As the spread of coronavirus shut down commercial fishing and seafood supply chains and restaurants throughout the country in March, stakeholders on every coast jumped to action to find ways to support local wild fisheries, keep fishermen fishing and put some of the world's finest protein on the tables of sequestered American consumers.

Although we are not in our offices or traveling to the events and conferences where we get to connect face to face with so many of you, our digital doors are open.

The NF crew is excited to offer our May issue to download or view on the site with no paywall or restrictions. This is an extension of the same offer for our April issue, which is still available.

As I said in my Editor's Log for the May issue, we will eventually find the bright spots when this cloud has passed. The Pacific Marine Expo team is working away on the fall show in Seattle, and we're expecting to have dates by the end of the month. In the meantime, our industry partners are working to help fishermen and critical support services keep on track. We're not going anywhere, but we're here to help you get where you need to be. 

Our May issue has an in-depth feature from Products Editor Brian Hagenbuch on boots and gear for all kinds of weather and wear. Gear maker Grundéns is launching a new We Will Fish Again campaign, which "is ultimately designed to create more demand in the seafood market that the harvesters depend on,” said Mat Jackson from Grundéns.

The idea is to highlight the community supported seafood organizations that are helping to fulfill the high demand that seafood is seeing right now. There are ocean-friendly restaurants other establishments that offer online and delivery services to fulfill this demand, so we want to make sure that the market stays strong for when we can fish again in force. We’re all part of this community and we want to use our voice as best we can.”

Some fisheries like the Bristol Bay fleet, are actively seeking updates as harvesters and processors keep an eye on the approaching season opener.

Andy Wink, executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association.

Andy Wink, executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, sat down with me via Zoom this week to answer some questions about covid-19, Pebble Mine and a market hungry for wild salmon.

We work closely with many of the companies and individuals who are directly involved with the Bristol Bay fisheries,” said Bruce Neece from R.W. Fernstrum. “Here at R.W. Fernstrum, we are on a rotation of the sales, engineering and office staff, working from home and office. We are doing our best to accommodate the needs of everyone, both domestically and around the world.”

For the fishermen who are out on the water, providing this essential service for the nation, there is also critical infrastructure in place to support their work.

"The covid-19 virus has impacted every facet of society. ZF Marine and Special Driveline have a duty to provide uninterrupted support to the Essential Critical Infrastructure of the country,” said Martin Meissner from ZF Marine Propulsion Systems Miramar. "Military vessels protecting our waterways and shoreline, ferry operators that enable frontline workers to get to and from their jobs, and the commercial fishing fleet that continues to provide fresh seafood to the nation’s food system. ZF is taking all necessary measures to protect the health and safety of our employees while ensuring we remain at the ready to support these operators."

The working waterfront in and around Seattle is even seeing a slight uptick in some sectors of marine traffic for the month of March, which requires watchstanders at the Puget Sound Marine Exchange — all operating under social distancing protocols, of course.

"The Marine Exchange is continuing to operate 24-7,” said John Veentjer from the Marine Exchange Puget Sound. “We’re working from home but still have watchstanders in the office (by themselves — socially distant from others), in part because we cannot currently remote our phones and our radios. We know some traffic is down due to the virus, but oddly some of it is up, not through February but in March. Currently, it looks like we will end March up a few arrivals over March of 2019, down containerships but up on vehicle carriers.”

The technical support staff at Furuno is accustomed to providing support from afar, but their preference is to meet you where you are. For now, their staff is doing everything they can to make sure their customers who are operating as essential service providers are operating safely and at full capacity with Furuno's suite of marine electronics.

Furuno USA remains fully operational, albeit in a little different form than we were just a month ago,” said Jeff Kauzlaric of Furuno.

Boats tied up at Seattle's Fishermen's Terminal. Susan Chambers photo.

Boats tied up at Seattle's Fishermen's Terminal. Susan Chambers photo.

"We remain fully staffed, continue to take and ship orders, as well as answering tech support calls and performing services essential to the marine transportation industry and entities that include the U.S. government, military and commercial shipping," added Dean Kurutz, VP of sales, marketing and product planning for Furuno USA. "The majority of our employees are working remotely from their homes, so we can limit staffing at our facilities in Washington and Maryland to essential personnel, ensuring appropriate social distancing. Our goal is to maintain as close to a business as usual approach as possible for our valued customers, while also following government guidelines and keeping our employees safe!

The slowdown is reportedly affecting boatyards across the country, as well. After a long spell of being booked years out on construction and maintenance, many U.S. yards have some availability. Now may be a good time to take advantage of those openings.

"If fishermen are experiencing a slow-down," Meissner adds, "they may want to take this opportunity to consider doing some preventative maintenance and make sure their boats are ready to go when the situation returns to normal. I am sure that when we’re on the other side of this, and we know we will get there, people will be out in force getting back to normal routines, enjoying nights out with friends and family, and patronizing their favorite restaurants. I feel that the demand for seafood will be very strong, and ZF will be there to support the fishing industry as it resumes normal operation."

Everyone at National Fisherman and Pacific Marine Expo is looking forward to resuming normal operations in Seattle come fall. For now, we'll navigate these uncharted waters together.

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Jessica Hathaway is the former editor in chief of National Fisherman.

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