US landings flat in 2019, while seafood trade deficit continued to increase

Commercial fishermen in the United States landed 9.3 billion pounds of seafood products worth a total of USD 5.5 billion (EUR 4.5 billion) in 2019. That’s according to one of two reports NOAA Fisheries released on Thursday, 20 May.

The reports, Fisheries of the United States 2019 and the agency’s Annual Report to Congress on the Status of U.S. Fisheries, indicate that the country saw slight increases to the number of stocks that were either overfished or subject to overfishing. However, the production from U.S. commercial fishing businesses dipped slightly from 2018.

In addition, the seafood trade deficit – a major focus of the administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump – continued to increase, albeit marginally.

According to the Fisheries of the United States report, Alaska’s fisheries were by far the largest in terms of volume. Fishermen there caught 5.6 billion pounds of seafood worth USD 1.7 billion (EUR 1.4 billion). That’s more than six times the amount of second-place Louisiana, where fishermen landed 896.4 million pounds of seafood worth USD 305.3 million (EUR 250.4 million).

Massachusetts did not make the top five in landings by volume, but the USD 679.3 million (EUR 557.8 million) value it pulled in was second to Alaska. Maine ranked third in value of landings at USD 577.9 million (EUR 474.5 million).

For the 23rd straight year, Dutch Harbor, Alaska, ranked tops in the country with the most landings, at 763 million pounds in 2019, worth USD 190 million (EUR 156 million). The volume remained about the same from 2018 totals, while the value rose by about USD 8 million (EUR 6.6 million).

The port at New Bedford, Massachusetts was the most lucrative, with its landings valued at USD 450 million (EUR 369.5 million), up from USD 431 million (EUR 353.9 million) in 2018. Like Dutch Harbor, New Bedford’s volume remained consistent at 114 million pounds.

The top species processed in the U.S. was Alaska pollock, with the 1.6 billion pounds worth an estimated USD 2.19 billion (EUR 1.8 billion). The 211 million pounds of sockeye salmon was valued at USD 1.03 billion (EUR 845.7 million), and the 301 million pounds of shrimp had a value of USD 966 million (EUR 793.2 million).

Across the country, the landings volume dipped by about 100 million pounds from 2018, while the value dipped by approximately USD 100 million (EUR 82.1 million) as well.

In its report, NOAA Fisheries noted there were some regional variations that practically canceled each other out.

“In 2019, New England showed a 14.9 percent decrease in landings volume, driven primarily by reductions in the herring and lobster fisheries. The South Atlantic, on the other hand, had a 13.4 percent increase in landings volume, driven by increases in North Carolina and the east coast of Florida,” the report stated. “Reduced landings in the Gulf [of Mexico] were due to lower menhaden landings that were within normal variations for the fishery. While the Pacific coast showed a slight increase overall, California landings were down by 40 percent due to anchovies and a continued reduction in loligo squid landings.”

While landings and value dipped, the U.S. aquaculture industry reported gains. NOAA Fisheries reported that 680 million pounds were harvested in 2018, the latest figures available. That’s up nearly 8 percent from 2017. The USD 1.5 billion (EUR 1.2 billion) value in 2018 was up 1.8 percent from 2017.

From a trade perspective, the 2019 trade deficit was reported at USD 16.9 billion (EUR 13.9 billion), up roughly USD 100 million (EUR 82.1 million) from 2018.

Recreational fishermen reported taking 187 million excursions in 2019, catching 950 million fish and releasing about 64 percent of that total. That’s down from the 194 million trips made in 2018.

In its report to Congress, NOAA Fisheries reported that of the 460 fish stocks it managed, it knew the overfishing status for 323 stocks and the overfished status for 251. Overfishing refers to the percentage of fish caught, while overfished refers to the overall population of a stock.

Of the 323 stocks with an overfishing status, 92 percent are not subject to overfishing, meaning the percentage of fish caught were within catch limits. Of the 251 stocks with an overfished status, 80 percent were considered not overfished.

The 26 stocks on the overfishing list are an increase from the 22 reported in 2019. The 49 stocks overfished represent an increase of three from the 2019 totals.

Not enough data was collected to determine the status of the remaining stocks.

“In 2020, stock assessments led to known status determinations of seven previously unknown stocks, six of which were found to be not overfished,” the Report to Congress stated.

Photo courtesy of Wirestock Creators/Shutterstock


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