The annual global growth in fish consumption has been double the rate of population growth. This fact demonstrates that the aquaculture sector and our fisheries are crucial in meeting the worldwide goal of a world without malnutrition and hunger. Although capture fishery production levels have remained relatively static since the late 1980s, industry growth through aquaculture has resulted in an impressive amount of growth in food availability.
Marine captures still represent the vast majority of fishing activities around the world. Over 79.3 million tons were captured in 2016 around the world, supplemented by 11.6 million tons of inland capture. This rate led to the human consumption of 151.2 million tons, the highest rate tracked by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
The average person consumes about 20.3kg of fish products each year, with 19.7 million tons of the capture being diverted to non-food uses. The fishing industry statistics listed below exclude seaweed, crocodiles, alligators, caimans, and aquatic mammals.
Essential Fishing Industry Statistics
#1. Global fish production in 2018 totaled 178.8 million tons. Pollock is one of the most popular landings, representing about one-third of the industry landings in the United States. (Statista)
#2. The total weight of American seafood landings for the fishing industry in 2018 totaled 9.9 billion pounds. (Statista)
#3. Aquaculture production added another 87 million tons of seafood products that were processed by the global fishing industry in the last year. About 444,000 tons came from American facilities. (Statista)
#4. The value of American imports of all fishery products was over $40.3 billion in 2018, representing over 2.7 million tons of edible items. (Statista)
#5. Catches of anchoveta by Chile and Peru are often responsible for the changes in production levels for the global fishing industry. The El Nino pattern creates a highly variable rate of capture, accounting for a 1.1 million ton decrease in 2016. (FAO)
#6. Decreasing catches had an impact on 64% of the top 25 producing countries for the fishing industry in 2016, but only 37% of the remaining countries engaged in this activity. (FAO)
#7. Alaska pollock surpassed anchoveta as the top species captured in 2016, with rates reaching similar levels as the record capture noted in 1998. Skipjack tuna has been the third-most captured species for seven consecutive years for the fishing industry. (FAO)
#8. Lobster, shrimp, crab, and gastropods are a top priority for the fishing industry today because of the average value they offer. Some captures can reach an average rate of $8,800 per ton, providing a significant return for those engaged in this work. (FAO)
#9. There was more Atlantic squid captured in 2016 (56.4 million pounds) than snow crab (51.3 million pounds) in 2016 for the first time. This statistic represents a 176% increase in the former and a 49% decrease in the latter from previous harvests. (NOAA)
#10. Alaska is responsible for 58% of the landings that occur for the American fishing industry each year. Although the Atlantic fishery only brings in 13% of the total landings, this region is responsible for 39% of the value. (NOAA)
#11. The total value of landings in the United States was $5.3 billion, representing a 2.1% increase in value despite the harvest being 1.5% less from the year before. (NOAA)
#12. A surge in Dungeness crab has helped to supplement the American fishing industry, with 64.2 million pounds coming out of the water in 2016. That was a 168% increase from the year before. (NOAA)
#13. Dutch Harbor, AK has been the top port by volume for over 20 consecutive years, responsible for 770 million pounds of capture. The total value of this amount is $198 million. (NOAA)
#14. New Bedford, MA was the top port in the United States for value with over $327 million in capture in 2016, representing its 17th consecutive year in this status. (NOAA)
#15. 75% of the capture that the fishing industry processes each year goes toward fresh or frozen human food needs. Another 19% gets directed toward fishmeal and oil products, with most of it directed toward animal feed. Only 2% is for canned human food, and less than 1% goes through a curing process. (NOAA)
#16. Alaska pollock is the top species processed for seafood in the United States, representing 30% of the volume in the market. Menhaden (11%), tuna (7%), cod (7%), and shrimp (4%) represent the rest of the top five. These species also represent the top five providers of value. (NOAA)
#17. 50% of the edible imports that reach the United States from the global fishing industry come from eastern Asia. Shrimp is the leading product in this category, responsible for 30% of the weight at 1.01 billion pounds. (NOAA)
#18. 63 million recreational fishing trips happen each year, with 9.6 million anglers reporting that they took at least one trip in the past 12 months. 54% of the catches that occur from these activities happen in estuaries. (NOAA)
#19. The fraction of seafood stocks that are in biologically sustainable levels continues to experience a decreasing trend, dropping from 90% in 1974 to 67% in 2015. That also means the percentage of stocks fished at unsustainable levels is increasing, rising from 10% to 33% at the same time. (FAO)
#20. The maximally sustainably fished stocks, sometimes referred to as “fully fished stocks,” represent 59.9% of the assessed biomes in 2015. Underfished stocks only represented 7% of the total capture. (FAO)
#21. The Mediterranean and Black Seas have the highest percentage of unsustainable stocks at 62.2%. This region is closely followed by the Southeast Pacific (61.5%) and Southwest Atlantic (58.8%). (FAO)
#22. The lowest percentages of unsustainable stocks are found in the Southwest Pacific, Western Central Pacific, Northeast Pacific, and Northwest Pacific at rates of 13% to 17%. (FAO)
#23. The growth of farming for fed aquatic species is outpacing the farming of unfed species when looking at the aquaculture segment of the fishing industry. (FAO)
#24. Recreational anglers harvested 20 million pounds of striped bass, making it the most popular capture in the United States in 2016. That represents 1.6 million fish. Dolphinfish (11 million pounds), bluefish (10 million pounds), and yellowfin tuna (9 million pounds) were equally popular. (NOAA)
#25. Oysters are the most popular product grown through aquaculture in the United States, representing 35 million pounds of edible foods worth $173 million. Clams come in second at 9 million pounds and $112 million in value. Salmon comes in third at 48 million pounds and $88 million. (NOAA)
#26. The United States produces 627 million pounds of seafood products through aquaculture, making it the 16th-largest producer in the world according to 2015 figures. This segment of the fishing industry is only growing at 1% per year. (NOAA)
#27. The total size of the fishing fleet is about 4.6 million vessels, which is a figure that remains unchanged since 2014. About 75% of the global fleet is stationed in Asia, while the number of vessels in North America has dropped by over 5,000 since then. (FAO)
#28. About 2.8 million vessels in the global fishing fleet have motorization, representing 61% of the boats active for the industry. This figure is down by three percentage points since 2014. (FAO)
#29. Approximately 86% of the motorized fishing vessels for the industry have a length that is less than 12 meters. Most of the boats are undecked. The vessels that are 24 meters in length or larger represent only 2% of the total fleet. (FAO)
#30. The primary production levels of the ocean are expected to see a 6% decline by the year 2100. This represents an 11% decrease in the world’s tropical zones. Decreases in marine and interior production are expected in 85% of coastal countries because of the impacts that climate change has on the environment. (FAO)
#31. About 35% of global fish production enters international trade in various forms each year. (FAO)
#32. The share of fish and seafood items meant for human consumption alone has risen from 11% in 1976 to 27% in 2016. This figure represents 59 million tons of live-weight equivalent products, a 242% increase over the earlier figures. (FAO)
#33. China has been the largest exporter of fish and fish products for the industry since 2002, even though the value represents just 1% of its total trade. Norway is consistently second in the export market, while Vietnam ranks third because of its export of Pangas catfish and shrimp. (FAO)
#34. Fish and fish products only provide the average person about 34 calories per day. Despite this low figure, a 150g portion of fish can provide up to 60% of an adult’s daily protein requirement to stay healthy. (FAO)
#35. Japan, Europe, and the United States represented 47% of the world’s total fish production in 1961. That figure dropped to 20% in 2015. (FAO)
#36. 82% of recreational anglers say that they were introduced to fishing when they were children. It is much less likely for a person to try fishing after the age of 12. (Outdoor Industry)
#37. The average recreational angler will participate in 18 outings during the year, with 1 in 5 trips taking place in the South Atlantic region for Americans. (Outdoor Industry)
#38. 5.6 million people stopped fishing in 2017, with the recreational fishing industry losing 1 million more participants than it did in the previous year. (Outdoor Industry)
#39. 80% of the first-time recreational anglers reported that their first experience was with freshwater fishing. Only 2.5% say that they tried fly fishing as their first outing. (Outdoor Industry)
#40. Fishing is often a gateway activity for many families, with 16.5% of individuals and households saying that they incorporated other forms of outdoor recreation with an outing. That places the industry second behind running (18.9%) and just above bicycling (16%) for American holiday planning. (Outdoor Industry)
#41. The top crossover outdoor activity for people who enjoy recreational fishing is camping, representing 36.5% of total participants above the age of 6. (Outdoor Industry)
Fishing Industry Trends and Analysis
About 60 million people are engaged in capture fisheries or aquaculture as their primary form of employment. 85% of the global population accesses the fisheries and aquaculture sectors found in Asia, followed by Africa at 10% and the Caribbean at 4%. Jobs in this area have dropped from 382,000 in 1995 in North America to 218,000 in 2016. Employment opportunities in the Caribbean have risen by almost 1 million, while over 19 million new positions became available in Asia.
Women account for only 14% of the job opportunities found in this sector
If the fishing industry is going to survive, there are three trends that must happen in the next ten years. There must be a continued increase in aquaculture activities to take the stress off of the wild biomass, more equality must develop in employment, and sustainable practices for the commercialized capture must be followed without exception.
The world is pressing toward a place where no one goes hungry or suffers from malnutrition. The fishing industry can play a critical role in this outcome if it creates better best practices to follow while reducing illegal activities as much as possible.
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