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After Year Of Pandemic, Seafood Industry Hopes 2021 Brings Calmer Waters


April 1 is the start of pink shrimp season across the Pacific Coastline. Seafood industry officials hope it’s one that’ll offset the pandemic’s effects on markets that began a year ago. 

The West Coast Seafood Processors Association represents companies in Oregon, Washington, and California. Executive director, Lori Steele, said last year at this time, the COVID-19 pandemic froze customer demand practically overnight.  She said demand from restaurants fell more than 70%, so hopefully 2021 will see a rebound.     

“The more that we can support the restaurant industry, and get consumers back out to the coast and eating seafood we’re going to see some improvements," Steele told KLCC. 

"But I also think that we are also be dealing with the economic consequences of this pandemic beyond just 2021, unfortunately.” 

Credit WCSPA
Pink shrimp, from ocean to table.

More restaurants are trying to re-open across the U.S, much of that dictated by how severe COVID-19 cases are on a county-to-county basis.

Steele says they’re also hoping to access millions of federal dollars to help recover from the pandemic. The American Rescue Plan has $4 billion in relief funds for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to purchase and distribute commodities, such as seafood. 

“Which includes Pacific pink shrimp, whiting (pacific hake) and rockfish, which are really three of our backbone species for West Coast fisheries," said Steele.  "Just on the low end, we are estimating that if the USDA were to fully fund our request, it’d be upwards of $50-70 million of direct economic relief to our industry.”

Furthermore, the 2021 COVID Relief Bill has $1.5 billion for food and commodity purchases, and grants or loans to seafood processors to cover expenses tied to pandemic protocols.  

The industry trading company Sea Port says pink shrimp is Oregon's most abundantly collected commercial seafood species harvested, providing 75% of the catch gathered along the Pacific Coastline each year. 

Copyright 2021, KLCC. 

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ 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 (22 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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