'I don't know what tomorrow brings': Local seafood wholesalers feeling effects of coronavirus

Posted at 3:01 PM, Mar 20, 2020

POQUOSON, Va. - Living in Coastal Virginia, many people love seafood, but because of the coronavirus it's another industry being slammed.

Bill Forrest owns Bill Forrest Seafood in Poquoson and is like countless other wholesalers now facing a sea of doubt.

"Bottom line - it scares me because I don't know what tomorrow brings."

Although the loss of business hasn't been devastating yet, Forrest says he's not naive to the fact that it could be.

"Right now I should be shucking all the oysters I can shuck to get ahead, but that's all shut down," he says.

Restaurants are either closing or majorly cutting back on business, meaning the demand for fresh seafood just isn't there.

For folks in the industry, it's a pinch coming at the beginning of crab season, which just started this week.

"The crabs are the best they would ever be. The only sad thing is everybody's scared," Forrest says.

Forrest says on a normal day he can bring in about 250 bushels filled with crab, but these days he's only bringing in about half of that amount. He doesn't want to bring in too many and then take a loss if they aren't sold.

It's a ripple effect hurting the employees and watermen who rely on the sales most.

"If everything shuts down, what am I going to do, you know? I mean, I have five or six employees and they [have] families," Forrest says.

Just across town, Captain Harrell's is also hoping to stay afloat. This summer, the family-owned business will be in operation for 22 years.

"Everything is super on the crabs right now. The main thing is getting rid of them. The next thing — I mean, if the virus affects it too much, the trucks will quit running," says owner of Captain Harrell's, Lester H Moore Jr.

Their business could take a big hit from restaurant cutbacks despite a flow of walk-in customers.

They've also had to curb the amount of seafood brought in so it doesn't go to waste. Even with challenging times ahead, Moore says people still need to eat, and as long as that's the case, they will be there.

"I'll be here as long as they leave us open," he says.

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