Although Oregon’s restaurants re-opened in the summer of 2020 – with social distancing and indoor face covering measures – earlier mandatory statewide closures due to COVID-19 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. In an industry survey conducted by Oregon Sea Grant from April 22-June 1, 95% of respondents reported that they or their business had already been impacted by COVID-19.
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.
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,” said Amanda Gladics, an Oregon Sea Grant Extension fisheries management specialist in Astoria.
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.
Additional collaborators in the initiative include the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission, Oregon Trawl Commission, the Oregon salmon and albacore commissions and Positively Groundfish.