In 2011, Americans ate 15 pounds of fish and shellfish per person. While our seafood consumption still lags far behind that of poultry, pork, and beef, it does add up to nearly 5 billion pounds of seafood per year, making the United States second only to China in seafood consumption.
In 2011, we imported about 91 percent of the seafood consumed here in the United States. However, a small portion of these imports were caught by American fishermen, exported overseas for processing and then re-imported to the United States. The remaining 9 percent was produced entirely domestically.
About half the seafood we eat is wild-caught; the other half is farm-raised, that is, from aquaculture. There's a bit of a grey area here, too, though—some "wild-caught" seafood actually starts its life in a hatchery. For example, salmon and red drum are often produced in hatcheries and then released to the wild to be caught. The same can be said for some mussel, clam, and oyster populations—in many cases, larval shellfish, or 'spat,' is reared in a hatchery and then planted in a natural setting to be harvested later. On the other hand, some "farm-raised" seafood such as yellowtail is caught as juveniles in the wild then raised to maturity in captivity.
Why does it matter? It's important to know the source of your seafood because not all of them measure up the same. Some seafood is caught or farm-raised under regulations that protect the health of the marine environment, the animals that live within it, and the folks that eat it; however, some is not. By buying seafood from reputable sources, you're helping to conserve our ocean resources and support the economies and communities that ensure our seafood supply is safe, healthy, and sustainable.
We eat a lot of rich, flavorful crab here in the United States—more than half a pound per person in 2011—and a lot of it is wild-caught in U.S. waters. From the cold waters of Alaska to the warm waters of Florida, U. S. commercial fishermen harvest several different species of crab including blue, Dungeness, king, snow, and stone crabs. The United States is a major producer of crabs with nearly 370 million pounds valued at greater than $650 million in 2011. We also import crab in a variety of forms ranging from whole crab to frozen, pasteurized, and canned, mostly from Canada, Asia, and South America.
We eat about a half a pound of cod per person every year. Two types of cod come from the United States—Atlantic and Pacific cod are closely related, but Atlantic cod is caught in New England, and Pacific cod is caught in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. Although they can be used interchangeably, Pacific cod yield larger, thicker fillets, and Atlantic cod taste sweeter. Our Alaska fisheries for Pacific cod account for more than two-thirds of the world's Pacific cod supply. We also import some cod from China, Canada, Russia, Iceland, and Norway, some of which is farmed.
There is one commercial cod farm in the United States and researchers are developing more opportunities for domestic cod farming. Watch a video about teaching fishermen in Maine to farm cod.
Source: NOAA http://www.fishwatch.gov/farmed_seafood/index.htm