NOAA Fisheries reports increase in seafood consumption and landings

Published on
December 14, 2018

Last year proved a strong one for U.S. seafood consumption, based on the latest data from NOAA Fisheries.

Americans ate 16 pounds of fish and shellfish products in 2017 on a per capita basis, the highest total in eight years. That’s according to the Fisheries of the United States report, one of two annual reports released by the federal agency on Thursday, 13 December.

In addition, U.S. commercial fishermen landed 9.9 billion pounds of seafood last year, a 3.6 percent increase in volume over the previous year. The goods had a value of USD 5.4 billion (EUR 4.8 billion), a 2.1 percent increase from 2016.

Alaska continued to be the dominant player in U.S. seafood production. The state produced more than six billion pounds of fish and shellfish in 2017, roughly a 400-million-pound increase from the year prior with a value of nearly USD 1.8 billion (EUR 1.6 billion). Louisiana, while still coming in second, saw its landings dropped from 1.2 billion in 2016 to 890.6 million pounds last year. 

Massachusetts, where lucrative scallops are landed, ranked second in commercial value with USD 605.3 million (EUR 536.8 million).

“This report exemplifies the vital economic benefits provided by commercial and recreational fisheries to American communities nationwide,” Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said. “Every year, farmed and wild fisheries across the United States deliver food to our tables while safeguarding thousands of American jobs.”

Alaska walleye pollock continued to be the most-harvested fish. While the volume increased one percent to 3.4 billion pounds, the value decreased by one percent to USD 413.3 million (EUR 366.5 million). American fishermen saw a marked increase in salmon, with the one billion pounds landed up more than 44 percent from 2016. Chum salmon was a major factor for that rise, as landings jumped 75 percent to 177 million pounds.

Alaska’s Dutch Harbor earned the top spot again for highest volume of landings, with 769 million pounds, down slightly from last year. Pollock accounted for more than 90 percent of the landings there.

Other Alaskan ports saw huge jumps in their landing values. Naknek rose from USD 108 million (EUR 95.8 million) to USD 154 million (EUR 136.6 million), while Kodiak increased from USD 107 million (EUR 94.9 million) to USD 152 million (EUR 134.8 million).

The Empire-Venice port in Louisiana saw its landings and values fall. The 294 million pounds landed last year, which ranked No. 6 in the United States, was a 146-million-pound drop from 2016, when it was the third-largest port. Similarly, the USD 100 million (EUR 88.7 million) value, good for the No. 8 spot in 2017, was down from USD 122 million (EUR 108.2 million) in 2016, when it ranked third.

The port at New Bedford, Massachusetts led the United States in terms of value for the 18th consecutive year, with 111 million pounds of landings valued at USD 390 million (EUR 345.9 million).

With consumption going up, so too did the country’s seafood trade deficit. The imbalance reached USD 15.7 billion (EUR 13.9 billion) in 2017. Ross, who took over at Commerce that year, has made cutting the deficit a drumbeat by pushing for increased domestic production. 

Last year, the country imported 5.9 billion pounds of seafood valued at USD 21.5 billion (EUR 19.1 billion), but that figure also includes seafood caught by U.S. fishermen that is exported for processing before coming back for consumption. 

NOAA Fisheries noted that domestic commercial landing figures are the full weight of the fish and shellfish in most cases, while imported figures are based the product weight.

Shrimp continues to be the leading imported seafood product by both volume and value. Last year, the U.S. received 1.5 billion pounds, up more than 133 million pounds from 2016. At USD 6.5 billion (EUR 5.8 billion), the value was more than USD 840 million (EUR 744.9 million) higher than 2016.

Asia dominates the U.S. shrimp market, with India and Indonesia producing half of the shrimp imports. American producers have claimed lax regulatory standards abroad give foreign competitors an unfair advantage, allowing them to hold a 92 percent market share.

“The United States remains the largest and most open market, so low-quality shrimp products that are rejected from the European Union, Japan, and other major shrimp markets are likely sent here for whatever low price they can get,” said John Williams, executive director of the Southern Shrimp Alliance, which represents southeastern U.S. shrimpers.

The SSA hopes recent actions by the federal government will allow domestic shrimpers to be more competitive. Earlier this year, Congress voted to give the Food and Drug Administration more funding to inspect imported seafood, and lawmakers added shrimp to the Seafood Import Monitoring Program. The latter move, which means importers must provide landing and chain of custody records on all imported products, will take effect by the end of this month.

Other leading import items included fresh and frozen salmon. Up roughly 43 million pounds from 2016, the 777.1 million pounds imported last year had a value of USD 3.5 billion (EUR 3.1 billion). Fresh and frozen tuna imports fell by 43.7 million last year to 331.8 million pounds, but canned tuna imports jumped by nearly 20 million pounds to 311.9 million pounds.

NOAA Fisheries also released the Fisheries Economics of the United States annual report, which showed that in 2016 the commercial and recreational fishing industry produced more than USD 212 billion (EUR 188 billion) in sales and generated 1.7 million jobs.

The seafood industry had a USD 100 billion (EUR 88.7 billion) impact on the country’s gross domestic product in 2016.

“From sustainably harvesting America’s seafood to casting a line in our coastal waters, the economic impacts of commercial and recreational fishing provide a boon to each and every American community,” said Chris Oliver, the assistant NOAA administrator for fisheries.

Image courtesy of NOAA Fisheries

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