WASHINGTON, D.C. — A federal report studying the state of commercial and recreational fisheries in the United States found 9.6 million anglers made 63 million fishing trips in 2016, it was announced Nov. 1.
A majority of the 371 million-plus fish caught last year (61 percent) were released alive, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report.
The NOAA fisheries report added striped bass was the most harvested catch of 2016, by weight, for saltwater anglers. Other top catches last year, in order, were dolphinfish, bluefish, yellowfin tuna, spotted seatrout and summer flounder.
NOAA’s report, overall, stated commercial and recreational fisheries continue to be a significant contributor to the national economy. The recreational fishery, for example, contributed about $36 million to the national economy in 2015, according to the NOAA report.
Commercial fisherman reportedly landed fewer pounds of seafood in 2016 (9.6 billion pounds, down 1.5 percent from the 2015 catch totals) but yielded higher financial value ($5.3 billion, up 2.1 percent from 2015).
“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),” NOAA staff said in a released statement about the fisheries report. “By volume, the nation’s largest commercial fishery remains Alaska walleye pollock, which showed near record landings of 3.4 billion pounds (up 3 percent from 2015), representing 35 percent of total U.S. commercial and recreational seafood landings.”
Dutch Harbor in Alaska was the top port for most seafood landed in the United States for the 20th consecutive year; the Alaskan port yielded 770 million pounds of seafood, valued at $198 million, in 2016. The top species within the annual catch: walleye pollock.
The top port in valued catch was New Bedford, Massachusetts, which yielded $327 million for its 107 million pounds of seafood landed.
California’s commercial landings collectively yielded 176.4 million pounds of seafood (valued at about $216.1 million). The best year for California’s commercial landings, according to NOAA’s report, was in 1936. Landings here yielded more than 1.76 billion pounds of seafood that year.
Port Hueneme Harbor in Oxnard was the top producing California landing for commercial fisheries in 2016, according to the NOAA report. Commercial landings there yielded 38 million pounds last year, a $26 million value. An estimated 37 million pounds of seafood was landed at the Port of Los Angeles in 2016, up from 15 million pounds the year before.
An estimated 5.8 billion pounds of seafood was reportedly imported into the United States in 2016, a one percent increase from 2015. The seafood imports, worth $19.5 billion (3.5 percent increase from 2015), were mostly caught from American fisherman, according to NOAA.
“A significant portion of this imported seafood is caught by American fishermen, exported overseas for processing, and then re-imported to the United States. Shrimp and salmon are two of the top three imported species and much of that is farm-raised,” NOAA staff said in its published statement.
The NOAA report also indicated the average American consumed less fish and shellfish in 2016. An estimated 14.9 pounds of fish and shellfish were consumed by the average American in 2016, compared to 15.5 pounds consumed in 2015.