In Media: A Push to Boost Commercial Fishing, Post-COVID
Seafood Safety and Technology - News

By Adina Genn, Long Island Business News

Stony Brook, NY, April 27, 2021 - Even without a pandemic, commercial fishing is a challenging industry.

There are natural disasters and adverse conditions, overfished areas and the list goes on. With the pandemics, the industry suffered on Long Island as restaurants all but shut down, wiping away an important client base for commercial fishing.

As the economy continues to reopen,  Suffolk County  has launched a survey aimed at developing a real-time snapshot of the Long Island commercial fishing industry, which officials say has been “especially hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to a press release from the county.

The survey is available here.

The survey was developed with Suffolk’s Department of Economic Development and Planning, New York Sea Grant, Cornell Cooperative Extension Marine Program, and the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association.

“Long Island’s heritage is tied directly to our fishing and aquaculture industries,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said in a statement.

“When we had to shut down last spring to beat back COVID-19 and save lives, the commercial fishing industry, like so many others, suffered,” he added. “This needs assessment survey will identify key points and allow us to provide the resources needed to ensure this industry thrives.”

“Commercial fishermen, by the very nature of their business, have lived through the highs and lows of changes to fish stocks and regulations, weather events like Hurricane Sandy, and now COVID-19,” Bonnie Brady, executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, said in a statement.

“Suffolk County’s commercial fishing survey could not come at a better time to assess the needs of this heritage industry to rebuild and grow our markets even stronger than before,” Brady added.

The information and data collected through the survey will highlight the needs of local fishermen and will guide and assist agencies in providing the resources necessary to continue to support a viable and sustainable fishing industry. The survey will differ from years prior by including targeted questions about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected commercial fishing on Long Island. The survey will include questions on the profitability of the industry over the last year and moving forward, questions on revenues over the last year, and changes to the business model over the last year, among others.

Suffolk County’s maritime history spans over 400 years, contributing to the quality of life on Long Island. In 2019, 361 commercial fishing establishments landed over 19 million pounds of fish valued at over $27 million. These revenues generated an additional $47.4 million in economic activity, additional earnings of $15.4 million, and 656 additional jobs.

Last year, the COVID-19 outbreak caused restaurants across the state to close or operate at limited capacity in order to protect public health. That disruption eliminated a critical customer base for Long Island’s local fishing and seafood industries, and market prices for fish dropped between 60 to 80 percent. In some circumstances, harvested fish went unsold entirely. COVID-19 related disruptions, and other export market closures for such valuable export species as squid, tuna and Jonah crab, left many fishermen with few if any options to get their catch to consumers. 

In 2018, Suffolk County launched “Choose LI – Local and Independent”, a collaborative effort that seeks to raise awareness, advocate and inspire the community to support local and independent businesses on Long Island, including local seafood. Residents can “Take the Pledge” and commit to spending 10 percent of their weekly food budget on local and seasonal fish, produce, meat and beverages across Suffolk County. The Choose LI website includes a complete mapping and inventory of all the farmstands, farmers’ markets, fish markets, vineyards, breweries, cideries, and distilleries in Suffolk County. Additionally, the website provides residents with information on what types of products are available during the season, including local fish in-season.

“Commercial fishermen in Suffolk County catch some of the most nutritious, sustainable species in the United States. But the industry is still struggling in a post-COVID world. We hope the results from the survey will demonstrate the value of our local fisheries and help us identify opportunities for economic growth within the industry,”  August Ruckdeschel, chair of the Suffolk County Food Policy Council, said in a statement.

Commercial fishers and and aquaculturalists interested in new markets can join a webinar on Thursday, April 29 at 3:00 p.m. The webinar, hosted by New York Sea Grant, will announce a new set of regulatory guides and topical resources developed by partners including Suffolk’s Department of Economic Development and Planning, the Suffolk County Department of Labor, and Department of Health Services, to help New York producers navigate the regulatory framework surrounding seafood processing and different avenues of sale for seafood in New York. Register for the free webinar here.


More Info: New York Sea Grant

New York Sea Grant (NYSG), a cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York (SUNY), is one of 34 university-based programs under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Sea Grant College Program.

Since 1971, NYSG has represented a statewide network of integrated research, education and extension services promoting coastal community economic vitality, environmental sustainability and citizen awareness and understanding about the State’s marine and Great Lakes resources.

Through NYSG’s efforts, the combined talents of university scientists and extension specialists help develop and transfer science-based information to many coastal user groups—businesses and industries, federal, state and local government decision-makers and agency managers, educators, the media and the interested public.

The program maintains Great Lakes offices at Cornell University, University at Buffalo, SUNY Oswego and the Wayne County Cooperative Extension office in Newark. In the State's marine waters, NYSG has offices at Stony Brook University in Long Island, Brooklyn College and Cornell Cooperative Extension in NYC and Elmsford and Kingston in the Hudson Valley.

For updates on Sea Grant activities: www.nyseagrant.org has RSS, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube links. NYSG offers a free e-list sign up via www.nyseagrant.org/nycoastlines for its flagship publication, NY Coastlines/Currents, which is published quarterly. Our program also produces an occasional e-newsletter, "NOAA Sea Grant's Social Media Review," via its blog, www.nyseagrant.org/blog.

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