Less than 24 hours after a major seafood company announced it is pulling out of the upcoming Seafood Expo North America (SENA) trade show because of rising COVID infection rates, the organizer of the event is reassuring attendees and exhibitors that the show will go on as planned in March.

On Tuesday, Alaska processor Peter Pan Seafood announced it is canceling its plans to attend the trade show due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the nation.

"Attending this show, while it would be good for business, is not worth putting our employees, partners or loved ones at risk," said Rodger May, the company's co-owner and chief growth officer.

On Wednesday, Diversified Communications, organizer of SENA and the upcoming Seafood Expo Global (SEG) event scheduled for April 26-28 in Barcelona, Spain, said in a press release that the Boston show will indeed take place as planned March 13-15 at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center (BCEC).

Wynter Courmont, event director at Diversified Communications, described the upcoming event in Boston as "substantial," but acknowledged that other companies have canceled plans to attend, primarily those from countries facing long quarantine restrictions.

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Diversified said it continues to update the expo’s health and safety measures, following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), public health officials, federal, state and local authorities as well as those from the BCEC, to provide participants with a safe and healthy environment.

The press release quoted executives from Clearwater Seafoods, Chicken of the Sea Frozen Foods and Cooke-owned True North Seafoods, who all said they support a return to face-to-face events.

“After two long years of virtual meetings, we eagerly anticipate the opportunity to meet with our customers, partners, colleagues and new clients in person and under the same roof," said Rob O’Sullivan, Clearwater Seafoods' vice president of sales for the Americas.

The Maine-based show organizer said it hosted more than 10 trade events this past fall.

To date, and taking into consideration recent cancellations, the event covers 210,900 square, said Courmont.

“To put it into perspective, this represents 82 percent of the event’s largest edition which nearly filled the entire exhibit floor," he said.

As of Wednesday, Diversified Communications lists on its website approximately 447 seafood companies and roughly 208 processing firms that are planning to exhibit at this year's SENA event. In 2019, the show attracted 1,329 exhibitors spread over 256,690 net square feet of exhibit space.

Recently the trade show company informed prospective attendees that the city of Boston, beginning Jan. 15, will require individuals to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 in order to enter certain indoor spaces in the city, including convention centers and exhibition halls.

People working in those locations will also be required to be vaccinated. Show attendees, exhibitors, vendors and staff will also be required to wear a mask indoors.

Though the situation is fluid, recent projections show the omicron variant cases spiking and falling off quickly. However, those numbers, compiled by The Boston Globe, show high cases continuing into the spring.

Are buyers coming?

Courmont said retail, foodservice and other seafood buyers are planning to attend the event.

“Every day, key buyers from retail and foodservice companies are registering and expressing their interest to attend by booking hotel rooms and meeting rooms at the Expo,” she said.

She listed Albertsons, Amazon Fresh, Avendra, Bloomin’ Brands, Costco, Captain D’s, Darden, Foodbuy, McDonald’s, PFG, Publix, Red Lobster, Stop & Shop, Sysco, Target, Wegmans, Whole Foods as some of the companies that he said are sending buyers.

Guy Pizzuiti, business development director for Seafood for the Publix supermarket chain confirmed to IntraFish that, at this point, he plans on attending the event.

"My decision will be based on the Publix policy. If our corporate travel policy does not change or regulations for airline travel do not create additional hoops, we will be there. If our policy changes the Friday before the event, then I would pull out," he said.

Anthony Snow, director of seafood for supermarket chain Albertsons, told IntraFish that, at this point, he will also be attending, but is continuing to monitor the situation.

No change for for NFI event

In less than one week, the National Fisheries Institute’s (NFI) Global Seafood Market Conference (GSMC) will get underway in Orlando, Florida.

The trade group plans to hold the event as scheduled.

COVID-19 cases in Florida have spiked, with a doubling of cases in the past week alone, according to Johns Hopkins data.

Last week, NFI sent a list of health and safety guidelines to those planning to attend GSMC beginning Jan. 18.

The guidelines say attendees will need to show proof of vaccination or have had a negative COVID test with 72 hours prior to attending the event. NFI staff will verify this information at the time of registration, the group said.

NFI will also make two rapid COVID test kits available to each attendee, and it is encouraging attendees to wear masks indoors.