Seafood landings, values increase in 2010

WASHINGTON — United States commercial fishermen landed 8.2 billion pounds of seafood in 2010, valued at $4.5 billion, an increase of 200 million pounds and more than $600 million in value over 2009, according to a new report released Sept. 7 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Honolulu ranked eighth in the top-10 commercial port regarding values of landings, with $71.6 million of seafood landed on its port in 2010, a significant increase from 2009, when the figure was at $59.4 million, according to NOAA.

The report shows U.S. fishermen, who are required to meet high environmental and safety standards, continue to be competitive in the global seafood marketplace.

“These increases in fish landings and value are good news for our nation’s fishermen and for fishing communities, where jobs depend on healthy fish stocks,” said Eric Schwaab, assistant NOAA administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service. “We know fishermen are making sacrifices now to rebuild fish populations, and these efforts, combined with good science and management, support sustainable jobs for Americans.”

Commercial and recreational fishing are integral to the nation’s social and economic fabric. In NOAA’s most recent economic report, commercial and recreational fisheries generated $166 billion in sales impacts, contributed $72 billion to the Gross National Product, and supported 1.4 million jobs in the fishing sector and across the broader economy.

The report, “Fisheries of the United States 2010, shows that for the 22nd consecutive year, the Alaska port of Dutch Harbor-Unalaska led the nation with the highest amount of fish landed, primarily pollock. For the 11th consecutive year New Bedford, Mass. had the highest valued catch, due in large part to the sea scallop fishery.

Last year, commercial fishermen unloaded 515.2 million pounds of fish and shellfish in Dutch Harbor-Unalaska, an increase of nearly 10 million pounds over 2009 and a rise in the dockside value of $3.4 million to $163 million. Alaska claims three of the top 10 ports for landings volume and six of the top 10 ports for landings value. More than half of the seafood Americans eat from U.S. waters is caught in Alaska.

The port of New Bedford took top place for values of landings, bringing in $306 million in 2010, a 22.8-percent increase over 2009, and the highest landing values in 30 years for that port. While there was a substantial increase in value, the total amount of seafood landed in New Bedford decreased by 36.6 million pounds to 133.4 million pounds. The increase in value was driven by a 28 percent increase in the per-pound price of sea scallops. Sea scallops, which account for 22 percent of the volume and 77 percent of the value of landings in New Bedford, were declared overfished in 1998. As a result of the cooperation of fishermen and a rebuilding plan that included temporarily reducing fishing effort, restricting some gear, and closing some areas, the population was fully rebuilt in 2001, and is now the top-valued fishery in the country.

Fishermen at the nearby port of Gloucester, Mass., also landed their top value in the last 30 years, with landings valued at $56.6 million, an increase of 11 percent from 2009.

 All coastal regions of the country saw increases in total value of fisheries landings in 2010. The Gulf of Mexico region, which suffered the nation’s worst marine oil spill in 2010 and saw landings drop by 19 percent, achieved a modest two percent increase in total landings value.

The report also shows that the average American ate 15.8 pounds of fish and shellfish in 2010, a slight decline from the 2009 figure of 16 pounds. The U.S. continues to be third-ranked for consuming fish and shellfish, behind China and Japan. Americans consumed 4.878 billion pounds of seafood, slightly less than the 4.907 billion pounds in 2009.

While seafood consumption remained fairly consistent, the amount of imported seafood consumed by Americans continued to increase. About 86 percent of the seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported, measured by edible weight, up four percent from 2009. However, a portion of this imported seafood is caught by American fishermen, exported overseas for processing and then re-imported to the U.S.

The U.S. exports 63 percent of its domestically produced seafood, measured by live weight, which represents an increase of four percent over 2009.

Almost half of imported seafood comes from aquaculture, or farmed seafood. Aquaculture outside the U.S. has expanded dramatically in the last three decades and now supplies the world with half its seafood demand, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. America’s aquaculture industry, though vibrant and diverse, currently meets less than 5 percent of U.S. seafood demand.

“While we are turning a corner on ending overfishing on wild stocks, this report shows the need for U.S. aquaculture to grow and complement wild fisheries,” Schwaab said. “Sustainable domestic aquaculture creates jobs in our coastal communities, helps meet the demand for healthy seafood, supports exports to global markets and helps us narrow the trade gap.”

In July, NOAA announced its National Aquaculture Initiative, to jump-start private sector investments in aquaculture to create job opportunities.

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