PWS sablefish fishery continues to Dec. 31
Cordova Times - May 23, 2020
The sablefish season in Prince William Sound has been extended through Dec. 31 due to health issues related to the COVID-19, Alaska Department of Fish and Game officials announced on Tuesday, May 19.
Alaska Aims To Keep Salmon Fisherman, Resident Safe During Pandemic
NPR by Izzy Ross - May 27, 2020
Alaska's governor says salmon fishing season will go ahead, drawing thousands of people from across the country. But locals worry about COVID-19 outbreaks in places with only one or two ventilators.
Income Loss Tops Harvesters’ Pandemic Concerns
Fishermen's News - May 27, 2020
Independent fishermen hard hit by seafood markets crashing and prevention requirements for operating during a global pandemic say that loss of income, community health and safety and the proposed Pebble mine are their top concerns.
Seafood industry's fragmentation makes recovery harder
Fishermen, who depend on fresh catches going to restaurant tables quickly, don't see a quick turnaround even as some states loosen lockdowns.
Politico by Liz Crampton - May 26, 2020
The seafood lobby says assistance from the federal government has not been enough to help everyone along the supply chain. That is leaving fishermen, processors and distributors worried about their ability to stay in business as the economic slowdown from the pandemic ravages the industry.
With Warming Temperatures, Alaska Pollock Are Shifting Northward
In the Bering Sea, fish are finding refuge far from their traditional range. What does this mean for ecosystems and commercial fisheries?
Earth Island Journal - Theresa Soley - May 27, 2020
280,000 walruses. That’s how many are estimated to live in the waters surrounding Alaska’s Saint Lawrence Island, in the Bering and Chukchi seas. Compared to the island’s human population of 140,000, walruses outnumber Yup’ik people two to one.
New Modeling Approach Provides Valuable Insights into the Important and Complex Role of Environmental Variables in Juvenile Fish Survival
Scientists have developed a novel analytical method to learn more about critical relationships in the ocean. In particular, they are seeking to refine their understanding of how regional environmental and climate conditions affect juvenile fish survival.
NOAA Fisheries - May 27, 2020
Variation in the productivity and sustainability of fish resources is determined, in part, by large changes in juvenile fish production from year to year. This is defined as “recruitment.” Fisheries oceanographers and fish stock assessment scientists have been trying to better understand and predict this variation for more than 100 years.
Protecting Fish Habitat Helps Put Food on Your Table
Fish rely on healthy habitats for growth and survival. We work to reduce the negative effects of fishing gear on habitats to ensure they remain healthy and productive.
NOAA Fisheries - May 21, 2020
Healthy habitats are productive habitats. They provide food and shelter for fish and help to maintain sustainable fish populations and fisheries that produce the seafood that we all love and depend on. Everyone benefits when marine habitats are protected from the effects of fishing.
GAPP Announces Summer Seminar Series for Wild Alaska Pollock Industry
Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers - May 28, 2020
As part of its continued COVID-19 coverage, a new summer webinar series will explore topics related to new consumer trends, marketing best practices and crisis management communications, the Association of Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers announced today. Every Friday, beginning June 5, 2020, GAPP members will get to spend their lunch hours with exciting speakers and outside experts, exploring a variety of topics designed to help the industry continue to collaborate and weather the COVID-19 storm.
The Winding Glass: The Changing Face of Seafood Distribution
SeafoodNews by John Sackton - May 29, 2020
[The Winding Glass is the commentary and opinion column of John Sackton, Founder of SeafoodNews]
Like so many other businesses, the core business of major U.S. seafood distributors has been upended by the COVID-19 pandemic.
We all know how restaurants, hotels and casinos, and amusement parks shut down. And foodservice seafood sales have fallen anywhere from 30% to 98%, depending on the type of venue and offering.
I have been wrestling with what this might mean for our industry. The only certainty I have is that we won’t go back to the way things were before.
The restaurant industry is taking too big a hit. Business Insider reported this week that Ruby Tuesday has quietly shut 147 locations this spring, out of 460 at the end of last year. This is 32% of their stores.
Applebee’s has been faring better, as it had ramped up its curbside pickup and delivery business before the pandemic hit. Last month, sales were off around 70%, but the company has only closed around 15% of its locations, and some of these are temporary. Instead, CFO Tom Song said that many restaurants were seeing revenues of about $2000 to $3000 a day from takeout. This is well below the company’s $6,000 to $7,000 average. Restaurants at this level (30% to 50%) can cover their variable costs at the lower end and rent at the higher, Song said. Revenues will improve as more sit-down dine in locations are opened.
But they are not going back to "normal."
Casual dining has been the sweet spot for seafood distributors, and they have developed efficient ways to sell to these companies, including pulling through the broadline distributors.
But there are limitations. Most big distributors use public cold storage. To get your product out of Preferred, you need to make an appointment.
Secondly, the Broadliners and the restaurant customers dictate the product mix, whether it is portioned frozen salmon or cod, raw peeled shrimp, or a 10 lb box of catfish fillets.
Independent restaurants will suffer more than the chains. Applebee’s parent, Dine Brands, has hundreds of millions of dollars in cash. Not so the independents that make up the majority of sales for Sysco, PFG and other broadliners.
So as much as 40% of the seafood distribution business to foodservice is not coming back in the next few years.
How can seafood distributors adjust?
Most of them, and the broadliners as well, simply don’t know. Everyone is waiting to see what happens next.
Will diners come back? Can restaurants operate with restrictions. If there is a second wave in the fall, as all public health experts predict, how many restaurants can survive a second shut down.
What the pandemic has shown so far is that there is still a strong consumer demand for seafood. Without restaurants to go to, how will they get it.
This is the key business problem distributors will have to address. Instead of sales to Sysco Houses, they will have to target households. Instead of building a sales force to serve independent small restaurants, they will have to find a way to get to customer households.
The alternative is to say goodbye to about 30% of the business.
Some companies have ramped up sales to retail, and others were already supplying some retail customers before the pandemic.
In this case, those companies that have manufacturing capabilities have an advantage over importers and distributors, because they have always pursued both sales channels. For these companies, increases at retail have offset a portion of the fall in restaurant sales.
Online direct sales of seafood to consumers is not new. However, it has not taken off before, but has always been a niche business. Those branded companies like Gorton’s that tried direct sales found they just were not successful.
But the pandemic has caused a tipping point. Delivery is now an essential part of the food buying experience for a huge portion of Americans. A significant proportion of these customers are not willing to just go back to grocery stores. In our local Wegman's and Whole Foods, the instacart and amazon shoppers outnumber regular customers for much of the day. So there is an opportunity.
How well seafood integrates into this will determine how much of the lost foodservice business distribution companies can make up.
Plenty of small scale stories abound. Trident has a seafood truck that sells out when it shows up in Bellingham. A tuna captain rejected a low bid for his 90,000 lbs of troll caught albacore from the South Pacific, and instead sold out at over twice the price from his boat at fishermen’s terminal in Seattle.
Cape Ann Fresh Catch, which has been in business delivering fresh seafood to Boston suburbs for more than 10 years, has seen its business explode. The owner told me that many of her locations have gone from about 80 lbs per week of fillets to 200 lbs. With 20 locations, that volume is now thousands of lbs of fresh fish a week, something that can support a respectable business.
Local suppliers who have concentrated on serving chefs in a particular city have been more nimble and able to convert to home delivery and curbside pickup. Several companies on the Boston Fish Pier are doing this.
But can a major distributor develop this type of business. Cooke’s AC Covert in Nova Scotia is expanding its home delivery business throughout the Maritimes.
The impediments are first, distribution companies have developed procedures to deal with the existing customer base.. from invoicing, cold storage, transportation, product specs and credit.. everything is geared to independent chains and broadliners.
But when faced with losing 5 or 6 truckloads of sales per week, getting back 1 or 2 of them could help keep these companies viable.
There is a rush to rethink what our seafood business might look like.
To get closer to customers who want seafood, distributors and importers will have to get control over their products. They will need to be able to get 1 lb vacuum packs, or bags of fresh fillets.
They will need to get flexible about delivery. You can’t be making an appointment at Preferred to pull cases out of cold storage if you have to offer next day or two day delivery on your website. You have to have more instant access to your products. You may need your own trucks.
Finally, the sales process will have to change. It is not enough just to do social media and advertising, although some of the companies trying to make this transition in Boston, like Wulf’s Seafood on the Boston Fish Pier, are spending heavily on social media and advertising. But this is just a start.
There have to be other ways of getting visibility to consumers such as partnering with farmers markets, setting up cooperative ventures with specialty retailers, or simply doing pop-up truck sales like Trident. And even more importantly, there has to be a way for consumers to directly order on line from a specialized inventory.
We don’t know yet whether direct to consumer is a viable long term business, but for now it is a hugely important insurance policy in case future outbreaks force people back into a more limited and homebound way of life.
We have learned that those restaurants who were most prepared, with take-out options and visibility, have survived the best. This summer, even as some foodservice demand returns, we need to plant the seeds for new types of seafood distribution, in case we need them more than ever in the fall.
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