A new NOAA Fisheries analysis of the economic impact of the global pandemic says that protective measures instituted as the novel coronavirus spread across the world had an almost immediate impact on seafood sector sales.
After a 3 percent increase in commercial fish landings revenue in January and February, revenues declined each month from a 19 percent decrease in March to a 45 percent decrease by July. That translates to a 29 percent decrease across those seven months, as compared to five-year averages and adjusted for inflation, the report said.
Restaurant closures social distancing requirements and other safety measures also contributed to losses in other areas of the seafood economy, so by the end of the second quarter of 2020, 78 percent of aquaculture, aquaponics and allied businesses reported pandemic impacts with 74 percent seeing lost sales.
Protective measures that closed restaurants also impacted charter fishing operations, which saw phased re-openings in some parts of the country, but in Alaska and Hawaii, which rely heavily on out of state tourism, depressed sales continued.
NOAA Fisheries Assistant Administrator Chris Oliver said that in coming months and years scientists and economists will try to get a more complete picture of the pandemic’s impact on U.S. seafood and the Blue Economy. Meanwhile, Oliver said, NOAA hopes the initial analysis will provide a foundation for industry researchers and planners to plan for the future.
The NOAA study found that international markets were negatively impacted by pandemic related disruptions in harvesting, processing and shipping, with U.S. seafood exports down 18 percent in value from January through June, compared to the past five years. Fresh product exports saw steeper declines when compared to frozen product exports, and the value of seafood imports into the U.S. declined 4 percent in value for the same period. These declines were offset by domestic consumer demand for tuna imports both canned and in pouches, which rose 25 percent for this six-month period, peaking at 49 percent in June.
In May NOAA Fisheries allocated $300 million in fisheries aid to states, territories and tribes under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. In September another $530 million came to the Seafood Trade Relief Program to support fishermen and industries hard hit by retaliatory tariffs from foreign governments.
Oliver said his agency’s goal is to help those in the seafood supply chain rebound in 2021.