So much can change in a few weeks. In the midst of social distancing and a slowing economy, we’re also seeing an intense energy surge in our essential services, and the food supply chain is being overhauled in a way we’ve never seen before.

It has me thinking about... toilet paper. Bear with me. When toilet paper became scarce, we called out the hoarders (and they know who they are). But weeks later it’s still scarce, despite the fact that stores have been rationing in order to, let’s say, flatten the curve.

And yet, right now there are warehouses full of commercial-grade toilet paper. The manufacturers can’t just switch to making a whole new product for home use. If you like, you can buy a huge dispenser on Amazon and install it in your bathroom at home! But for the most part, those massive rolls are shelved, waiting for public spaces to reopen. And the people who make our home supply are trying to keep up with the increased demand of a population that’s using the home throne more than ever.

But you can’t just put perishables on a shelf and wait. Some commercial dairies have dumped vats of milk because they can’t move it through their usual supply chains. Meanwhile, butter is being rationed at grocery stores. When the restaurant market dried up, some seafood processors stopped buying at the dock. Meanwhile, consumers were hard pressed to find protein at local markets.

For the most part, we have what we need. We just don’t have a food system nimble enough to pivot to fill those needs when they take a tectonic shift. This is why the seafood industry has been able to shine, despite some significant hurdles. By and large, fishermen are independent operators. You are nimble. You can decide to make your own deliveries or sell direct at the dock.

I keep going back to a meme: When the whole world is freaking out because their markets crashed, and they don’t know if they are gonna make ends meet. Commercial fishermen be like: First time? You are the poster children for success in crisis.

You’re the age-old gig workers. You’re the original contract employee. The rest of the world is just coming to recognize it’s not a glamorous lifestyle — it is a lure for those who crave independence. But the hustle never stops. Here we are on the precipice of sweeping change. We can fight for a system that rewards independence rather than consolidation and corporate power.

We are working here to pivot, too. Our next issue will be digital only. If you're a print subscriber, visit this page to ensure you get the digital edition. Visit our website, sign up for our newsletter and check into our Facebook page. We are doing our best to reach you where you are, and we are committed to that for the long haul. The course may change, but we will stay true.

Jessica Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman. She has been covering the fishing industry for 13 years, serves on the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute's Communications Committee and is a National Fisheries Conservation Center board member.

Join the Conversation