The calamari comeback state, part 2? Fishing industry booming in RI following pandemic

Business News

NARRAGANSETT, R.I. (WPRI) — Restaurants are packed, outdoor dining has expanded, and tourists are flocking to Rhode Island to eat the seafood the state is known for.

Although the local fishing industry is booming, prices are skyrocketing and it’s all because of the pandemic.

“Lobster rolls, I saw them selling as high as $40 per lobster roll,” general manager of Narragansett Bay Lobsters Adam Morse said.

He says lobster prices are the highest he’s ever seen during this time of the year, but customers are still paying for it.

“Normally in the wintertime, they put lobsters away,” Morse said. “They put them in the lobster pounds up in Canada. They didn’t do that this year. They were afraid. The prices were higher, and they didn’t put those away in the lobster pounds, so that started the whole problem, and then the catch went down, and the next thing you know everyone’s going out to eat, and it’s just really the perfect storm for high prices.”

He added that the fishing industry has been decimated by the pandemic.

Last year, state Rep. Joseph McNamara brought national attention to Rhode Island’s state appetizer — calamari — during roll call at the Democratic National Convention.

“The calamari comeback state of Rhode Island casts one vote for Bernie Sanders, and 34 votes for the next President, Joe Biden,” McNamara, a longtime Warwick state representative and chair of the state party, said with a perfect plate of the tasty appetizer next to him.

McNamara used his time on camera to discuss Rhode Island’s fishing industry and praised then-Gov. Gina Raimondo for her efforts to keep it afloat during the pandemic.

During the peak of the virus, prices dropped, and fishermen had a hard time selling what they caught.

“Narragansett just happens to be the home port for the world’s largest squid producers,” said Rich Fuka, operations manager at Seafreeze Shoreside. “In fact, Rhode Island leads the world in squid production.”

Fuka, a champion of the local squid industry, said they never stopped catching squid. They just ended up freezing what that caught since the processing and selling of calamari slowed down during the pandemic.

It was an investment to have calamari in stock, Fuka added.

“One thing was for sure, we had to have the product for when it immediately opened, and we were there, and we kept people employed,” he explained. “It was an arduous task to go through the safety, but that was a process that we worked through no different than regulations, or fixing boats, or whatever.”

Morse said about a month ago, they noticed an increase in demand again and those in the fishing industry are welcoming the busy season.

“We’re back to actually about 10% or 20% busier than two years ago I would say. So busier than before the pandemic? Absolutely,” Morse said.

“Prices have been very good,” Fuka added. “So those reactions to post-COVID have played out really well.”

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