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COVID-19 Changes Domestic Seafood Trade

Many food industries have experienced the sting of the pandemic, with COVID-19 rendering the restaurant and hotel business unable to serve. Different types of food providers met with multiple issues and the seafood industry is no different. While having the ability to garner seafood from almost anywhere in the world has been a revelation to restaurants and food producers, the current climate has shown how important it is to have and support local seafood suppliers as well.

The benefits of local seafood production would not only impact our ability to keep food production running in times like these, it would also lessen our dependence on international fish farms and dispensaries. A higher focus on local seafood cultivation is directly attributed to the restrictions put in place due to COVID-19.

There are multiple groups that help to place a larger focus on local fisheries. An Executive Order was placed into effect in May of 2020 to expedite the creation of new local aqua-farms. With the United States as the largest importer of seafood in the world, local fisheries would help to greatly reduce the need for outside fish. Another measure was placed into effect to promote awareness of the positive effects of consuming seafood.

Bigger businesses have a financial advantage over small fish providers and maintain control over the seafood market. However, Community-Supported Fisheries (CSF) are making a push to bring some of that business back to small market fishers. Even though an increase in local fish production would help to bolster the markets in individual areas and share the production load with international providers, there are still some issues involved with shifting the focus of seafood production.

One of the biggest challenges facing localization of fish production is the diversification of the product in question. Without relying on fish being imported for variety, local consumers would be limited to whatever they can find nearby. Due to the various natures of the oceans, seas, lakes, rivers and other bodies of water that may house fish, the selection will be made finite based on the environment.

Another set of issues that could befall the seafood industry are the loss of international trade and the stagnation of seafood related innovation. One of the driving factors in business is the need to stay ahead of the competition. This, too, could be negatively impacted were the local seafood industry to take precedence over the international competition.

While the pandemic has placed a magnifying glass over how we consume our food and where we get it from, it has also forced us to adapt to the times and meet local demands. Hopefully the newfound attention given to local food providers will help boost local fish production and create a more sustainable and lucrative market for local seafood.

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