US Fishing Industry Hopes You Will #EatSeafoodAmerica

Image: Luke’s Lobster

With supermarkets running low on meat, seafood is a healthy option, and sales of frozen seafood like shrimp and canned seafood (much of which is imported) are up over last year, according to some retailers.  Most of the domestic seafood landed and sold in the U.S. comes from small fishing businesses and goes to restaurants and those sales are down as much as 95% across the country, The Washington Post reported in April, so many fishers are not going fishing, according to Ben Conniff co-founder of Luke’s Lobster.  Congress provided $300m for fishers in stimulus funding, but it is only a “drop in the bucket” of what is needed to keep fishers afloat, said Alaskan commercial fisher Julie Decker on Tuesday at a forum convened by the Ocean Caucus Foundation.

Why This Matters:  The entire domestic seafood supply chain is at risk — everyone from fishing crews to processors to wholesalers to restaurants will need help to keep the industry going in the long run. Local fishers are critical to coastal communities and businesses, and play a huge role in these areas. And now the entire U.S. seafood industry may need to be restructured because many restaurants will not come back once their state or town re-opens.

You Too Can Cook Seafood And Get It Fresh From the Boat

There are new opportunities for fishers who can make the pivot from selling into the supply chain to direct to retail or consumers, especially with better freezing technologies that are available now, which improves the freshness of the product even if it comes all the way from Alaska or Maine because it is flash-frozen on the boat.  And Americans may love their beef, but they are learning to cook and love their fish too — and are even open to cooking more exotic fish at home than ever before, according to The New York Times.  “I really think it’s going to change, eventually, the way people buy seafood,” one local fish retailer told The Times. “They’re going to realize it’s easy to cook, it’s quick to cook. As long as you have good-quality seafood, they can handle it.”  The story is the same in the south — Jason Driskill, director of seafood for H-E-B, one of the largest grocers in Texas told The Houston Chronicle that their customers are “finding seafood is so versatile, so easy to cook. They’re becoming very good seafood cooks at home.”  According to The Chronicle, “[r]ecipe search traffic is up more than 100 percent at America’s Test Kitchen, and with that plenty of seafood recipes, said Jack Bishop, chief creative officer. Searches for salmon and shrimp top the list, as well as recipes using whitefish such as cod, halibut, tilapia, and frozen fish.”

Fishing Relief Slow In Coming

Congress specifically earmarked the fishing industry’s CARES funding, but the money has been slow in coming and not nearly sufficient to cover the losses.  Maine, for example, is set to receive $20.3 million (5th highest in the country) and Alaska receiving the most, roughly $50 million.  In Alaska, nearly one in ten jobs are dependent upon the fishing industry there.  But fishermen did get relief from federal observer requirements so there is no monitoring of catches.

To Eat Better:  Here are some great fish recipes courtesy of The New York Times (scroll to the end) and The Houston Chronicle.

To Buy Direct:  There are lots of options locally or try Sitka Salmon Shares or Luke’s Lobster for traceable and sustainable domestic seafood.

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