Submitted by the Port of Bellingham

Local economic development officials are urging commercial fishing businesses to respond to an economic impact survey being conducted by Whatcom Unified Command’s Economic Impact Taskforce, led by the Port of Bellingham’s Regional Economic Partnership, in coordination with the Working Waterfront Coalition of Whatcom County.

The survey is an early attempt to capture the effects of COVID-19 on the commercial fishing industry in Whatcom County.  The survey will inform strategies for economic recovery, help identify how much state and federal recovery aid will be needed, and give elected officials insight into the unique problems caused by COVID-19 on the seasonal commercial fishing industry.

Commercial fishing has a significant impact on Whatcom County’s economy with over 2,500 direct and induced jobs earning an estimated $94.5 million in wages in salaries.  Commercial fishing is the foundation of Whatcom County’s broader working waterfront that includes over 6,000 jobs created or supported by marine trades. 

“Commercial fishing, tendering, and processing are critical to food security, our local economy in Whatcom County, and our regional economy on the West Coast and Alaska” said Port Economic Development Director Don Goldberg.  “We hope to use the information collected to inform state and local leaders and decision makers, as well as to design and influence economic relief and recovery efforts to support this crucial industry and the jobs associated with it.”

The commercial fishing industry is particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 related restrictions because most fish are caught during the summer and the fishing season has limited openings. 

“Whatcom County’s maritime sector accounts for 7% of our workforce” said President of Working Waterfront Coalition of Whatcom County Jim Kyle.  “With the pandemic-related collapse of international markets and the food service industry, our seafood producers are being severely impacted. Other maritime businesses, while deemed essential workers, are also being hit hard.  The Working Waterfront Coalition of Whatcom County represents 120 maritime companies, and we are working to inform all of them about assistance programs.  For commercial fishing, tendering, and processing companies, completion of these surveys will provide data that will facilitate appropriate support.  Every fishing season is an unpredictable challenge, this one more than ever.” 

The anonymous, voluntary survey will provide a comprehensive assessment of COVID-19 related economic impacts to the commercial fishing industry with business owners asked to select a survey most relevant to their specific operations – fishing, tendering, or processing.

1.      Commercial fishing survey: https://forms.gle/Bvv2r99opymaKrvg8

2.      Tendering survey: https://forms.gle/nBXtCjEbxfMmDeJj6

3.    Seafood processing survey: https://forms.gle/txhKkiLK7DeTgz8Q8

Survey responses are due by May 10, 2020.

The commercial fishing survey is the third major survey released by the Economic Development Taskforce.  The Taskforce recently distributed an economic impact survey specific to Whatcom County’s agricultural sector and is also evaluating data gathered from 765 responses to a general economic impact survey of county businesses.

“It’s important for state and federal officials to have a clear understanding of the widespread economic impacts of this event” said Goldberg.

About the Port of Bellingham

The Port is a county-wide municipal corporation with a mission to promote sustainable economic development, optimize transportation gateways, and manage publicly owned land and facilities to benefit Whatcom County.  Throughout Whatcom County, the Port owns, operates and maintains approximately 1600 acres of property including a shipping terminal, a cruise terminal, two marinas, industrial development areas, commercial uplands, parklands, shoreline public access areas and an international airport.  For more information about the Port of Bellingham, please visit www.portofbellingham.com   

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