Fishing season is right around the corner, and at least one player in the seafood industry is doing everything it can to minimize the chances of a COVID-19 outbreak on its Alaska-bound vessels. Prior to heading out for the season, employees must participate in a two-week quarantine, daily temperature checks by nurses, and, if the company can obtain them, have a negative COVID-19 test two days before they are set to embark.

Alaska’s seafood industry, which delivers more than half of the U.S. harvest, is classified as an essential business, and it’s good to see at least one entity taking worker safety so seriously. In a cost/benefit analysis, the millions of dollars it takes to implement these strict pre-embarkment procedures is, as the company’s CEO put it, a “drop in the bucket” compared to the financial consequences of a COVID-19 outbreak in the middle of salmon season.

However, worker safety is only one side of the coin. In Alaska, remote communities, who have suffered heavy casualties in prior outbreaks, are petitioning Governor Mike Dunleavy to close off the Bristol Bay region to salmon fishing completely. How Alaska will navigate how to best preserve the safety of all involved remains to be seen. Shoreside processing plants are also high-risk areas should an outbreak occur, where workers live and work in close quarters like bunkhouses and dining halls. Isolated but fishing crucial towns, such as Cordova, will be on the frontlines, and the town has said it will require a 14-day quarantine before entry as a safety mechanism. Cordova residents remain weary of trying to strike a balance between the town’s economy and residents’ safety; some think the fishing season should be called off entirely.

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