From aggressively selling Maine lobster and Gulf of Mexico red snapper, to detouring Dungeness crab and direct marketing king salmon, U.S. fishermen still found some successes amid the covid-19 ravaged markets of 2020.

The year started with hopeful signs for the industry, with revenue up 3 percent in January and February — before restaurant closings and doors to the China market slamming shut dropped revenue 19 percent in March, according to a NMFS analysis.

Overall, January to July saw a 29 percent decline. But fishermen, who see their own agency as the answer to adversity, stepped back in to seek new local markets and partners to expand their range beyond traditional boundaries.

One bright spot amid the pandemic mayhem was signs of shifting consumer behavior, says Paul Doremus, the NMFS acting administrator. The shock of food supply disruptions during a public health crisis got more people thinking about healthy diets and the role of preparing seafood at home as part of that.

In fact many fishermen, seafood advocates and marketers say the pandemic experience should point a new way forward — to sell the benefits of a more robust, resilient and healthy supply of U.S.-caught seafood.

Our reports from around the coasts show signs of where that could lead.

Alaska: Tradition wins out in a long, strange year
Gulf & South Atlantic: Snapper, grouper and crabs are surprise successes
Northeast: Maine lobster traps opportunity; seaweed held steady
West Coast & Pacific: Fleets made good use of dockside markets

Associate Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for more than 30 years and a 25-year field editor for National Fisherman before joining our Commercial Marine editorial staff in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.

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