the University of New Vermont, monthly fresh seafood exports fell by 43 percent compared to last year, monthly imports fell to 37 percent, and hunting fell by 40 percent in some months. Fish and fishing Journal.
In the first six months of 2020, total US seafood exports fell by 20 percent and imports by 6 percent compared to the same period last year. There may be more losses to overcome the limitations COVID-19.
Easton White, a leading author at the University of Vermont, said, “Seafood has hit more hard than many other industries because many fishing industries rely too much on restaurant buyers to dry out when the necessary health protocols are in place.” “Restaurants typically account for about 65 percent of U.S. seafood spending.”
In context, more than one million U.S. seafood workers regularly produce more than $ 4 billion in annual exports, much of which is processed abroad and returned to the United States.
Although the compilation of seafood data took several months or longer, researchers used advanced methods to quickly determine the impact of the pandemic on fisheries. The US Congress received preliminary information from a survey conducted in September.
Demand for American imports has declined since China began locking in January. Web searches for U.S. seafood restaurants have dropped more than 50 percent since March, and foot traffic in seafood markets has dropped 30 percent.
Politicians can decide ‘who will survive’
Assistance to fisheries has been slow due to the fact that pandemics are not considered a valid cause for fishing failure or disaster under current law. The CARES act allowed $ 300 million for the sector.
Even with the growing demand for seafood supplies, which increased by 460% in Google searches in March-April, some producers will not be able to recover without government support.
“Seafood is a seasonal affair,” White, who won COVID-19 research funds from UVM’s Day Environment Institute, said. “If you have a March-June season and you can’t get money until next year, you may have to resign. The support of policy makers will decide which producers can survive. ”
Researchers say the aid should target areas where fishing is a disproportionate part of the economy, including Maine, Alaska, Louisiana and Washington, and tribal fishing.
“Foreign markets play an important role in the US seafood sector, but dependence on exports makes some parts of the sector vulnerable to these global shocks,” said Jessica Gephart, co-author of American University. “Diversifying the sector by building local networks and consumer awareness campaigns can help increase resilience to future shocks.”
Curved for information
White and the group knew that measuring the impact of a pandemic on fisheries would be important for allocating government support – but it would take many years to obtain the necessary statistics.
“Data are collected daily or weekly, but are often handwritten in a fisherman’s notebook.” White said. “The information needs to be processed, converted into a database and validated before researchers and government leaders can get a big picture.”
The study used traditional and new data sources, NOAA fishing reports and federal customs data, ranging from anonymous trade web location data available to researchers studying COVID-19, and a comprehensive database of news and trends created by UVM students. the impact of the pandemic on fisheries and the occurrence of pandemics, up to travel restrictions for seafood workers.
Changing the rules of consumption
While the decline in whites and international trade has been sharp, White said some seafood producers have found ways to adapt.
Community-supported fishing programs are growing with websites like Local Catch (https: /).
That is, eating seafood at home can not replace restaurant sales. “Most people who cook at home don’t want to cook fresh monkfish from Maine for themselves or their families, so the types of depleted species are changing,” said Halley Froehlich, co-author of the University of California, Santa Barbara.
These changes in seafood consumption may be to stay – especially as global COVID cases increase – producers are looking for ways to sell more of what they catch locally.
Reference: 23 November 2020, Fish and fishing.
DOI: 10.1111 / FAF.12525
Research researchers include Easton White (University of Vermont), Halley Froehlich and Richard Cottrell (University of California, Santa Barbara), Jessica Gephart (American University), Trevor Branch (University of Washington), Rahul Agrawal Bejarano (University of Michigan) and Julia Baum (University of Victoria).
This work received COVID-19 rapid research funding from the Gund Institute of Environment at UVM.