In times of crisis like this, uncertainty is the new norm. We’re fearful and anxious about what lies ahead and what we should do next. But a few things have become abundantly clear to me in the last two weeks: the importance of robust, local food systems, and the importance of community. These two values are at the core of Skipper Otto Community Supported Fishery – our members support our fishing communities and our fishing families feed our members. And in the era of COVID-19, the work we’ve been doing for the past 11 years is more important than ever.
Global Food Systems Are Vulnerable
Many people have never stopped to think about where their food comes from until now. In this time of global crisis and panic in the grocery stores, many people have begun to worry about where their food will come from and if their families will be able to access quality food in the coming months. Our food systems are global and our food can travel thousands of miles, changing hands dozens of times before it gets to us, making the whole system incredibly vulnerable to social, environmental, and economic injustice and uncertainty. This pandemic is making that abundantly clear. And global seafood supply chains are some of the worst. In Canada, 80% of the seafood you can buy is imported from foreign fisheries. Seafood harvesters in foreign countries are often paid shamefully low wages or even forced into slave labour. And in the meantime, we export 90% of the seafood caught by Canadian fishing families to foreign markets. Just think about that. There’s something very wrong there. Of the 20% of Canadian seafood sold in Canada, untold volumes are shipped to China for processing, and shipped back. Can you imagine?! And as our seafood travels the globe, there’s plenty of opportunity for its quality to go down, its price to go up, and its story to get lost. As a result, on average 44% of seafood sold in Canada is mislabelled. In Toronto, that average climbs to 57%!
The Impact of Covid-19 on the Seafood Industry
This pandemic has been a huge hit to the seafood industry and it’s not over yet. Foreign markets have dried up, and the processing capacity in China has taken a hit, too. The effects have been reverberating through our fishing communities all year. Here’s an example: the Lunar New Year banquet season usually provides crab fishermen with the bulk of their year’s income as their crab is exported to China in January and February. This year, as COVID-19 shut down the banquet season throughout Asia, the price paid to fishing families for crab dropped so low that boats were forced to remain tied up at the docks. I’ve been contacted by so many coastal and indigenous fishing communities asking us if there’s anything we can do to help find fair markets for their crab. We expect similar crises to arise as the spot prawn season approaches in May and the rest of the fishing season unfolds. An already uncertain way of life just got a lot more uncertain. It’s now more important than ever that we stand united with our fishing families to create local, fair markets for their catch.
Skipper Otto is a Smart Solution
During a crisis like this, it becomes all the more clear why Skipper Otto is a smart way for members to feed their families. Your seafood is caught in the pristine waters of the BC coast, and handled as little as possible by just a small number of professionals as it is flash frozen and vacuum sealed. You order it online in the comfort and seclusion of your own home, taking your time to make decisions about what you’d like without any pressure. Our small team packs your orders in an environment where extra measures have been in place for weeks to ensure lots of extra hand-washing and sanitizing of surfaces. Our living wages and abundant and flexible sick-pay ensure that no one comes to work if they feel that they may be even slightly at risk of carrying the COVID-19 virus. And then your sealed order is delivered to your pick-up location. Order pick-ups are quick and easy and ensure you are able to maintain social distancing or even send a friend to pick up your order if you are unable to do so. And frozen and canned seafood makes it so easy to feed your family if you are stuck at home. Once your seafood is safely stored away in your freezer or the cans are tucked into your cupboard, you know you have a great supply of protein for months at a time.
Preparing for the 2020 Fishing Season
In these uncertain times, promises aren’t worth much. But what we can promise you is that, because of the pre-fishing-season support of our members, our fishing families are still preparing “full speed ahead” for the 2020 fishing season. In fact, Doug expects to head out on his very first halibut fishing trip of the year any day now! In spite of enormous economic uncertainty and the disappearance of export markets, your early season member dollars are helping set up our fishing families for success this season. And their promise to you is that they will be catching and handling with care the very best seafood that BC’s marine ecosystems provide in abundance for us this year.
It’s hard to stay positive with the steady barrage of very frightening international news. But when I look around at the community of support we’ve built together, I feel proud and honoured of what the Skipper Otto Community has built over the past 11 years. Together we’ve built something truly magical that puts our values for the environment, people, and local economies first.
We Need Your Help!
Now more than ever, we need your help! If you haven’t already done so, join Skipper Otto for our 11th season. Tell your friends about our unique way of sourcing the best Canadian seafood and ensuring that your shopping dollars go straight into the hands of hard-working fishing families. Together, we will come through these uncertain times, stronger than ever, and with more robust and sustainable local food systems that will feed our families and communities for generations to come.
Sonia - March 27, 2020
The Importance of Food Systems & Community
Sonia - March 27, 2020