Researchers study aquaculture amid pandemic
UCSB professor Halley Froehlich collaborated with seven scientists to research the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on aquaculture.
The first of two papers was published Nov. 23 in the journal Fish and Fisheries.
The study uses real-time data to present a harsh decline in aquaculture after the emergence of COVID-19.
Dr. Easton White, a research associate in the biology department at the University of Vermont, led the study. He wanted to apply the pandemic to his academic discipline and find other researchers in fishery sciences.
“I think the pandemic has really revealed a lot of these longstanding stress points that have always been there. But it just became very obvious during this big shock,” he told the News-Press.
The research is intended to help pinpoint opportunities for a more resilient industry.
“This won’t be the last disruption,” Dr. Froehlich, an aquaculture and fisheries professor, told the News-Press. “And so what can we learn from that to build in policy to really focus efforts and support for parts of the system that are particularly vulnerable?”
The second paper, which is undergoing editing prior to publication, looks at public policy and the potential to create a robust industry in the future.
In January, Dr. Froehlich will participate in a committee to create an aquaculture action plan for California.
Climate change has shifted the migration patterns of sea life and begun to disrupt fishery operations, she said. Aquaculture must adapt to a changing world.
During the pandemic, local demand and direct-to-consumer seafood sales has softened the impact, noted Dr. White. But the industry is nonetheless shaken.
“Those types of things that you might be able to have more local demand and local purchasing, those are the kind of things that you can encourage that might be helpful longterm to create a more robust system,” he said.
The study looked at trade restrictions’ effect on seafood as well. The U.S. exports lots of fish as well as imports, and the pandemic slowed those exchanges.
The researchers studied Google searches to see how consumer demand changed. Seafood takeout and home cooked recipes increased, but the majority of seafood is consumed in restaurants.
“It can be overlooked a lot when we’re talking about food, people kind of forget that seafood is part of the food production system and food system in general. And hopefully they don’t forget that because it’s a really important part,” Dr. Froelich said.
The second piece will be published in coming weeks, as researchers seek policy changes to support aquaculture.