U.S seafood landings reached a 17-year high in 2011, thanks in part to rebuilding fish populations, and the value of landings also increased, according to a new report released by NOAA.
According to the report, Fisheries of the United States 2011, U.S. commercial fishermen landed 10.1 billion pounds of fish and shellfish in 2011, valued at $5.3 billion, an increase over 2010 of 1.9 billion pounds and more than $784 million. Much of the increase is due to higher catches of Gulf menhaden, Alaska pollock, and Pacific hake, also known as whiting.
More than 10 million recreational saltwater anglers in the United States took 69 million marine fishing trips in 2011 and caught 345 million fish, releasing nearly 60 percent of them alive. Spotted sea trout remained the top catch for recreational anglers, with 41 million caught in 2011. Atlantic croaker, sand sea trout, spot, and kingfishes were the other most common catches for saltwater anglers last year.
The report shows that the average American ate 15 pounds of fish and shellfish in 2011, less than the 2010 figure of 15.8 pounds. Altogether, Americans consumed 4.7 billion pounds of seafood, making the U.S. second only to China in seafood consumption.
In 2011, about 91 percent of seafood consumed in the U.S. was imported, up five percent from 2010. 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 top three imports are shrimp, canned tuna, and tilapia fillet.
Almost half of imported seafood comes from aquaculture, or farmed seafood. America’s aquaculture industry currently meets less than five percent of U.S. seafood demand, producing primarily oysters, clams, mussels, and some finfish, including salmon.
“By promoting sustainable domestic aquaculture to complement rebuilt wild fisheries, we can create more jobs and provide additional local sources of seafood that meet the highest standards for environmental protection and food safety,” said Rauch.