Researchers investigate impact of ‘Covid-shock’ on seafood sector

RiseUp project researcher George Charalambides, SAMS, is pictured at the Railway Pier in Oban, one of many UK towns that benefits from a thriving seafood sector. Photo credit: SAMS.

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A research team led by the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) has begun to investigate the impact of Covid-19 on the UK seafood industry.

The seafood sector incorporates significant processing and logistics operations within the supply chain, which begins with farming and fishing and ends with supermarkets, fishmongers and restaurants.

Many livelihoods depend on a thriving seafood industry. Photograph: Seafish.

Analysis of the previous economic crash in 2008 showed huge implications for the seafood sector, which also needed a longer recovery time than other industries. There is also a great deal of uncertainty within the industry over a looming post-Brexit end to the transition period.

Now the RiseUp project, led by Dr Sofia Franco from SAMS, will seek to find out the extent of the so-called ‘Covid-shock’ throughout the industry and provide policy recommendations and advice to help government and business improve resilience in the sector.

The 18-month investigation, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of the UK Research and Innovation’s rapid response to Covid-19, will also involve the University of Manchester and will conduct interviews and surveys with industry during its initial data collection.

The project is also benefitting from Seafish information and analytical input.

Dr Franco said: ‘The UK seafood industry is under unprecedented pressure to deliver on national food security during Covid-19/SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, while trying to adapt to remain viable.

‘Many livelihoods depend on the industry, whether that is people working within fishing and aquaculture sectors, supply chain companies and high street businesses.

‘The location of many of these jobs – many in coastal and rural communities – is also significant in these local economies.

‘However, it is important to capture the systemic impacts to the UK seafood industry, how businesses are adapting and how the supply network has been affected.’

Fishmongers are at the end of the supply chain and therefore rely on processing as well as fishing to supply their products. Photo credit: Seafish.

Dr Franco said there have likely been ‘winners and losers’ during the Covid-19 lockdown and the extent to which businesses prospered or struggled, and why this happened could be vital to inform recommendations.

She also said the project’s recommendations must consider opportunities and seafood sector concerns about the effect of an extended ‘Covid-shock’ on top of the uncertainty around the Brexit trade deal negotiations.

The project is keen to hear from companies across the seafood industry in gathering evidence on the effects of the Covid-19 disruption across the sector, the response from seafood businesses and the uptake of existing government
support measures.

Please contact the project lead (sofia.franco@sams.ac.uk) if you would like to share your experience of how Covid-19 has affected your business.

 

Fishmongers are at the end of the supply chain and therefore rely on processing as well as fishing to supply their products. Credit: Seafish.

Many livelihoods depend on a thriving seafood industry. Credit: Seafish