Top 10 list of most-consumed seafood species in US revealed

Shrimp, scallops, and salmon were all among the top seafood species consumed by Americans in 2020.

Consumption of seafood per capita among American consumers sunk slightly in 2020 compared to 2019, due in large part to the disruptions wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the National Fisheries Institute’s (NFI) recently-released top 10 list.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) latest Fisheries of the United States report – which NFI uses to compose its routine top species breakdown – found that Americans consumed 19 pounds of seafood per capita in 2020, down from the 19.3-pound average tallied in 2019.

“The onset of COVID-19 brought significant disruption to traditional business operations and consumer behaviors,” NFI said of the findings in a press release. “While restaurants were forced to shutter, there was an impressive uptick in seafood purchases at retail, but apparently not enough to find an equilibrium in the first full year of the pandemic.”

Despite the overall dip, a number of specific seafood species became more popular in 2020, NFI noted.

“With a reputation for versatility at home and in foodservice, shrimp not only maintained the top spot, but grew its number, reaching a record for the crustation at five pounds per person,” the organization said.

Canned tuna also saw a jump in consumption, NFI said, with U.S. consumers eating 2.6 pounds per capita of the shelf-stable species in 2020. Comparatively, Americans ate 2.2 pounds per capita of canned tuna in 2019.

Salmon (2.83 pounds), tilapia (1.07 pounds), and Alaska pollock (0.88 pounds) rounded out the top five spots in NFI’s listing for 2020. Cod (0.57 pounds), crab (0.52 pounds), catfish (0.52 pounds), pangasius (0.39 pounds), and scallops (0.22 pounds), rounded out the top 10 species by per capita consumption in the U.S. in 2020.

Collectively, the top 10 most-consumed species in the U.S. amounted to 77 percent (14.6 pounds) of total per capita seafood consumption for 2020, NFI said, with 4.4 pounds attributed to other species.

Data released by NOAA in the years to come is expected to illustrate “pandemic-related market forces,” NFI Programs Director Richard Barry said.

“The next top 10 list could answer some long-held questions,” Barry said. “Keep in mind, experts at the Global Seafood Market Conference in January [2022] were busy mapping a predicted overall increase in pandemic-era seafood consumption and species diversification trends, so watch this space.”

The 2020 data from NOAA released on 12 May, 2022, gives a glimpse into the U.S. fishing industry’s tumultuous journey through the pandemic. The nation’s fishermen reported 8.4 billion pounds of landings for 2020, down 10.4 percent from 2019, with the value of those products coming in at USD 4.8 billion (EUR 4.63 billion), down 14.6 percent from the year before.

“These decreases are consistent with our expectations because of the disruption and the impacts of COVID-19 as well as storm impacts in the Gulf of Mexico,” NOAA Fisheries Assistant Administrator Janet Coit said.

2020 marks the third-straight year landings have decreased, NOAA Fisheries records show.

Photo courtesy of Ryzhkov Photography/Shutterstock


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