Oregon’s seafood industry is buoyed by federal subsidies and a recovering economy


There’s relief coming for Oregon’s seafood economy: $1.5 million in federal grants have been allocated to the state Department of Agriculture.

Lori Steele of the West Coast Seafood Processors Association (WCSPA) said the money is intended to help businesses cover expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is now in its third year.

“So it could be costs for the PPE they had to buy, the masks, the gloves, other health equipment,” Steele explained. “Costs associated with upgrading seafood processing plants to provide adequate social distancing, unreimbursed costs associated with testing for COVID or treating sick employees.”

Oregon is one of 24 states to receive the funding, announced by US Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden. Called the Seafood Processors Response and Safety Block Grant Program, it is funded by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

Oregon’s seafood industry has been dealing with the turbulent economy of the pandemic since 2020. But industry officials expect calmer seas this year.

Seafood buffet during a catered lunch.

COVID-19 has disrupted many seafood outlets, namely restaurants and taverns. A report from the U.S. Department of Commerce shows that foodservice sales fell 40% in the first months of the pandemic in 2020. And overall commercial fishing revenues fell 22% from the five-year baseline.

WCSPA’s Steele told KLCC she sees better prospects for 2022.

“We still face many challenges which I think are not going away immediately. Especially in terms of supply chain disruptions and labor issues. And we all face inflation. But it’s certainly a rosier future than it was a few years ago.

A highlight is the current Dungeness crab season. In addition to being the first since 2014 to start on time, its harvest exceeded the previous one in just the first month.

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