WASHINGTON – U.S. seafood landings reached a 17-year high in 2001, according to a report released Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
According to the report – Fisheries of the United States 2011 – commercial fishermen in the United States landed 10.1 billion pounds of fish and shellfish in 2011, a commercial value of $5.3 billion.
The 2011 landings were an increase of more than 1.9 billion pounds, or $784 million, over 2010 data. According to NOAA, much of the increase was due to higher catches of Gulf menhaden, Alaska Pollock and Pacific hake.
“Commercial and recreational fishing are integral to the nation’s social and economic fabric,” Sam Rauch, deputy assistant NOAA administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service, said in a statement.
“To see landings and value climb again this year shows we’re moving in the right direction and that the fishing industry is strengthening as fish populations rebuild,” said Rauch. “Our goal is to support a thriving, sustainable seafood industry that is competitive in the global marketplace, and to enjoy the benefits of recreational fishing in our own waters.”
NOAA attributed the increase in catch to the rebuilding of fish populations as well as an increase in the value of landings. Catches in the Gulf of Mexico rebounded to the highest volume since 1999, following a deeply stunted 2010 season due to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
For the 12th consecutive year, New Bedford had the highest valued catch in the country, mostly due to the sea scallop fishery.
“However, scallops are a bright spot in New England fishery,” said the NOAA report. “Despite fishermen staying within catch limits, several key groundfish stocks have declined unexpectedly, leading the Department of Commerce to declare a disaster for groundfish fishermen on Sept. 13.”
In 2011, fishermen in New England landed 623.6 million pounds of fish and shellfish worth a total of $1.1 billion. Comparatively, in 2010, New England’s fishermen caught 577.8 million pounds of fish and shellfish worth a total of $957.9 million.
The NOAA report also showed that the average American ate 15 pounds of fish and shellfish in 2011, a 5 percent drop from 2010. Even with the decline, Americans consumed 4.7 billion pounds of seafood in 2011, making the U.S. second in the world, after China, in seafood consumption.