Just as things in the commercial fishing industry seemed to be getting back on track and trending in the right direction, up pops the obstacle known as the Omicron variant, pulling everything backward again.
Omicron, as you hopefully know by now, is a mutated form of the dreaded COVID-19 disease that has cause havoc within global fishing community, as well as most other industries, not to mention nearly everyone’s daily lives.
Among the issues the virus and its latest variant have caused are costly shutdown, drops in revenue and manpower shortages. Many of these ongoing problems are detailed in an article on page 24 of this issue of Fishermen’s News by our Alaska bureau chief, Margaret Bauman. In the story, she details how the pandemic has affected commercial fishing over the past couple of years.
A NOAA Fisheries study of the impact of COVID-19 in the seafood industries in 2020 found that on West Coast landings, revenue fell 24%, or $227 million relative to average annual landings revenue from 2015 to 2019, according to the article. Tracked monthly, revenue declined between 19% and 29% from March through October, while landings revenues for November and December were down 58% and 57% respectively.
Month to month, according to NOAA Fisheries data, Alaska 2020 landings revenue declined 13% in March, 21% in April, 26% in May, 48% in June and 41% in August, then 15% from August through October, and 35% and 57% respectively in November and December.
Species incurring the largest revenue losses, relative to the baseline, were herring, down 79%, Bering Sea-Aleutian Islands Pacific cod shoreside and at-sea sectors, down 42% and 47% respectively, halibut, down 41%, and salmon, down 41%.
Regarding the problem of processing facility shutdowns, the article states that pre-vaccines, if processor workers tested positive, the facility they worked in shut down temporarily for deep cleaning and testing of everyone working there, which was costly in multiple ways.
But although the pandemic has made it more difficult for some industry sectors to conduct business as usual, this is a resilient industry, and business can and will continue.
In fact, one silver lining to the pandemic it is that consumer demand for seafood is up, as is the market price, meaning more work for fishermen who need it and want it during these challenging times.
And although these are indeed challenging times, they aren’t ones that could result in a permanent downturn for the industry; this is just a long, deep bump in the road that will eventually be passed over.
More than 30 years ago when I was shipping off to Marine Corps bootcamp, I received some very wise advice that helped carry me through the grueling months of basic training. Someone told me to always remember that the situation was only temporary, and to keep that in mind when things get really tough.
I did keep that in mind and it truly helped me through a situation where I sometimes felt like I was in a waking nightmare. But by keeping in mind that this would one day end and that all I needed to do was persevere through it, I was able to not only successfully complete boot camp and a stint in the Corps, I was able to apply the ‘only temporary’ philosophy to other difficult situations that popped up during the course of my life and career.
That philosophy – which essentially means ‘hang in there, you’ll get through this, you’ll make it through to the other side,’ has served me well over the years and is an example of the power of perseverance, not to mention positive thinking.
So as we continue to trudge our was through this pandemic, I’d like to remind you that although things haven’t completely returned to normal yet, through some firm determination this year—in other words, some new year’s resolution—we’ll make it through what has been a very trying—but also temporary—situation for the industry.
Let’s all hang in there. We’ll get through this. We’ll make it to the other side.
Managing Editor Mark Nero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org