US seafood consumption rises to highest level since 2007, but falls short of USDA recommendations

Published on
February 21, 2020

On average, Americans consumed 16.1 pounds of seafood in 2018, a slight uptick from the year before, according to the latest “Fisheries of the United States” report released by NOAA Fisheries on 21 February.

U.S. consumers ate more fresh and frozen seafood in 2018, contributing to the highest seafood consumption level seen since 2007, NOAA Fisheries found.

“We all know seafood is part of a healthy diet, and this report also estimates the amount of seafood Americans consume. Estimated U.S. per capita consumption of fish and shellfish was 16.1 pounds, and this is the highest since 2007. This is an increase of 0.1 pounds from the 16 pounds consumed in 2017,” NOAA Fisheries Chief Scientist Cisco Werner said of the findings during a 21 February press conference.

The level of fresh and frozen seafood consumption reached 12.3 pounds in 2018, a 0.2 pound increase over 2017’s figures and the highest level recorded, NOAA said in its report. Of that 12.3 pounds of per capita consumption, fresh and frozen finfish accounted for 6.3 pounds, with fresh and frozen shellfish covering the remaining 6.0 pounds.

As far as specific species are concerned, shrimp had a banner year in 2018, with Americans consuming 4.6 pounds of it in various formats – “the highest total reported,” NOAA Fisheries said.

Meanwhile, canned seafood consumption dipped last year, mostly due to a decrease in canned salmon production, the report stated.

“Because the primary salmon that is canned, pink salmon, generally has a large harvest every other year, apparent fluctuations in the consumption of canned salmon will result.  The weaker pink salmon harvest in 2018 leads to a lower consumption figure, but it is reasonable to assume that some salmon canned in previous years was actually consumed in 2018. It may be better to combine consecutive years to derive a more realistic figure of canned salmon consumption,” NOAA said.

Consumption of canned fishery products totaled 3.5 pounds per capita in 2018, and cured fish accounted for 0.3 pounds per capita, the same as in previous years, the report said.

These latest metrics indicate that most U.S. consumers have yet to reach the recommended level of seafood consumption laid out in the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which suggest that adults eat two four-ounce servings of seafood each week. According to NOAA, if Americans followed these guidelines, they would be eating around 26 pounds of seafood per individual each year.

“We do point out that the USDA’s recommended dietary consumption is larger than the one we currently estimate [is occurring], and this is something that could be taken on in a broader discussion. But again, the report is a statement of fact in terms of where we are right now in terms of consumption of seafood on a per capita basis,” Werner said.

The report found that an estimated 85 to 95 percent of seafood consumed in the United States is imported, Werner said, although he did acknowledge “there are a lot of caveats with that number.”

Photo courtesy of Balabanovip/Shutterstock

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