Fishermen switch to selling direct to consumers as COVID alert continues

Let’s turn now to the impact of COVID on the fishing industry. Level 3 restrictions have changed our eating habits overnight. For many fishermen, the normal market for their produce has dried up. It’s especially tough for restaurant suppliers, whose clientele are facing hard times. Let’s head to Yilan and learn how fishermen are weathering the storm.
A fishing boat has come to harbor, and the crew carefully lower a fat black tuna onto land. Here at Su’ao Harbor in Yilan, dozens of fish are laid out on ice for an auction. But this fishing boat captain is concerned.
Hung Fu-chih
Fishing boat captain
The prices are awful. Because of the pandemic, there are no buyers.
Chuang Kuang-yang
Fishing boat captain
The burden of the salaries and the fuel is a lot. If we don’t go out and fish, we can’t live.
It’s the black tuna season, but auctions are quiet. With pandemic restrictions keeping restaurants shut, there’s precious little market for fish. Tuna has lost a third of its normal high season price, and fishermen say they can’t catch enough to make a profit.
Tsai Yuan-lung
Su-ao Fisherman’s Association
Fish prices are poor. We have to find ways to manage. We auction the best parts of the fish online or find some way to sell them. We make tins from what’s left – big hunks of meat.
It’s not only in Yilan where fishermen are looking for new ways to make ends meet. This farmer in Taitung is resorting to similar strategies.
Abalone are reared in pure seawater with zero pollution. The plump mollusks are popular in seafood dishes.
Taitung’s Chenggong area was once home to the biggest abalone farm in the country. In the last two years the industry managed to perk up – that is, until COVID hit. Restaurants and banquet halls are suspended, so local fishing associations have swapped to offering home deliveries.
Chen Chun-ming
Xingang Fish market head
Now everyone in Taiwan, normal housewives, can eat our delicious, highly valuable produce at home.
Mr. Yeh
Abalone farmer
Our traditional sales avenues are restaurants or large or medium-size distributors. Today the customers aren’t coming and the restaurants can’t sell anything.
Abalone are an especially valuable catch, but COVID means even luxury produce needs to find new ways to market itself. But this farmer has good news: he says his sale volume has grown by a third since he began selling direct to consumers.
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