What happens when the fog closes in? In the last year, we all found out together.

Traditionally, this is our yearbook issue. And historically, we feature top stories from around the country — highlighting the biggest news story of the year from each region. It’s sometimes good news and sometimes not. But there’s always value in focusing on the biggest opportunities and hurdles facing fleets across the country in one collection.

This year, as I’m sure anyone might imagine, the top story is the same.

And while the pandemic is the tie that binds, the thrust of the year’s biggest story is what the fishing and seafood industries accomplished in order to survive, thrive and then give back to communities across the country.

Our top story is not just about the loss of markets and the burdens of operating safely to minimize spread of an infectious disease onboard — all while amping up customer interactions through direct and dockside sales.

It’s about the unparalleled leadership of this industry, exemplified by finding ways to channel our domestic harvest to people who not only wanted fish but to those who needed it.

There’s an unspoken promise that fishermen willingly risk their lives to sustain us. And their families openly send their loved ones out to sea to fulfill that promise.

This season has been particularly disastrous for the West Coast Dungeness crab fleet — not that it’s ever been easy. The weather is atrocious, the prices are all over the map, there is always an agency or organization coming down hard on the fleet for one or 10 regulatory actions. And there’s a reason crossing the bar is an ominous phrase synonymous with death.

It should come as no surprise that the people who are best at finding their way out of a fog are the people who know how to navigate in the worst conditions. A year ago now, no one could quite tell where we were, where we needed to go, or how to get there. But fishermen, as always, found a way to stay in it.

The world, still shrouded in a covid fog, is starting to see some breaks of light. I hope what more people will see when the clouds lift are the successes this industry has earned by emphasizing the value of our communities. Because even a fisherman who goes to sea alone would be lost without a port to call home.

Jessica Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman. She has been covering the fishing industry for 15 years, serves on the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute's Communications Committee and is a National Fisheries Conservation Center board member.

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