USDA Announces They Will Buy $52 Million in Fish to Support the Fishing Industry

In a post-pandemic US, it seems that every business under the sun is struggling to get themselves back up off the ground. Restaurants are still recovering, some mom and pop shops may never actually recover, Broadway is seeing only 50% of its pre-pandemic crowd return to fill seats, and the fishing industry is, well, a sinking ship. This is especially true on the west coast with states like Oregon and Washington, who can’t seem to take in enough to cover whatever they catch.

However, this problem had started before the pandemic had even hit. It’s instead the work of three factors: restaurant closures due to the pandemic, the Ukraine war and the export tariffs/trading with Russia being closed off, and climate change, which has decreased the fish hauls and forced many fisheries along the west coast to close.

Things are looking up for the fishing industry, though, as the United States Department of Agriculture has announced that they’re going to invest $52 million into fisheries all along the west coast. This is a much needed boost for an industry that is struggling to see a profit, and it’s helping to get rid of the fish that are struggling to sell.


Fishing boats with fog at Newport Harbor
Fishing boats with fog at Newport Harbor, Oregon

The injection of cash will be given through a transaction, where the USDA will buy $52 million in groundfish. Groundfish are fish that keep to the bottom of the ocean to do their feeding, such as rockfish and pink shrimp. These groundfish tend to be pretty cheap, which is why the USDA is investing the money into them instead of a more popular fish. But where is all this fish going? What does a government plan to do with $52 million in fish? Well they’ll all be going to food and assistance programs. Killing two fish in one harpoon.

This isn’t the first time the USDA has done this, though. In fact, it’s not only their third time, but also their biggest cash injection into the fishing industry. In 2021, they’d bought $16 million on groundfish, and in the following year, they spent another $30 million.

If you want to know just how big this year’s fish investment is, you should also know that according to the Oregon Department of Fishing and Wildlife, the fishing industry only pulled in a total of $50 million in wholesale prices all of 2022. The USDA will be investing that much, plus another $2 million.

Not only will this be supporting a critical industry in our economy, but many coastal cities actually depend on the success of these fisheries. While this is a very good thing for the industry, it’s not a permanent solution, unless the USDA wants to keep pumping more and more money into these fisheries. Like I said, climate change is responsible for the fishing failures. Some salmon runs are actually closed, while others are open later in the season than usual, such as Dungeness crabs. The water has gotten hotter, so whales have started moving further inland in search of food. This puts a major halt on some forms of fishing, and it’s already enough that the hot water is dangerous for humans to deal with and animals to live in. Unless the issue can be resolved, the industry seems to only go downwards and downwards.


Fishing boats at docks on the Siuslaw River
Fishing boats at docks on the Siuslaw River in Old Town Florence on the central Oregon coast.

Groundfish are plentiful, but to a fault, in the fishing industry’s case. There’s too much. They’re already having a difficult time selling them off due to the pandemic forcing restaurant closures, and the fact that tariffs are so high and that Russia cannot be traded with is only making things more difficult. Even pink shrimp is having a hard time selling. The export tariffs in Europe are so high that the US would almost be paying more to send them than they’d earn. This has caused prices on shrimp to plummet. Fishers are struggling to make ends meet, but it’s a relieving thought that they won’t have to deal with this financial limbo too long once the $52 million goes through and the fish are sold.

Lawmakers are happy at the USDA’s financial decision, and we’re assured that the bought groundfish will be put to good use given they are cheap, healthy, and full of protein and micronutrients. This is why they’re so perfect for public schools.

While the deal is no doubt going to be made, all that’s really left is for the USDA to figure out just what they’re going to buy. They have said they’re committed to using half the money for pink shrimp. Once that’s through with, the ball can get rolling and the fishing industry will once again get the financial support it needs.


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