WESTERLY, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyone’s lives, and commercial Jason Jarvis said his livelihood is no exception.
Jarvis tells Eyewitness News that this time of year is usually the busiest for him, but right now, business has come to a grinding halt.
“I didn’t think it would have the impact it’s having now, it pretty much stopped the entire eastern seaboard from being able to sell fish,” Jarvis said.
Jarvis said the typical exporting of goods is nonexistent at the moment, adding that roughly 80% of his catch is exported.
“The export market has pretty much shut down,” Jarvis said. “A lot of our lobsters go to China; fluke would go to Japan for sushi.”
The state’s closure of all dine-in services at restaurants has also had a major impact on business, according to Jarvis.
“We’re working on a cooperative right now where we can do direct sales between restaurants and consumers, but that doesn’t exist right now,” Jarvis said.
In-Depth: RI lobsterman sells his own catch
On top of that, Jarvis said he and others in the fishing industry can’t file for any financial assistance.
“We are considered self-employed, yet we are one of the most regulated industries in the world,” Jarvis said. “The scary part about that is that there is no unemployment, there’s no safety net for any of us.”
But the scariest part of all, Jarvis said, is not knowing how long the pandemic will last.
“We are at a standstill and for a lot of us, we will manage, but for some of us, we won’t,” Jarvis said. “This is crippling the industry overnight. What will it take to get it all back?”
In an effort to help local fishermen during these unprecedented times, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management has created what they’re calling a “local seafood marketing initiative,” which allows fishermen to promote their business.
The DEM created a page on its website that allows Rhode Islanders to find local fishermen.
“We encourage Rhode Islanders to access the fresh Rhode Island seafood that is available right now and, by doing so, you not only gain access to high-quality food product, but you help our local fisherman,” the DEM said in a statement.
More: Find Local Seafood
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