PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – After coming off a remarkably successful year in 2021, Oregon’s commercial fishing industry is working through new challenges in 2022 and preparing for what’s ahead in 2023.
In 2021, Oregon experienced its best crab year since 2013. Commercial fishing revenues jumped by 29% to $206 million, according to the Oregon Employment Department. In recent years, total fishing harvests have averaged about $165 million, making 2021 a year that stands out among the rest.
Tyson Yeck, vice president for corporate key accounts with Pacific Seafood, said it was a phenomenal year for commercial fishing due to record-breaking prices and strong landings – meaning excellent catches.
“That tied into a lot of the discretional spending that people were taking as they’re eating at home a lot and a lot of people were looking to eat crab,” Yeck said. “To see that growth, it was extremely well timed.”
When the pandemic shuttered restaurants, Yeck said Pacific Seafood pivoted to find new ways to reach consumers who were cooking more meals at home. This meant creating a home delivery program where Pacific Seafood could ship its products directly to customers’ doorsteps, and working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ship its products to all 50 states.
Now that the pandemic has eased and people are returning to restaurants, Yeck said the company is adjusting to meet other challenges it’s facing. Things like inflation and the possibility of a recession are affecting market prices and Pacific Seafood is constantly developing its strategy.
“In certain cases, and certain proteins that we’re dealing with, price compression – where retailers are working to figure out how to cut costs – that’s affecting both our fishermen as well as a number of processors, so it’s definitely a changing time right now,” Yeck said.
Originally from Newport, Yeck is a third-generation seafood worker. He said he was born and bred in the business and knows it’s not always consistent. The years can be a feast or a famine, but through it all, Pacific Seafood has continued to operate for more than 80 years.
To do so, he said, the company has to be prudent in its budgets and how it manages operations. It must forecast carefully and work closely with customers and vendor partners to know what their objectives are, so they can both continue to be successful.
Forecasting isn’t always easy to do with an ocean that’s continuously changing. Different species of fish aren’t always found in the same places they were the year before.
Yeck said that Pacific Seafood’s facilities up and down the West Coast allow it to strategically focus on certain areas that are seeing stronger landings rather than being forced to fish in only one area.
Climate change has a massive impact on the industry and on fish populations. Yeck said Pacific Seafood invests in science and research on the West Coast and studies everything from how climate change is impacting local communities to how it’s impacting the biology of the fish.
“It’s critical that we’re not just thinking about what’s happening today, this week, or next month, but looking at the years to come,” Yeck said.
With his sights now focused on the coming year, Yeck would like to see Pacific Seafood accomplish new goals in 2023. The company is working on building more efficiencies within its organization to bring products to the market faster and is launching new online initiatives.
While some things will change within the company in 2023, others will stay the same. Yeck said Pacific Seafood plans to continue partnering with local food banks in Oregon and nationally to help provide food for people in need.
Pacific Seafood hopes to be around for another 80 years and Yeck said the company is doing what it can to reach that goal.
“The future of our fisheries is really the future of our business. So it’s critical that we take care of those and that that’s taking care of us,” he said.