NOAA report chronicles value of fishing
Fishing and Martha's Vineyard go hand in hand, both in reality and the popular imagination, and have done so forever. From the time when Native Americans pursued whales in canoes to the present when both commercial and recreational fishermen use high-tech gear to locate and capture their prey, fishing has played a central part in the lives and livelihoods of Islanders.
Now, in an effort to quantify the economic impact of fishing, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has published a volume called "Fisheries Economics of the U.S., 2006," a year in which saltwater fishing contributed approximately $185 billion to the U.S. economy and supported more than two million jobs. Of the $185 billion in sales, the commercial fishing industry was responsible for $103 billion, compared to $82 billion for the recreational fishing industry, or 55.6 to 44.4 percent.
The report is available from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which oversees NMFS.
File photo by Tyson Trish
According to its preface, "This report covers the 1997-2006 time period and includes descriptive statistics on commercial fisheries landings, revenue, and price trends and economic impacts of the commercial fishing industry in 2006; recreational fishing catch, effort, and participation rates and 2006 angler expenditures and economic impacts of saltwater angling; and employer and non-employer establishment, payroll, and annual receipt information for fishing-related industries."
Nationally, commercial landings had an ex-vessel value of $4.1 billion in 2006, as compared to $3.6 billion in 1997, a decline of three percent when adjusted for inflation. (Ex-vessel value is the amount paid to fishermen for their raw catch.)
Shrimp, walleye pollock, American lobster, sea scallops, and Pacific salmon accounted for almost 50 percent of landings revenue in 2006. Sea scallop revenues increased 330 percent in the period covered by the report.
Landings of American lobster increased from 82 to 92 million pounds between 1997 and 2006 and the price per pound increased from $3.29 to $4.27 on average.
While sea scallop landings increased from 13.6 to 59 million pounds, the price was almost the same, $6.56 to $6.52. Tuna landings fell from 83.5 to 49.8 million pounds, but the price increased, from $1.32 to $1.74.
Menhaden, regarded by many experts as the most important forage fish along the Atlantic coast, fell off from 2 to 1.3 billion pounds, and the price fell from 6 to 5 cents over the period of the report.
Meanwhile, the number of recreational fishermen increased from 8.9 to 13.6 million between 1997 and 2006, and they took more trips, 87.1 to 68.5 million. In 2006, 43 million trips were aboard private or rental boats, up from 34 million trips in 1997, 40 million trips were on shore (29 million in 1997), and 3.8 million were aboard charter or party boats, down from five million in 1997.
Nationwide, anglers harvested 2.6 million striped bass in 2006 (up from 1.5 million in 1997) while the released 25.9 million (15.9). The harvest of summer flounder (fluke) fell from 7.1 to 4.2 million fish in the report's period, while release increased from 12.8 to18 million fish. Little tunny (known locally as false albacore) and Atlantic bonito, which were tallied together in the report, fell from 449,000 to 310,000 harvested, while release of the two species increased from 616,000 to 829,000. Harvest of large Atlantic tunas increased from 424,000 to 610,000, while release dropped from 194,000 to 97,000.