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'I Don't Know if We Will Make It': Fishing Industry Takes a Huge Hit from COVID-19

05-18-2020
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Commercial fishing is one of the many industries suffering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. It's led to a dramatically shrinking market for seafood as restaurants either close or have converted to takeout, and consumers stay home.

It's a quiet scene these days at L.D. Amory & Co. in Hampton, Va. The normally bustling wholesale seafood packer is struggling.

"About 80 percent of the product we pack here ends up in restaurants," Meade Amory, vice president of the company, told CBN News. "And so far we have no markets for our products right now, and it's been very difficult."

To try to keep some fishermen on the water and employees on the job, Amory says the company is "exploring new markets everywhere" they can. One example is curbside wholesale seafood sales.

"It's helping. It's a far cry from what our monthly sales should be, but it is helping keep the doors open," Amory explained.

For four generations and 103 years, the Amory family has run the wholesale seafood company. It survived a tornado and a fire. Meade Amory is not sure it will make it through the global pandemic.

"That's a real good question," he shared. "Based on the numbers from last month, if we can't get back to a hundred percent in the next 30 days, I don't know if we will make it."

Amory says the company successfully benefitted from the paycheck protection program but adds that it might not keep the nearly 100 full-time and seasonal employees working.

"The payroll protection plan has been a great idea to get it out there and to get some money into businesses quickly, but that alone won't keep some businesses open," he said. 

An internal memo from the Virginia Marine Resources Commission shared with the Daily Press, states potential revenue loss at close to $70 million from March through June because of an almost 90 percent drop in market demand.

When CBN News reached out to interview the commissioner, he was unavailable.     

It's not just an issue for commercial fishing. The recreational side is also taking a hit from the pandemic. Case in point David Wright, owner of High Hopes Sportfishing Charters.

"Once we lose these days and that calendar day has clicked off, we're never gonna get it back," he shared with CBN News.

Wright estimates that because of the coronavirus, he hasn't been able to book about 20 groups, which is a potential loss of as many as 160 customers and thousands of dollars.

Alexis Rabon of Rudee Tours, a tour boat company and manager of the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, says business came to a halt around mid-March.

"So it's been very difficult for us; typically springtime is quite busy; we have a lot of visitors that come into the area, so that's been nonexistent," she told CBN News. "We haven't been able to really bring in any revenue."

"So I know that that's been tough for everyone overall, but it's definitely been a hard-hit for us as well," Rabon continued.

Back in Hampton, Amory is hoping for a miracle.

"It is without a doubt that prayer helps. And we'll take all the help we can get right now," he said.

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