One year in, researchers try to quantify COVID's impact on seafood industry

Mar 5, 2021

Credit Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute has been diving into the effects of COVID-19 on the seafood industry for a while now.

Mainly, it’s been using interviews, anecdotal evidence and market research to compile briefings about how fishermen and other industry stakeholders have fared.

Now, the association is looking for more quantitative data about the effects of the pandemic. It’s sending out two surveys — one for fishermen and one for processors.

“We wanted to conduct this survey to really, fully measure the scale and breadth of the pandemic impacts on Alaska’s commercial fishermen, as well as processors," said communications director Ashley Heimbigner. “Which hasn’t really been done yet, on a broad scale.”

It’s hard to get substantive data on the effects of the pandemic because the pandemic isn’t over. Most of the survey questions ask about the costs of the 2020 season.

“Not only in terms of direct costs," she said, "like investments in PPE and vessel modifications to safely operate during the pandemic, but also, what were some of the more indirect costs? Including quotas potentially left in the water or the decision to hire fewer crew members. We want to make sure we’re really understanding the scope of the impact for Alaska’s commercial harvesters.”

The survey also asks fishermen and processors to anticipate how their 2021 seasons will be affected. Another set of questions asks whether industry members received any monetary relief and whether that relief covered their costs.

“Cause we’re hearing mixed stories in that regard," Heimbigner said.

The federal government just approved Alaska’s plan to divvy up $50 million in coronavirus relief to the fishing sector. About 35 percent of that relief will go to commercial fishermen and 32 percent will go to the seafood processing industry.

Surveys are due March 18. You can find the survey for fishermen here and the survey for processors here.