by Sarah Craighead Dedmon
Fourth-generation Beals business A.C. Inc. is open and will continue to operate in the coming weeks, according to owner Albert Carver. As a seafood buyer and wholesaler, A.C. Inc. is deemed an essential service and will continue operations during a two-week state mandate that shuttered non-essential retail establishments on March 24.
“We have to follow all of the social distancing rules, and we revamped the clam buying operation so we don’t have large amounts of people in one place,” said Carver. “We are on it, and we are committed to being here for those who need us here.”
Situated in one of Washington County’s largest fishing communities, Carver said the decision to continue operations was made in large part to support the local economy.
“I don’t think the option is to close, there are too many harvesters, fishermen and employees involved to just simply give up,” said Carver, who added that they recognize the seriousness of conducting business during a pandemic.
“It’s not an endeavor that we take lightly, because of it also a huge liability,” he said.
A.C. Inc. buys local shellfish, including softshell clams and lobsters, and distributes throughout Maine and also nationwide. Markets are currently “limited and sometimes non-existent”, said Carver, but he believes staying open will help his company respond to market changes, including a market recovery.
“We feel it’s very important to be here and keep our finger on the pulse of our own industry so we know when it’s beginning to change,” said Carver. “We’ve gotta be very careful to follow all of our guidelines but we need to stay ready.”
Last week the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) issued a temporary closure on the state’s elver fishery over concerns about coronavirus transmission, citing the close physical proximity elver fishing sometimes requires. As of press time, elvers are the only Maine fishery shuttered due to COVID-19.
On March 16 DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher issued a statement saying he did not have any immediate plans to close the lobster fishery, nor the authority to close it under current conditions. In the short term, Keliher advised harvesters and dealers to work closely together, and to refrain from harvesting or buying product if there is no market for it.
Carver said he believes businesses will uncover new ways to do things in response to the crisis.
“Businesses are struggling but people aren’t giving up,” said Carver. “Everybody is working very diligently to find new avenues in the new normal, for however long the new normal lasts.”