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Oregon's seafood industry is buoyed by federal grants and a recovering economy

Brian Bull
A fishing vessel departs Yaquina Bay in this April 2019 photo.

There’s relief ahead for Oregon’s seafood economy: $1.5 million in federal grant dollars has been allocated to the state’s agriculture department.

Lori Steele of the West Coast Seafood Processors Association (WCSPA) said this money is to help companies cover expenses tied to the COVID-19 pandemic, now in its third year.

“So that could be costs for the PPE that they had to purchase, the masks, gloves, other health equipment,” explained Steele. “Costs associated with retrofitting the seafood processing plants in order to provide adequate social distancing, unreimbursed costs associated with testing for COVID or treating sick employees.”

Oregon is one of 24 states receiving this funding, announced by U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden. Called the Seafood Processors Pandemic Response and Safety Block Grant Program, it’s funded through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

Oregon’s seafood industry has dealt with the turbulent pandemic economy since 2020. But industry representatives expect calmer seas this year.

Brian Bull
Seafood buffet at a catered luncheon.

COVID-19 disrupted many venues for seafood, namely restaurants and taverns. A U.S. Commerce Department report shows foodservice sales fell 40% in the first few months of the pandemic in 2020. And overall commercial fishing revenue was down 22% when compared to the five-year baseline.

The WCSPA’s Steele told KLCC that she sees a better outlook for 2022.

“We’re still dealing with a lot of challenges that I don’t think are going to go away immediately. Particularly in terms of supply chain disruptions and labor challenges. And we’re all dealing with inflation. But certainly it is a rosier future than it was a couple years ago.”

One highlight is the current Dungeness Crab season. Besides being the first one since 2014 to start on schedule, its harvest surpassed the previous one in just the first month.

Copyright @2022, KLCC.

Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. In his 25+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (19 regional), the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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