University of Tasmania

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Early effects of COVID-19 on US fisheries and seafood consumption

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-21, 08:27 authored by White, ER, Froehlich, HE, Gephart, JA, Richard CottrellRichard Cottrell, Branch, TA, Bejarano, RA, Baum, JK
The US seafood sector is susceptible to shocks, both because of the seasonal nature of many of its domestic fisheries and its global position as a top importer and exporter of seafood. However, many data sets that could inform science and policy during an emerging event do not exist or are only released months or years later. Here, we synthesize multiple data sources from across the seafood supply chain, including unconventional real-time data sets, to show the relative initial responses and indicators of recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic. We synthesized news articles from January to September 2020 that reported effects of COVID-19 on the US seafood sector, including processor closures, shortened fishing seasons and loss of revenue. Concerning production and distribution, we assessed past and present landings and trade data and found substantial declines in fresh seafood catches (−40%), imports (−37%) and exports (−43%) relative to the previous year, while frozen seafood products were generally less affected. Google search trends and seafood market foot traffic data suggest consumer demand for seafood from restaurants dropped by upwards of 70% during lockdowns, with recovery varying by state. However, these declines were partially offset by an increase (270%) in delivery and takeout service searches. Our synthesis of open-access data sets and media reports shows widespread, but heterogeneous, ramifications of COVID-19 across the seafood sector, implying that policymakers should focus support on states and sub-sectors most affected by the pandemic: fishery-dependent communities, processors, and fisheries and aquaculture that focus on fresh products.


Publication title

Fish and Fisheries








Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Blackwell Publishing Ltd

Place of publication

9600 Garsington Rd, Oxford, England, Oxon, Ox4 2Dg

Rights statement

© 2020 John Wiley & Sons Ltd

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Fisheries - aquaculture not elsewhere classified; Fisheries - wild caught not elsewhere classified; Expanding knowledge in the environmental sciences

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