While many Canadian food industries have struggled during the pandemic, one is actually thriving.
Alternative seafood networks have proven extremely resilient and sustainable in the midst of COVID-19.
A recent study from the University of Maine and University of Guelph found community-supported fisheries in North America have experienced unprecedented growth in the last year and a half.
So just what is an alternative seafood network?
"Traditionally, people who lived in coastal communities knew people who fished and so they would get their seafood directly at the docks from fishing families. Seafood is vastly different today. The seafood we get in grocery stores is imported from the other side of the world and the story is lost," explains Skipper Otto co-founder and CEO Sonia Strobel.
False Creek's Skipper Otto supports Canadian fishing families through a unique seafood-buying experience. Members buy shares at the start of the fishing season. Fishers get economic certainty and stability, while members have access to local, ethically-sourced food. Orders of wild, traceable seafood can be picked up at multiple locations across Canada.
Skipper Otto has seen a 300 per cent growth in sales over the last 18 months. The company is currently comprised of 35 fishing families.
Strobel stresses the importance of consumers wanting a personal connection with where their food comes from.
"We would go into grocery stores in the early pandemic and there were empty shelves. Suddenly people were aware of supply chains for the first time. People want to support local, they want to know where their food is coming from, they want to have connections to the people producing their food."