New year in the era of COVID
By Mari-Len De Guzman
Many people around likely celebrated the holidays in a slightly different way. It was certainly unprecedented in my friends and family circle, as we tried to do our part in lessening the COVID-19 infection rate by limiting in-person interaction.
The year 2020 will certainly go down in history as one of the most challenging years of our time. The coronavirus pandemic has gripped the world and brought economies and health-care systems on their knees. Despite its status as an essential business, the aquaculture industry faced some economic impacts as businesses along its supply chain – hotels, bars, restaurants, the transportation sectors – suffer significant losses.
Behind enemy lines are the hatcheries. Other than changing operational procedures to comply with social distancing measures, businesses shutting down seemed to have little consequence to hatchery production – but that was short-lived. As seafood farmers slowed down production, so did their fry and smolt orders. Even public hatcheries are feeling the impacts, with precious government funding redirected toward stimulating the economy and traditional fundraising activities by hatcheries were limited.
We began the new year with renewed hope of recovery as news of highly effective vaccines made their way through regulatory approvals, and eventually, into people’s arms. It might be a while before the vaccines can change our trajectory in a meaningful way but the prospect of finally being able to take these COVID-19 shackles off is refreshing.
It’s easy to just focus on everything that went wrong in 2020. Despite this difficult year, however, we also saw some silver linings; the most notable was the showcase of resilience and innovativeness of the aquaculture industry. The pandemic has forced aquaculture producers to rethink and pivot their distribution strategies, fast-track vertical integration plans, and re-imagine the workplace.
Martin Fothergill, board director at Pure Salmon, summed it up accurately at our RAS Virtual Summit last September. “Changes that we were expecting to see over three to four years happened in three to four months.”
Agility should be the word of the year for 2020. It’s easy to focus on the negative, but it’s never helpful in the long run. Taking stock of what went wrong gives us the ability to learn from them and be better. But the positive, the uplifting moments are the ones that inspire us and remind us that the best is yet to come.