US fishing and aquaculture in slow lane

COMMERCIAL fishing in the United States is not growing at the rate it should, says a federal report on the industry just released by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It is also in the slow lane when it comes to aquaculture.

Figures for 2016 show that the US fleet landed 9.6 billion pounds (lbs) of seafood of all types, which was 1.5 per cent down on the 2015 figure. The value of this catch rose by a modest 2.1 per cent to $5.3 billion.

The highest value commercial species were lobster ($723 million), crabs ($704 million), scallops ($488 million), shrimp ($483 million), salmon ($420 million), and Alaska walleye pollock ($417 million).

By volume, the nation’s largest commercial fishery remains Alaska walleye pollock, which showed near record landings of 3.4 billion pounds (up three per cent from 2015), representing 35 per cent of total US commercial and recreational seafood landings.

Much of the seafood eaten by Americans continues to be imported. Last year the US spent $19.5 million buying 5.8 million pounds, a one per cent increase in volume terms, but up 3.5 per cent in value.

However, the import figure is not as bleak as it first seems. The report says: ‘A significant portion of this imported seafood is caught by American fishermen, exported overseas for processing, and then re-imported to the United States.’

On aquaculture, the report adds: ‘Shrimp and salmon are two of the top three imported species and much of that is farm raised.

‘The US ranks 16th in total aquaculture production around the world—far behind China, Indonesia and India. In 2015, 1.4 billion pounds of aquaculture production was reported (produced) in the US.’

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, who oversees NOAA, said the growth in imports should be a motivator to grow the aquaculture sector in the US.

‘Expanding our nation’s aquaculture capacity presents an opportunity to reduce America’s reliance on imports while creating thousands of new jobs,’ he said.

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