Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Value of Domestic Seafood Landings Jumps to $4.5 Billion

By Margaret Bauman

For the 22nd year in a row, Dutch Harbor is back on top again as the number one port in the nation for quantity of seafood landed.

Fisheries of the United States 2010, released Nov. 7 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, confirmed that commercial fishermen at Unalaska unloaded 515.2 million pounds of fish and shellfish at the Dutch Harbor port in Unalaska in 2010, an increase of nearly 10 million pounds over 2009 and a rise of $3.4 million in dockside value, to $163 million..

It was all good news, albeit no surprise to Frank Kelty, a fisheries industry veteran and natural resources analyst for the city of Unalaska, who said the ranking as the nation’s number one fishing port by volume is very important to Unalaska.

“It shows the sustainability of the Bering Sea fisheries that Unalaska depends on, and we look forward to continuing to be the nation’s number one port into the future,” Kelty told Fishermen’s News on Sept. 8. “We are pleased that for the 22nd year we are the number one port,” said Kelty, who attributed that success to sustainability and good management of the fisheries.

The port of New Bedford, Mass. Took top place for value 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, NOAA officials said.The increase in value was driven by a 28 percent increase in the per-pound price of sea scallops, which account for 22 percent of the volume and 77 percent of the value of landings in New Bedford.

Sea scallops were declared overfished in 1998. As a result of a cooperative effort of fishermen and a rebuilding plan that temporarily reduced fishing effort, restricted some gear and closed some areas, the population was fully rebuilt in 2001, and is now the top-valued fishery in the country.

“New Bedford has widened their lead on us in value,” mused Kelty, noting that in Dutch Harbor, where the harvest volume is mainly Pollock, there are no lobsters or scallop fisheries.

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

The port of Kodiak, Alaska, ranked fifth in poundage at 325.3 million pounds, up from 282.9 million pounds in 2009, and third in the nation for fishery value, at $128.1, up from $103.8 million a year earlier. Cordova had 147.7 million pounds of seafood landed, up from 45.5 million pounds in 2009, ranked eighth nationally in poundage, and fifth nationally in value, with its harvests worth $84.3 million, up from $32.8 million the previous year. Sitka ranked 10th for fishery values, with the harvest delivered fetching $62.2 million, up from $51.3 million in 2009.

NOAA officials said that all coastal regions in 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, saw landings drop by 19 percent, but 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 decrease from the 2009 figure of 16 pounds.

The US continues to be ranked third for consumption of fish and shellfish, behind China and Japan. Americans collectively consumed 4.878 billion pounds of seafood, slightly less than the 4.907 billion pounds they consumed in 2009.

NOAA officials noted that while seafood consumption remains fairly steady, the amount of imported seafood consumed by Americans continues to rise. About 86 percent of the seafood consumed in the US 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 into the US.

The US exports 63 percent of its domestically produced seafood, measured by live weight, which represents an increase of four percent over 2009, according to NOAA.

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

Nationwide, commercial harvesters in domestic waters landed 8.2 billion pounds of seafood nationwide in 2010 with a value of $4.5 billion, up from 200 million pounds and more than $600 million in value in 2009, NOAA’s report showed.

The statistics compiled by NOAA show that US fishermen continue to be competitive in the dynamic, fast-paced global seafood marketplace, said Eric Schwaab, assistant NOAA administrator for NOAA Fisheries Service.

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 economy.

“While we are turning a corner on ending overfishing on wild stocks, this report shows the need for US 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.

Margaret Bauman can be reached at

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