Maryland seafood industry feeling coronavirus impact

Hoopers Island offers gorgeous views of the water. (WTOP/Colleen Kelleher)
Maryland’s seafood industry has slowed down as the coronavirus pandemic continues, leading to uncertainty for the oyster and crab markets.

Chris Moore, a senior scientist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said the market for oysters that have already been harvested is on the decline.

“Once they get too big, they can still be sold, but the value that they tend to get for those goes down,” he said.

Oyster farmers are now looking ahead and trying to ensure their seed, which typically takes 12 to 24 months to grow, does well over the next couple months to provide more security in the coming years.

Restoration projects intended to safeguard the future of the industry have also been held up.

“Some of those actual investments in our resources may not actually be able to be made because of the slowdowns related to COVID-19,” Moore said.

While there has been a decline in pollution due to less activity, Moore said it’s still hard to tell how these factors will impact the environment.

With crab season, the uncertainty continues.

“Even as things start to return to normal, crab prices stay depressed because it’s not necessarily one of the things people buy everyday,” said Moore, adding that buying directly from your local watermen is one way to help keep the market afloat.

For workers traveling to Maryland for crab season, their health and safety presents another set of concerns for many of the crab processing plants on Hoopers Island, where the Baltimore Sun reports unprecedented efforts to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Temperatures are being taken often, shifts are shortened and social distancing measures are being enforced, but the fear of contracting the virus and not being able to work nonetheless persists for plant workers, many of whom are Mexican immigrants.

With restaurants closed and demand on the decline, it will continue to be an uphill battle for the industry in the coming weeks.

More Coronavirus News

WTOP’s Dan Friedell contributed to this report.

Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell joined WTOP Radio in March 2018 and is excited to cover stories that matter across D.C., as well as in Maryland and Virginia. 

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