Mad River Union
HUMBOLDt – This year’s commercial Dungeness crab season is tracking to be on par with last year’s but value took a hit, as live crab exports to China were blocked at a time when demand surges.
And this year’s ocean salmon season will offer little consolation. Northern California’s season is canceled due to a forecast of low Klamath River fall Chinook runs.
The Dungeness and Chinook fisheries are staples of the region’s fishing industry but both are hampered this year.
Live animal exports to China have only recently been re-opened. They were completely shut down by early February, which severely curtailed the live crab market.
Then the coronavirus emerged and spread throughout the U.S. When it reached California, closures of restaurants to in-house diners contributed to a market downscale.
“While the market dried up in Asia, China in particular, there was still some opportunity here for guys that had their gear in the water,” he said. “But they were definitely impacted, economically, from the loss of the export market”
Fishermen who had developed domestic markets made up of retailers and restaurants were able to carry through until mid-March, when shelter in place orders began in San Francisco Bay area counties.
“Once we lost the restaurant market, for a lot of guys who didn’t have direct marketing opportunities, that was kind of the final nail in the coffin for them,” said Conroy.
The spring Dungeness fishery is known for low volume and higher price but Conroy said the lowered demand had a corresponding effect on price, which dropped as low as $2 a pound.
“It got to a point where it wasn’t going to be economically viable for the fishermen to go out and service their gear, so most of them just brought it in and called their season good,” he continued.
Many crabbers were able to salvage the season, whose landings are comparable to last year’s.
In California, about 13 million pounds of crab were landed as of April 1, with a total value to fishermen of about $43.8 million. Last year saw 12.8 million pounds landed at a value of $46 million.
In this year’s season, the North Coast region accounts for $16.8 million of the value through April 1. Crabbing in the Central Coast region has been more lucrative, at $26.9 million.
For the third straight year, Oregon has been the hot spot for crabbing on the West Coast. Oregon’s landings amounted to 18.75 million pounds as of mid-April, with an ex-vessel value of $66.7 million.
The West Coast’s commercial ocean salmon fishing seasons were finalized by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) at its April meeting and include what Council Chair Phil Anderson described as “very restrictive” allowances.
Low runs for Klamath River fall Chinook salmon have triggered Northern California’s closure and restricted fishing in the Fort Bragg area and southern Oregon.
The closure encompasses the North Coast’s Klamath Management Zone from the Oregon border to Horse Mountain, which is just north of Shelter Cove.
North Coast fishermen who want to make a go of the salmon season will have to travel.
From the Fort Bragg area to Point Arena, fishing is limited to 10 days in August and the month of September. The most fishing time is offered south of Point Arena, in the greater San Francisco Bay area. The season there will be open off and on May through July. August will be mostly open in the area and it will be open for all of September.
“Up along the North Coast, it’s going to be a tough year,” said Conroy.
But he noted that the PFMC has approved groundfish regulations with increased fishing opportunities. “Groundfish are not salmon but it’s something, for those guys who want to stay up in that neck of the woods, to help alleviate the pain,” he said.
Related, via office of Representative Jared Huffman:
Huffman Leads Bipartisan Effort to Support Fishermen, Protect Food Supply Chain
San Rafael, CA – Today, Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA), Chair of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife, along with Representatives Garret Graves (R-LA), Steven M. Palazzo (R-MS), and Kurt Schrader (D-OR) led a bipartisan group of 45 Members of Congress in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy asking them to include urgently needed federal assistance for the American fishing and seafood industry in the next coronavirus relief measure. The effort to support this industry is bicameral, with Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) leading a similar letter in the Senate.
“The seafood industry is critical to local and regional economies across the country [...and] is currently facing an unprecedented collapse in demand because of the novel coronavirus. We urge you to facilitate the government purchase of seafood products that would both ensure stability in this key sector and provide healthy, domestically produced food for Americans,” the members wrote.“We request that Congress appropriate and permit the Secretary to make funding available as soon as practicable to all fishery participants, including commercial and recreational fishing and seafood businesses that have been impacted by declines in tourism and the closure of restaurants and other food services industries.”
Specifically, Representative Huffman and his colleagues called for at least $2 billion for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to purchase domestically harvested and processed seafood products to be distributed through food assistance programs, as the agency does for agricultural products. They also requested an additional $1.5 billion for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to provide direct relief to fishery participants impacted by coronavirus.
In addition to Representatives Jared Huffman (D-CA), Garret Graves (R-LA), Steven M. Palazzo (R-MS), and Kurt Schrader (D-OR), the letter was signed by Representatives Suzzane Bonamici (D-OR), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Ed Case (D-HI), David N. Ciciline (D-RI), Charlie Crist (D-FL), Joe Cunningham (D-KY), Peter A. DeFazio (D-OR), Suzan K DelBene (D-WA), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Jared Golden (D-ME), Jenniffer González-Colón (R-PR), Andy Harris (R-MD), Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Denny Heck (D-WA), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), Pramilla Jayapal (D-WA), William R. Keating (D-MA), Joseph P. Kennedy, III (D-MA), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Rick Larsen (D-WA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Elaine G. Luria (D-VA), Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL), Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), Gregory F. Murphy (R-NC), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), David Rouzer (R-NC), Donna E. Shalala (D-FL), Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), Darren Soto (D-FL), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Gergory Steube (R-FL), Thomas R. Suozzi (D-NY), Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Filemon Vela (D-TX), Randy K. Weber (R-TX), Robert J. Wittman (R-VA), Ted S. Yoho (R-FL), Don Young (R-AK), Lee Zeldin (R-NY).
The full letter can be found here or below:
Dear Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader McCarthy,
We write to urge the inclusion of support for the American seafood industry in the next coronavirus relief measure. Our seafood processors and fishermen have been dealt a significant economic blow as a result of coronavirus and are in desperate need of federal assistance.
The seafood industry is critical to local and regional economies across the country. In 2016, the industry supported over one million good-paying jobs and generated more than $144 billion in sales, adding an estimated $61 billion to the nation’s GDP. In addition to the jobs, families, and communities it supports along every part of our country’s coastlines, the seafood industry fuels jobs throughout the country in processing and distribution.
Due to efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which has led to a near total shutdown of restaurants and other outlets serving fresh seafood, the supply chain of fishermen and seafood processors has been decimated. Notably, more than 68% of the $102.2 billion that consumers paid for U.S. fishery products in 2017 was spent at food service establishments. It has been reported that many of the nation’s fisheries have suffered sales declines as high as 95 percent. In addition, while many other agricultural sectors have seen a significant increase in grocery sales, seafood has been left out of that economic upside, as stores have cut back on offerings.
We strongly urge you to include in the next coronavirus stimulus package at least $2 billion for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to purchase domestically harvested and processed seafood products and distribute them to local, state, and national non-profits providing food to hungry Americans. Given that few seafood producers have historically participated in USDA commodity purchasing programs, we request that $1 billion be set aside to finance the purchase by USDA of seafood products that have not typically been purchased and that have experienced economic impacts as a result of coronavirus.
We also ask that you include an additional $1.5 billion for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under the terms of section 12005 of the CARES Act (P.L. 116-136) in order to provide direct relief to Tribal, subsistence, commercial, and charter fishery participants, impacted by coronavirus. We request that Congress appropriate and permit the Secretary to make funding available as soon as practicable to all fishery participants, including commercial and recreational fishing and seafood businesses that have been impacted by declines in tourism and the closure of restaurants and other food services industries.
The seafood industry is currently facing an unprecedented collapse in demand because of the novel coronavirus. We urge you to facilitate the government purchase of seafood products that would both ensure stability in this key sector and provide healthy, domestically produced food for Americans.
Thank you for your attention to this critical request, and for your continued support of America’s seafood industry.
--- Members of Congress ---