Getting professional fisherman based in Yaquina Bay safely back to work on the Pacific Ocean during a pandemic can be complicated. COVID-19 testing to be performed in coming days will help get this multimillion-dollar industry ready for hake season, which begins on May 15.
Crew members on vessels represented by the Midwater Trawlers Cooperative will be tested on May 8 and May 11 by appointment only. Then, they will be quarantined in their homes until time to board their vessels. To date, 60 fishermen have been scheduled to come through the Samaritan Depoe Bay Clinic testing site.
This cooperative testing effort involves the resources of several agencies – Samaritan Health Services staff will perform the testing using test kits provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Lincoln County Public Health. The Oregon State Public Health Lab will pick up the specimens at the end of each day for processing, with results expected within two days of testing.
Midwater Trawlers Cooperative represents 29 trawl catcher vessels, the majority of which are based in Newport. They fish on the West Coast and make up a large part of the distant water fleet fishing for pollock, cod and groundfish in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska.
“Commercial fishing is deemed essential, but the uncommon logistics of fishing can be at odds with social distancing measures during this unprecedented time,” said Midwater Trawlers Cooperative Executive Director Heather Mann. “Ensuring our crew members are healthy before embarking on at-sea trips, where the working space is tight, is a critical piece to ensuring we are able to continue delivering a healthy protein source for the nation at the same time we support rural coastal economies.”
Those involved in this unique, multi-agency partnership are optimistic that the model can be replicated with more fishermen and processors in Lincoln County, then expanded along the Oregon coast, with the ultimate goal of getting people safely back to work in these essential industries.