2017 U.S. Commercial Fisheries & Seafood Industry Highlights
2017 U.S. Commercial Fisheries & Seafood Industry Highlights
Fishing and seafood consumption in the United States increased in 2017. Across the nation, American fishermen landed 9.9 billion pounds of fish and shellfish in 2017, while the U.S. imported 5.9 billion pounds of seafood, up 1.6 percent. The 9.9 billion pounds of fish and shellfish landed in 2017 represents an increase of 344 million pounds (3.6 percent) from the year before. The value of the landings also increased, to $5.4 billion, up $110 million (2.1 percent) from 2016.

Overall, the highest-value U.S. commercial species were salmon ($688 million), crabs ($610 million), lobsters ($594 million), shrimp ($531 million), scallops ($512 million), and Alaska pollock ($413 million). By volume, the nation’s largest commercial fishery remains Alaska pollock, which had near record landings of 3.4 billion pounds (up 1 percent from 2016).

Those are a few of the findings in “Fisheries of the United States, 2017,” a report released by NOAA Fisheries last week that provides landings totals for both domestic commercial and recreational fisheries by species; compiles key fisheries statistics from the previous year; and includes data on the fish processing industry, aquaculture production, imports and exports, and per capita seafood consumption.

At the same time, NOAA Fisheries released “Fisheries Economics of the United States, 2016,” which analyzes the economic impact of fisheries and related sectors, including employment, sales, and value-added impacts on the broader economy. For example, it reports that the commercial fishing and seafood industry — harvesters, processors, dealers, wholesalers, and retailers — supported 1.2 million jobs in 2016, generating $144 billion in sales impacts and adding $61 billion to the GDP. The domestic harvest produced $53 billion in sales, up 2 percent from 2015, and supported 711,000 jobs across the entire American economy.

Alaska led all states in 2017 in both volume and value of landings, increasing 7 percent in volume and 14 percent in value. In the Mid-Atlantic, volume increased by 7 percent and value decreased by 7 percent. In the Gulf of Mexico region, landings decreased 19 percent, while value decreased by less than 1 percent.

Top 5 states by volume of commercial landings:

1. Alaska (6.0 billion pounds)

2. Louisiana (890.6 million pounds)

3. Washington (665.9 million pounds)

4. Virginia (344.0 million pounds)

5. Mississippi (311.0 million pounds)

Top 5 states by value of commercial landings:

1. Alaska ($1.8 billion)

2. Massachusetts ($605.3 million)

3. Maine ($511.3 million)

4. Louisiana ($354.3 million)

5. Washington ($313.7 million)

Lobster Landings

American lobster landings were 133 million pounds, valued at $552.1 million — a decrease of 25.6 million pounds (16%) and almost $114.6 million (17%) compared with 2016.

Maine led in landings for the 36th consecutive year, with 108 million pounds valued at $423 million — a decrease of 24 million pounds (18%) compared with 2016. Massachusetts, the second-leading producer, had landings of almost 16.7 million pounds, valued at $82.3 million — a decrease of 1 million pounds (6%) compared with 2016.

Together, Maine and Massachusetts produced nearly 94 percent of the total national landings.

The average ex-vessel price per pound was $4.15 in 2017 compared with $4.20 in 2016.

Top U.S. commercial fishing ports

• For the 21st consecutive year, Dutch Harbor, Alaska, led the nation as the port with the highest volume of seafood landed (769 million pounds, valued at $173 million). Alaska pollock (walleye) made up 91.6 percent of the volume and 47.9 percent of the value. High-value snow crabs and king crabs accounted for an additional 33.5 percent of the value of Dutch Harbor landings and 1.8 percent of the volume.

• For the 18th consecutive year, New Bedford, Massachusetts, had the highest-valued catch (111 million pounds, valued at $389 million), due in large part to the highly valued sea scallop fishery. Sea scallops account for 80 percent of the value of landings in New Bedford.

Seafood Consumption

Americans consumed 5.2 billion pounds of seafood in 2017. The U.S. is the world’s second-largest consumer of seafood after China, according to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

The average American ate 16 pounds of fish and shellfish in 2017, an increase of 1.1 pounds from 2016.

While most fish caught in the United States is consumed as seafood, approximately 17 percent of the 2017 catch was used for other products such as pet food, fish meal, and oil.

Imports and Exports

Between 85 and 95 percent of the seafood consumed in the United States is imported. However, a significant portion of this imported seafood is caught by American fishermen, exported overseas for processing, and then reimported to the United States. Exports increased slightly in 2017 compared to 2016.

World Landings

The most recent year for which global data is available is 2016. China was the leading nation in both fishery landings and aquaculture production, accounting for 39.1 percent of the total harvest. Indonesia was second, with 6.7 percent; India was third, with 6.3 percent; Vietnam was fourth, with 3.8 percent; and the U.S. was fifth, with 3.1 percent.


The U.S. aquaculture industry (marine and freshwater) produced $1.5 billion worth of seafood in 2016, compared to 1.4 billion in 2015. Because aquaculture focuses on highvalue food species, the value of U.S. aquaculture production equals about 21 percent of the value of total U.S. seafood production, while the volume equals 6 percent of the total production. The top U.S. marine aquaculture species in 2016 were oysters ($192 million), clams ($138 million), and Atlantic salmon ($68 million).

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organizaiton estimates that nearly half of the world’s consumption of seafood comes from aquaculture. Globally, Asia is the leading continent for aquaculture production volume, with over 89 percent of the global total of 80 million metric tons. The top five producing countries are China, with 61.5 percent of the global total; India, 7.1 percent; Indonesia, 6.2 percent; Vietnam, 4.5 percent; and Bangladesh, 2.7 percent. the U.S. ranks 16th in aquaculture production.

Recreational Fishing Findings

Saltwater recreational fishing remains among the nation’s favorite pastimes. The majority of recreational fishing trips were taken on the Atlantic coast, with 62 percent of trips and 69 percent of catch coming from this region. The Gulf coast comprised 36 percent of trips and 28 percent of catch, while 2 percent of trips and 1 percent of catch were from the Pacific coast (Alaska data for 2017 was not available).

The top six recreational U.S. species ranked by harvested weight were striped bass, bluefish, red snapper, sheepshead, yellowfin tuna, and red drum. Recreational anglers took 202 million trips and caught 1 billion fish in 2017. Of the total number of fish caught, 64 percent were released alive. The estimated total weight of landed catch (397 million fish) was 447 million pounds. Striped bass remains the top species harvested among saltwater anglers, with 38 million pounds (3.0 million fish) harvested in 2017.