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January 2013 Issue

Fisheries and Aquaculture: Landings And Farmed Production Up

By Rick Martin
Publisher, Commercial Fisheries News and Fish Farming News

In what has become an increasingly rare occurrence, both landings and the value of U.S. commercial fisheries appear to be on the rise, as are production and farm-gate revenues for domestic aquaculture producers.

This is welcome news that is slightly diminished by reports of another dip in U.S. per capita seafood consumption, a trend that has many in the seafood community wondering what it will take to get Americans to eat more seafood.

Commercial Landings
U.S. commercial fishermen landed 10.1 billion pounds of fish and shellfish in 2011 (the most recent year for which statistics are available). This represented an increase of 1.86 billion pounds, or about 22.6 percent, compared to 2010, according to NOAA's 2011 Fisheries of the United States annual report.

The value of U.S. commercial landings was also up, at $5.3 billion, an increase of $784 million, or roughly 17.4 percent, versus 2010.

Imports were down slightly in volume but up in value. Imports of edible fishery products in 2011 were calculated by NOAA at 5.3 billion pounds, valued at $16.6 billion. This was a decrease of 123.6 million pounds, but an increase of $1.8 billion in value.

Seafood Consumption
Per capita seafood consumption in the U.S. continued to trend downward in 2011. After a slight rise in U.S. per capita seafood consumption back in 2006, numbers have generally been in decline since 2007. In 2011, U.S. consumers ate 15 pounds of seafood per person, a dip of 0.8 pounds from 2010 figures, and well below the record high of 16.6 pounds in 2004.

U.S. consumers spent an estimated $85.9 billion for fish and seafood products in 2011. Americans continue to eat most of their seafood away from home, spending $57.7 billion in food-service purchases from restaurants, take-out and caterers. About $27.6 billion was spent on seafood for at-home preparation and consumption.

Shrimp remained the top choice for U.S. consumers, as it has for the last several years. Canned tuna, salmon, Alaska pollock and tilapia rounded out the top five list of most popular species. Trailing tilapia were Pangasius (imported catfish), catfish, crab, cod and clams to complete the top 10 list.

Aquaculture Production
U.S. aquaculture production finally showed some growth, after three years of decline, in 2010 (the most recent year for which statistics are available), accompanied by a modest increase in production value.

Total production in 2010 was roughly 753 million pounds, versus 723 million pounds for the previous year. Catfish production saw nominal growth, up from 476 million to 479 million pounds, but this is still a steep drop from 2004 when production exceeded 630 million pounds.

Salmon production enjoyed a healthy increase, at 43 million pounds—up from 31 million pounds the preceding year. Production of most other popular farm-raised species, including striped bass, tilapia, trout and clams, was flat or slightly down.

Total value of U.S. aquaculture production was $1.3 billion in 2010, topping the 1 billion mark for the seventh consecutive year and rising slightly over 2009's $1.2 billion in value.

The Look Ahead
Signs of improvement, or at least stabilization, continue in selected U.S. wild-capture fisheries.

In the Northeast, both the scallop and Maine lobster fisheries have been going strong and have spurred a degree of capital reinvestment into boats and gear.

After hunkering down to ride out the recession, the domestic fish-farming community is poised for modest expansion in some select markets.

Generally speaking, both commercial fishermen and fish farmers are glad to have the 2012 election cycle behind them, accompanied by hopes that now, with a degree of certainty on the horizon, U.S. consumers will be more inclined to dine on domestically produced seafood.

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