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Morro Bay fishermen to sell directly from boats starting May 1

Posted at 5:00 AM, Apr 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-16 11:02:29-04

The commercial fishing industry in Morro Bay is finding new ways to sell fish and stay afloat during the pandemic.

In recent years, commercial fishing has generated upward of $15 million annually in Morro Bay.

Tom Hafer is president of the Morro Bay Commercial Fishermen's Organization.

"We have about 90 active boats fishing commercially," Hafer said. "We employ about 200 people."

Hafer says COVID-19 restrictions have devastated the industry.

"There's nowhere to sell our fish so everybody had to quit fishing, tie up their boats."

Brad Leage owns the Endeavor, a sport fishing boat that operates out of Morro Bay Landing.

"The town is virtually a ghost town right now. No tourism at all," Leage said.

This time of year, Leage would normally be busy taking full boat of fishing enthusiasts out on trips.

"They come out and catch their fish, they rely on it to feed their families," Leage said. "They get to go out and have fun on the ocean."

Instead, boat crews have been laid off and commercial fishermen are switching to a direct-to-consumer business model.

"If the restaurants and the state doesn't reopen, the fishermen are going to have to sell directly off their boat to the consumer," Hafer told KSBY.

The City of Morro Bay has already approved for that to happen starting May 1, as long as social distancing is maintained.

Meanwhile, Leage is staying optimistic for summer fishing trips.

"We're still taking reservations for the future in hopes that we're going to be able to operate," Leage said.

As of May 1, anyone will be able to buy whole salmon, rock fish and crab from the commercial fishing boats docked in Morro Bay Harbor. The fish will be sold whole, not filleted.

Hafer says to look for signs in the harbor and along the Embarcadero directing you to the boats selling fish. Also, remember to bring an ice chest and plenty of ice.