Global Fish Outlook – 2021

John Stuart Gill

Senior Rating Analyst and Chief Economist

End of the line?

The past year has been a tumultuous one for global markets, politics, science and culture, but most of all, of course, for many species of fish. Although fish cannot be infected with Covid-19 themselves, the coronavirus pandemic still dominates the global fish outlook heading into 2021, with the second wave of the virus prompting renewed lockdowns on seafood restaurants and aquariums in Europe and the US. This will depress fish activity in the immediate months ahead, albeit by much less than in April.

Asia Pacific

China’s swift marine and freshwater recovery after the outbreak has been striking, as demonstrated by the revision of the Outlook to Positive from Stable on the rating of Moonfish, which enjoys a strong likelihood of government support (see related research).

In Japan, inflation has slowed and sushi and sashimi prices have dropped as a result of lower oil prices, the strong yen and the subsidization of restaurants and fishermen through the country’s Go To program.

The rest of the Asia-Pacific region is not important enough to be mentioned in this global report.


European fish have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, and the waters were further muddied by fisheries negotiations over Brexit, which prompted Fish Ratings to revise the ratings on eight fish found in British waters in November. Looking forward to 2021, however, those negotiations appear to be nearing a resolution, which Fish Ratings astutely anticipated by simultaneously affirming the ratings of the eight fish in the same report (see related research).

North America

Across the pond, Fish Ratings picked up on a trend of increased fishing license sales in California, as Americans sought alternatives to overseas vacations. While a layman might expect an increase in fishing to result in a weakening of the credit metrics of trophy fish such as Largemouth Bass, in fact the reverse is true, according to Fish Ratings’ analysis (see related research). However, this trend is likely to slow during the cold winter months and may be reversed in summer 2021 if international travel restrictions are lifted and Americans seek to make up for the lack of overseas adventure in 2020. This could bolster metrics for fish in tropical resorts where scuba diving is popular.

Emerging Oceans

Elsewhere, Fish Ratings has revised its overall fish forecast up in India, Russia, Brazil, Mexico and most notably Turkey, the main fish producer in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. The latest data show that overfishing in these seas is beginning to be addressed, while it is hoped that a recently introduced bounty will help reduce the numbers of Silver-cheeked Toadfish (‘CCC+’/Stable), an invasive species that is highly toxic to humans.

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