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US commercial fishermen struggle to survive in the face of coronavirus by HANNAH HAGEMANN March 26,2020   |  Source: NPR

Commercial fishermen in the U.S. who have already faced challenges in recent years to make it in an increasingly globalized and regulated industry, are now struggling to find customers during the coronavirus crisis.

"This is totally unprecedented. This is the biggest crisis to hit the fishing industry ever, no question about that," Noah Oppenheim, executive director of The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations told NPR in a phone interview. The federation is a trade association representing commercial fishermen along the West Coast.

On Tuesday, seafood industry leaders, processors and fishermen sent a letter to House and Senate leaders requesting $4 billion in aid for the industry.

The closings of restaurants due to the coronavirus pandemic has hit commercial fishermen particularly hard.

An estimated 50% to 60% of wild seafood caught in the U.S. is exported, Oppenheim says. Those international markets have dried up. Of the seafood that's not exported, he says around 80% of that is sold to restaurants.

"Both of those sectors of the seafood economy are largely nonfunctional at the moment, so we're going to have to make up for approximately 90% of our markets ... through either new supply pipelines or new sets of customers."

Jerid Rold, a fishermen

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