FERN’s Friday Feed: The Texas fishing industry in crisis

Welcome to FERN’s Friday Feed (#FFF), where we share the stories from this week that made us stop and think.

Will small-scale commercial fishing in Texas survive the pandemic?

Texas Observer

“[T]he pandemic’s economic fallout on Gulf Coast commercial anglers and local wholesalers brought their boats and operations ashore like a summer storm,” writes Xander Peters. “Their financial livelihoods and the industry’s future, as well as generations of rich commercial fishing tradition, are at stake. About two-thirds of U.S. seafood consumption is done through a restaurant … So when Texas’ stay-at-home order went into effect, despite some exceptions, fishermen’s sales lines dried up.” As things slowly and unevenly open back up, the question is, can the industry recover?

Covid-19 makes the case for more meatpacking robots


Danish Crown’s 18 meat processing facilities — including one of the largest pig slaughterhouses in the world — are heavily automated, with robots doing much of the work done by humans in U.S. plants. And so far, Denmark’s slaughterhouses have escaped becoming Covid-19 hot spots. “Scientists who study the meat industry say the rest of the world should take note,” writes Eve Sneider. “The new realities of social distancing mean rethinking the layout of all kinds of workplaces, including slaughterhouses … Robots could help keep workers safe and meat plants running.”

The virus takes aim at China’s use of chopsticks

The New York Times

As concern grows that China’s “long tradition of sharing food could also accelerate the spread of the coronavirus … [t]he government has zeroed in on a ubiquitous utensil: chopsticks,” writes Amy Qin. “Most Chinese diners pick up food from communal platters with the same pair of chopsticks that they then use to eat, or serve others. Double dipping is the norm. But the government hopes to change habits by urging people to use a second pair of chopsticks — just for serving.”

It’s time to build a better restaurant industry

The New Republic

“The current crisis has turned the industry’s cracks into chasms, exposing the ways in which it fails its workers almost by design,” writes Marian Bull. “It has also raised the question of what restaurants will look like—and how they could survive—once this is all over. But a better question might be whether they should survive as they currently exist. What could restaurants look like if we threw out the old system and built something better?”

The cultural kerfuffle over Madagascar’s Covid-19 ‘remedy’


President Andry Rajoelina touts Covid-Organics as a cure, but while there is real science behind the concoction, its promotion “sparked consternation among the medical community in Africa, and provoked an unusually sharp rebuke from the WHO,” writes Aryn Baker. Herbal medicine is a way of life in Madagascar, though, and “the establishment that developed CVO … is well-respected in the country” and beyond, as some its research “has led to the discovery of internationally recognized pharmaceutical treatments.”