Michigan Sea Grant COVID-19 Rapid Response Team receives the 2021 MSU Extension Emerging Issues/Rapid Response Award

The Michigan Sea Grant COVID-19 Rapid Response Team was honored for their work with fisheries and the fishing industry during the annual Fall Extension Conference held virtually on Sept. 28.

Michigan State University Extension awarded the Michigan Sea Grant COVID-19 Rapid Response Team of Lauren Jescovitch, Elliot Nelson, Daniel O’Keefe, and Heather Triezenberg with an MSU Extension Emerging Issues/Rapid Response Award Sept. 28 during the annual Fall Extension Conference for their response and support of the Michigan Great Lakes fishing industry amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, businesses dependent on Great Lakes fish struggled to remain viable amid the COVID-19 pandemic. State-licensed and tribal fishers and processors saw sales to restaurants and wholesalers plummet while also contending with implementing new safety and sanitation guidelines. Many charter fishing operators, whose profits hinged on a lively tourist season and full boats, struggled to stay afloat. However, Great Lakes fisheries were omitted from the first round of federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act relief funding.

To address these challenges, Michigan Sea Grant (MISG) received a $100,000 COVID-19 rapid response grant from the National Sea Grant Office, which aimed to help assess the aquaculture, commercial fishing, and charter fishing industries in Michigan in response to 2020 impacts. Extension educators Daniel O’Keefe, Lauren Jescovitch, and Elliot Nelson provided education and outreach, and conducted listening sessions with fishery industry members. They organized needs assessments and surveys of Michigan’s fish producers and charter fishery operators, which played a role in informing and securing $15 million in the second round of CARES Act funding for commercial, aquaculture, processor, and charter fishery participants in Great Lakes states. Program leader Heather Triezenberg was key in grant application, administration, and project design.

MISG partnered with Taste the Local Difference, a Michigan food hub that connects consumers with local food producers and joined the Western UP Food Systems Collaborative to discuss local food systems.

MISG also interviewed commercial and aquaculture farmers to catalog business information and capacities, pandemic limitations, and general needs. MISG also planned educational sessions at the Michigan Fish Producers Association’s annual conference. This led to an expansion of a partnership with Michigan State University Extension and Pine Rest Mental Health Services so Michigan fish producers can now take advantage of critical online counseling services.

The MISG COVID-19 Rapid Response team’s quick actions and assessments of the issues the pandemic was having on the fishing industry helped pave the way for the businesses to eventually receive both financial and moral support, making the team a worthy recipient of the MSU Extension Emerging Issues/Rapid Response Award.


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