NOAA Report Shows Alaska Still Leads In U.S. Fish Landings

Marcia Lynn

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     The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration just released its annual U.S seafood landings report for 2011.  It shows the volume of fish caught is up from the year before with Alaska in the lead.   
     In its report titled Fisheries of the United States, released on Wednesday, NOAA says U.S. landings reached a 17 year high last year, thanks in part to rebuilding fish populations.  The value of fish harvested has also increased.  
     In 2011, commercial fishermen around the country caught just over 10 billion pounds of fish and shellfish worth 5.3 billion dollars.  That’s up from the 2010 catch of 1.9 billion pounds, with an increase in worth of 784 million dollars.  NOAA attributes much of the jump in value to higher catches of certain species such as Alaska Pollock, and Pacific hake, also known as whiting.
     Alaska leads all states in catch volume followed by Louisiana, California, Virginia and Washington.  For 15 years running the port of Dutch Harbor/Unalaska leads the nation with the highest amount of fish landed.  The Aleutian Island port is home to a large fleet of factory ships that catch primarily Pollock, used in a variety of value added products ranging from fish sticks to imitation crab.  
     And for the 12th year in a row the port of New Bedford, Massachusetts had the highest valued catch, due mostly to the sea scallop fishery which commands hefty prices.   
     But NOAA reports the rosy picture for fishery resources has a few dim spots, such as an unexpected decline in several key New England groundfish stocks which led the Department of Commerce to declare a disaster for New England groundfish fishermen on September 13th.  
     Similar announcements were made that day for Alaska Chinook salmon in Cook Inlet, plus the Yukon and Kuskowkwim Rivers.
     The report also shows that people in this country ate less seafood last year.  It says in 2011 the average American ate 15 pounds of fish and shellfish, less than the 2010 figure of 15.8 pounds per person.  
     Altogether, Americans ate 4.7 billion pounds of seafood, making the U.S. second only to China in seafood consumption.
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