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Oregon's fishing industry weathering the COVID-19 storm

Like many in the food industry, Pacific Seafood in Clackamas has had to adapt amid the coronavirus pandemic.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon's nearly $700 million seafood industry has taken a big hit. For the people who fish, the distributors, and the restaurants, Gov. Brown's stay-home order has been costly.

"The hardest part about all of this is the uncertainty," said commercial fisherman Mike Retherford.

Normally, you'd find Retherford out on his boat the Winona J. But these days he's spending a lot more time at his home in Newport sheltering in place.

"It just means we're sitting tied up at the docks, we're not fishing," he said.

Retherford usually averages one fishing trip a week. Now, it's down to every two and a half or three weeks. And he worries what the future will hold for Oregon's fishing industry.

"If this goes on for too long you could see business down 40-50%," he said.

But what was looking really grim a couple weeks ago when crab prices dropped from about $7 a pound down to about $2 is now looking a bit better. The price of crab has rebounded as distributors find new ways to market.

"So we've had to get creative," said Tyson Yeck, vice president of domestic sales for Pacific Seafood based in Clackamas.

The company took a major hit when the restaurants closed.

"Most of our business on the food service side has absolutely disappeared," Yeck said.

But the change forced the company to think differently. It's now focusing efforts on grocery stores. Its retail business is actually up about 200%.

And like many in the food industry, the company is now getting into the delivery business with it's brand new direct-to-consumer website.

"Some absolutely beautiful, beautiful products that we pack here ship directly to your doorstep and you can put directly in your fridge or freezer," said Yeck.

A pretty easy way we can get that seafood we love and help our local fisherman at the same time.

"The only way we make money is by fishing and catching fish," said Retherford. "Right now, we're just kind of weathering the storm."

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