Despite a COVID-19 outbreak in China in October, the 25th annual China Fisheries & Seafood Expo (CFSE) took place in person in Qingdao this month, the first major international seafood show to be held since the pandemic forced the cancellation of trade shows around the world in early 2020.

The presence of international companies at the show was "sharply curtailed" according to Peter Redmayne, president of Sea Fare Expositions, the show’s overseas organizer.

Since China adopted its COVID-19 zero tolerance policy, it has become very difficult for overseas visitors to enter the country. Getting a visa is extremely hard and upon entering international visitors have to undergo a three-week quarantine and frequent testing.

As such, the overseas presence at CFSE this year was largely limited to companies and marketing organizations that had staff or agents in China.

Chile, Norway, Canada, Korea, the United States, Scotland, Japan, Ecuador, Peru and Ireland had national stands, said Sea Fare Marketing Manager Jennie Fu.

Total visitor attendance was approximately 12,000 from 20 countries. An estimated 1,000 companies from 19 countries occupied nearly 40,000 square meters of exhibit space.

In 2019, Over 40,000 seafood buyers from 99 countries attended the event, which had 1,600 exhibitors from 53 countries.

“China’s seafood market is quickly recovering from the pandemic and is growing again. We were happy to have CFSE take place again. It’s the biggest event for the China seafood industry. We missed not having it last year,” said Renhao Feng, a seafood importer from Dalian.

The big question, though, remains: When will China open back up and loosen travel restrictions?

“The reality is China has done a tremendous job of controlling the spread of the virus and no one really knows when it will change it policies. Still, there is a lot of talk that China will be open to overseas visitors by next spring after the Winter Olympics in Beijing and once the population is almost fully vaccinated,” said Redmayne.

CFSE 2022 will be held in Qingdao Octo. 26-28.