COVID-19 Is Hurting Texas Fisheries, But Eating Local Seafood Helps
Typically, spring is a high-demand season for commercial fisheries, and many in the industry rely on these peak months to carry their income throughout the year. But, this year the widespread disruption from COVID-19 has caused seafood demand to come to a screeching halt.
Fortunately, there are ways to support these fisheries, and that means consuming more locally sourced seafood.
“One of the best ways to support local economies is to know where your food comes from and support local sources,” said Laura Picariello, fisheries specialist at the Texas Sea Grant program at Texas A&M University. “Restaurant managers should be able to tell you where they source their seafood. You can call the restaurant in advance, or ask your server to check with the kitchen if it’s not printed on the menu.”
Seafood from the Gulf of Mexico, like shrimp and oysters, are Texas cuisine classics. These foods are rich in vitamins and minerals, low in sodium and a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and protein. Gulf seafood is healthier and more sustainable because of the highly regulated practices implemented by American fisheries, including using safer handling practices and fewer antibiotics.
Besides providing a nutritious and delicious seafood, gulf fisheries support Texas coastal economies. In 2018, Texas fishermen landed more than 84 million pounds of fish and shellfish worth more than $211 million, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, 70 percent of the seafood landed is consumed at restaurants. As restaurants close their doors to support social distancing, there is less demand for seafood, leading some fishermen to stop fishing all together.
Many restaurants have responded to the need for social distancing by offering curbside pick-up and no-contact delivery, including restaurants that serve Gulf seafood.
Some restaurants offering these services are also part of the G.U.L.F. Restaurant Partnership Program, a joint effort with Texas Sea Grant, Texas State Aquarium and Audubon Nature Institute, in which restaurants pledge to serve Gulf seafood. Texas Sea Grant trains restaurant staff on where their seafood is sourced and helps restaurants evaluate their menus and make sustainable choices. Partner restaurants and the services currently offered include:
- Palmer’s Restaurant, Bar & Courtyard in San Marcos is offering “Quarantine Kits” for delivery or pick-up which includes seafood and other ingredients for daily recipe specials and a roll of toilet paper.
- GLOW in Rockport offers no-contact delivery and the ability to donate a meal to emergency medical services workers.
- Corpus Christi Yacht Club has curbside pick-up and delivery options as well as family meal specials.
- Katie’s Seafood in Galveston has pick-up and delivery options for ordering from both their restaurant and their seafood market.
If information on where the restaurants source their seafood is not available online, consumers can ask the restaurant directly. In Texas, consumers can also look for the Go Texan logo from the Department of Agriculture, which indicates that the product is produced in Texas.
Many grocery stores also offer information, including country of origin and fishing practices used, about their seafood online, which is especially useful for consumers using online ordering.
“Be careful, because products can be deceiving,” Picariello said. “The packaging may look like it’s American, such as using images of the American flag, but may in fact be imported. That’s why it’s important to check the back of the package for the country of origin label.”
Seafood can also be purchased at local markets and directly from fishermen. Like larger grocers, many local markets offer curbside service and delivery options. Texas Sea Grant has compiled and is continuing to update a list of seafood retailers that are currently open with details on the services they are providing.