Start of salmon season gives hope to fishing industry crushed by COVID-19

The Bay Area's fishing industry has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. But, local fishing companies are hoping salmon season will help change their fortunes. 

The fishing industry says the closure of restaurants has been devastating. Now, they're hoping they've weathered the brunt of the economic storms.

The fishing industry's fates have always been ruled by nature, but long time fishermen and distributors say there's no way they could have seen the economic blow the coronavirus pandemic would land on their industry. 

Paul Johnson from Monterey Fish Market says in the days after the shelter-in-place order was put in place he had to lay off workers. Distributors say restaurants closed and stopped ordering fish, and in turn supply chains collapsed which devastated their bottom lines. 

"Since COVID-19 everyone in the seafood business has just been crushed," said Johnson. "Where there's no profit, my business disappeared by 90% to 95%."

Now, they're hoping their fortunes are turning with salmon season upon us. 

Fishermen say ocean conditions aren't ideal yet, but the fish are looking great. Coronavirus has dealt a blow to the pork and beef industries leaving local fish as a great option. 

"There's a lot of fish or there will be a lot of fish," said Johnson. "The pricing is all over the board. There are  buyers coming from as far away as Canada with loads of cash."

Johnson says as terrible as the coronavirus pandemic has been, he hopes that we find a silver lining; that the Bay Area will come to the rescue of local food producers. 

"Hopefully this will bring us back to the realization that we have to support our local fisheries, our local community. Eat local, and farmers as well."

Fishermen and fish distributors are also saying Mother's Day couldn't have come along at a better time. They're already seeing more demand for salmon, but they're wondering what happens after Sunday.