Fishermen Hannah Heimbuch of Kodiak and Brett Veerhusen of Homer operate Ocean Strategies


There are gaps in the facts on how the Covid virus has affected fishermen in Alaska and the West Coast.

As the seafood industry responds and adapts to the ongoing pandemic, two lifelong Alaska fishermen are helping NOAA Fisheries fill in the blanks.

“It’s really clear to those of us who live in these coastal communities what’s happening and how these trends are impacting us. But you can imagine for agency folks living in DC or our lawmakers living around the country, these are difficult, complicated economies to grasp, and so we’re able to tell a clearer picture by filling out these kinds of surveys.”

Fisherman Hannah Heimbuch of Kodiak is senior consultant at Ocean Strategies, a public affairs firm with a focus on fisheries. The company was founded in 2013 by Homer fisherman, Brett Veerhusen, previously the Executive Director of the Seafood Harvesters of America in Washington, D.C.

They are gathering harvester responses to a confidential, five-minute survey on Covid impacts for the first half of 2020. More are likely to follow.

“It really takes broad strokes – it’s tracking big trends, things that people are able to answer quickly.  We aggregate all the survey data that we receive and then deliver it confidentially to NOAA and they are able to tell a clear story about what’s happening in the industry.”

The more information NOAA gets back from fishing businesses, Heimbuch says, the more completely they can document Covid hits to harvesters. Over 300 have responded so far.

“NOAA uses any information they collect on economics to report to Congress on how the industry is being impacted, the major trends they are seeing, and that informs the decisions that Congress or other government agencies might make in response to those trends.”

Heimbuch credits NOAA for partnering with the industry to help get the job done.

“ I think it’s really helpful when our industry has partners that can serve in communications roles. I so often find myself being a bridge between fishermen and fishing communities and decision makers or agencies, anyone who’s trying to talk to or better understand our industry. Because you know fishermen, we tend to be isolated and busy doing fish things. So when we can have communicators that come from the heart of our industry and help to connect those dots, I think it’s really helpful.”

The NOAA survey will remain open at least through November.