Posted at 9:53 AM
Last month, we celebrated National Seafood Month, which highlights the contributions of America’s fishermen, fish farmers, and fishing communities to our economy each and every day.
Our commercial fishing and seafood industries have been essential to our economy since the founding of our nation, and they remain vital to the livelihood of many American communities and families today. After decades of decline, we are witnessing the astounding economic and ecological recovery of America’s fishing industry. Today, overfishing has hit an all-time low, and 40 stocks have been returned to sustainable levels. The U.S. fishing industry contributed nearly $200 billion to the American economy in 2014 and supports 1.83 million jobs.
What’s more, American consumers have an increasing appetite for seafood. Our team at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found the average American added nearly 1 pound of seafood to their diet in 2015 alone. This rise in demand is anticipated to continue, underscoring the importance of expanding U.S. aquaculture production.
To keep up with demand, we must ensure we have a sustainable supply of seafood long into the future. The good news is that NOAA also reports continued stability in U.S. wild-capture commercial and recreational fish stocks. Last year, commercial fishermen landed 9.7 billion pounds of fish and shellfish valued at $5.2 billion, with lobster, crab and shrimp topping the list. Additionally, 8.9 million saltwater recreational anglers also took to the waters, making nearly 61 million trips resulting in a catch of more than 350 million fish.
U.S. aquaculture production – whose top-farmed species include oysters, clam and Atlantic salmon – generated 608 million pounds of seafood valued at $1.3 billion. The jobs, economic productivity, and food security generated by growth in domestic aquaculture production is important for our portfolio of sustainable seafood and the resilience of our seafood production communities.
While we only celebrate National Seafood Month during October, this year also marks the 40th anniversary of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. This law created guidelines and harvesting quotas fishermen that abide by in our wild-capture fisheries, which laid the foundation for a thriving and sustainable American seafood industry. It is one of the most visionary pieces of environmental legislation ever devised and serves as the world’s gold standard for responsible fishery policies.
In addition, last month, the Department of Commerce was proud to host 12 Americans recognized as Champions of Change earlier this month. The honorees are chefs, fishers, entrepreneurs, and scientists who have implemented innovative fishing practices. Their work is ensuring America’s fishermen and coastal communities will continue to thrive in an increasingly competitive global economy.
Today, fishery management in America is a model for the world. Using science from the sea and data from the lab to inform management decisions, we are strengthening America’s fisheries while also ensuring that marine ecosystems continue to produce a sustainable supply of seafood long into the future. Through close cooperation between government and industry, we are bringing sustainability to a sector that is vital to our coastal communities and our economy at large.