The effect of COVID-19 on fisheries and aquaculture in Asia

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On 10 April 2020, one month after the World Health Organization declared the spread of COVID-19 a pandemic, FAO published How is COVID-19 affecting the fisheries and aquaculture food systems (FAO, 2020a). That policy brief, while global in scope, addressed the situation in some Asian countries. This paper provides an update, incorporating new data, developments and observations. During its writing, the pandemic was in full swing with no clear end in sight. Circumstances were still fluid. The future remains unclear.

The nature and dynamics of the pandemic are manifold. Efforts to contain it, relieve its immediate impacts, and cope with and mitigate its growing number of effects, have been fraught with uncertainties. Economically, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projects global GDP to contract by 3 percent in 2020, down substantially from 2.9 percent growth in 2019 (IMF, 2020). The Asian Development Bank (ADB) forecasts growth in developing Asia will be 2.2 percent, down from its prepandemic forecast of 5.5 percent (ADB, 2020). The economic slowdown will likely lead to food insecurity, widespread unemployment, and exacerbation of social inequities.

Fish and fish products are a key component to a healthy diet and are safe to eat. Misleading perceptions in some countries have led to decreased consumption of these products. Yet, aquatic animals (finfish, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates such as crustaceans and molluscs) do not play an epidemiological role in spreading COVID-19 to humans. As with any product or surface, fish products can become contaminated if handled by people who are infected with COVID-19 and who are not following good hygiene practices. For this reason, as before COVID-19, it is important to implement robust hygiene practices to protect fisheries and aquaculture workers and fish products from contamination (Bondad-Reantaso et al., 2020).