Fishermen cast for new customers amid coronavirus pandemic
GLOUCESTER, MA – MAY 10: Leo Alvarado works to unload a fishing boat at Fisherman’s Wharf on May 10, 2020 in Gloucester, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Angela Rowlings/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)
Massachusetts’ commercial fishing industry is finding new ways to stay afloat as the coronavirus pandemic has shuttered restaurants and halted seafood shipments, shaking up the normal course of business and leaving fishermen looking for customers to buy their seafood.
“We had a wholesale business and like the stock market, we were up, up, up and dependable — and then all of a sudden it went away,” said Nick Giacalone, who with his brothers owns the Fisherman’s Wharf Gloucester.
Restaurant closures amid the pandemic and the grounding of hundreds of planes that typically carry local seafood to overseas markets have decimated the demand globally and threatened to send prices crashing. It’s a sobering reality that has led many fishermen and related industries to tap an obvious but previously neglected market: Direct-to-consumer sales.
Up in Gloucester, haddock, pollack, scallops and lobsters arrive by the thousands of pounds at Giacalone’s Fisherman’s Wharf. The company entered retail sales for the first time last month as it looked to move its product and help the fishing boats it works with stay in business.
“We are adapting, we are pivoting,” said Vito Giacalone, Nick’s brother. The warehouse cuts, cleans and sells about 20 million pounds of seafood to grocery chains, restaurants and other processors annually.
The brothers say the entry into retail business has helped keep their heads above water.
On Sunday alone more than 300 people purchased seafood at fisherman’s Wharf and Vito said they’ve been processing roughly the same amount of seafood as they did before the pandemic hit. The Giacalones have so far been able to keep all 15 of their employees working.
“People are buying local and it’s keeping fishermen and industry in business,” he said.