Virginia blue crabs for sale at a seafood market. Photo by Keri Rouse - VT VSAREC

Virginia blue crabs for sale at seafood market. Photo by Keri Rouse - VT VSAREC
Photo by Keri Rouse - VT VSAREC

Disruptions to supply chains from the pandemic in 2020 have rippled across the U.S., including the demand for seafood and rising retail prices for consumers, says Virginia Tech research scientist Fernando Gonçalves at the Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center.

“Many economic sectors have been hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic, including labor availability to the seafood industry, loss of opportunities in sales for restaurants, seasonality of species, changes in consumption habits, preferences, and market channels,” says Gonçalves. 

According to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC), the entity that regulates and controls commercial fisheries production and shellfish aquaculture, Virginia seafood production has dropped almost 90%, but the dockside value, in dollar figures, dropped around 43% compared to 2019.

Jonathan van Senten, from the Seafood Economic Analysis and Marketing Research program, explains that seafood prices are up largely in response to increased production costs and supply chain challenges.

“In some cases this is a function of supply and demand,” says van Senten. “For example, where seasonal fisheries had reduced landings and now we have restaurants reopening and the demand for seafood picking up again.”

Van Senten explains that a major impact on the seafood sector last year was the disruption of primary marketing channels. “Most of the seafood in the U.S. has traditionally been consumed in restaurants, which led to a loss of revenue and reduced production and fishing effort in response. This loss of revenue resulted in secondary impacts across fisheries and aquaculture in terms of labor impacts and production challenges.”

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