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Editorial: Pandemic preparedness


Businesses across industries are feeling the economic repercussions of the spread of COVID-19, as shutdowns, travel restrictions and the general unease among consumers impact their bottom-lines. vast majority of workers suddenly find themselves out of a job. With no clear indication as to when they can go back to work, they are forced to dip into their savings – if they even have any – to pay for their day-to-day expenses: food, bills, mortgage. Government financial aids and economic bailout packages provide a temporary relief. But for how long?

The world is at a standstill and bracing for what analysts are warning could be a global recession.

The aquaculture industry is starting to feel the impact of this slow economic activity, as more hotels, restaurants and the service industry temporarily shut down to comply with public health officials’ call for social distancing and self-isolation in order to “flatten the curve” – pertaining to the ongoing progression of COVID-19 infections.

Anecdotal evidence from our conversations with producers and suppliers reveal what could be a downward trend in sales as seafood wholesalers reduce or even stop their orders.

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For now, hatcheries seem to be operating under a business-as-usual mindset as they strive to ensure fish producers have uninterrupted access to eggs and fry to fuel production.

Other aquaculture producers are finding some alternative measures to make up for declining sales from their usual clients. This is particularly true for land-based aquaculture producers. In a recent RAS Talk podcast episode, John Ng, CEO of Hudson Valley Fish Farm in Hudson, New York, tells us that while their usual wholesale orders have stopped, they find that demand for fish from retailers and food delivery services are up, and they are able to divert their steelhead salmon produce through these channels.

Even then, workplaces across the industry are facing a new reality. Non-essential employees are being asked to work from home, and essential workers, such as those working in production floors, are working in shifts so that only a few are on the floor at any given time to implement social distancing measures.

The best-run companies will have a pandemic or emergency preparedness plan in place to deal with this extraordinary situation. These pandemic preparedness protocols should not only outline the procedures for business continuity. It should also contain worker support and communication plans. The most valuable asset a company has – whether during a pandemic or in ordinary times – is its people. The health and wellness of your workers should be part of any business continuity protocol.

The impact of COVID-19 to the world’s economy is, understandably, a significant issue. The collateral damage from COVID-19, however, is not just the financial health of corporations. The psychological and emotional stress during these challenging times are taking a toll on the workers’ health – and the best thing employers can do is help ease these anxieties. Through consistent, clear communication and practice providing assurances that worker health and safety is as important as the company’s bottom-line will go a long way during these trying times. We are all in this together.

Have you got a story tip or a hatchery operation with a great story to tell? Send me an email at mdeguzman@annexbusinessmedia.com.