CORVALLIS, Ore. – Although Oregon’s restaurants have re-opened – with social distancing and indoor face covering measures – earlier mandatory statewide closures due to COVID-19 this spring sent Oregon’s $700 million seafood industry scrambling to find new markets.
The majority of the seafood that Oregonians eat is served in restaurants, so the sharp decrease in seafood sales between March and May significantly impacted the state’s marine commercial fishing operations, from Brookings to Astoria.
To relieve some of the industry’s economic pain, Oregon Sea Grant’s Extension fisheries specialists partnered with the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) and the Oregon seafood industry on an initiative called Eat Oregon Seafood.
They created a webpage and a promotional campaign on social media that features the hashtag #EatOregonSeafood. In addition to showing where to buy local seafood via an interactive map, the webpage offers tips on when and what types of seafood to purchase and how to freeze, smoke and prepare it at home. It also has a growing archive of recipes for home chefs.
The idea began in late April, when, at the suggestion of Oregon’s seafood commodity commissions, ODA contacted Oregon Sea Grant.
“We worked quickly to create a website that provided educational information about Oregon seafood products, as well as resources on where consumers can go to buy them,” said Amanda Gladics, an Oregon Sea Grant Extension fisheries management specialist in Astoria. “Adriene Koett-Cronn, the content strategist for Oregon Sea Grant, was invaluable in getting the framework of the page put together on a very tight timeline.”
The Sea Grant Extension fisheries team quickly saw the potential for a larger project, both expanding the website and building on ODA’s idea for the #EatOregonSeafood hashtag.
“We secured funding from the NOAA National Sea Grant office to expand the website with new educational videos, photography, and other materials for seafood consumers. We are excited to create a more complete, stand-alone resource to help people interested in purchasing and cooking locally harvested seafood,” Gladics said.
The first person to promote the hashtag was chef Jeff Graham, from Fort George Brewery in Astoria, when he appeared on KOIN 6 Foodie Friday on June 12. Philippe Boulot, executive chef at the Multnomah Athletic Club in Portland, shared the hashtag on Facebook and Instagram on June 19, and since then many others have followed.
The Oregon Sea Grant Extension fisheries team working with ODA and the seafood industry on the Eat Oregon Seafood initiative includes Gladics, marine fisheries specialist Angee Doerr, who is based in Newport; and Jamie Doyle, a coastal community development specialist in Coos Bay.
“We want to make it easier for people to buy and prepare the local, fresh seafood that we are so fortunate to have in Oregon,” said Nancy Fitzpatrick, executive director of the Oregon Albacore Commission and Oregon Salmon Commission. “Since many of us are still preparing most of our meals at home, it’s a good time to try a new recipe or type of seafood you may not have eaten in the past. Not only will it benefit our fishing community, but seafood has tremendous health benefits for people looking to eat nutritious and delicious food at home.”