Top Commercial Seafood Items

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Alaska Pollock

Types and Sources of Products

The wild fishery for Alaska Pollock, also known as Walleye Pollock, is the largest by volume in the United States and is also one of the largest fisheries in the world. Alaska Pollock is a different species than the Pollock found on the Atlantic coast, and it is the most common type of Pollock in U.S. markets. All Alaska Pollock is wild-caught in the northern Pacific Ocean. Pollock is primarily harvested by mid-water trawl vessels, which tow nets through the middle of the water column. Some vessels are known as catcher/processors because they are large enough to catch their own fish and then process and freeze them at sea. Other vessels deliver their catch to mother ships (at-sea processing vessels that do not catch their own fish) or to shore-side seafood processors.

Alaska Pollock Facts

Alaska Pollock has consistently been one of the top five seafood species consumed in the U.S.
Since 2008, U.S. commercial landings of Alaskan Pollock (primarily in Alaska) have been well over 2 billion pounds each year.
Pollock are mid-water schooling fish that can live up to 15 years.
All Pollock is wild-caught in the ocean. There is no commercial aquaculture for this species.

Product Forms

Alaska Pollock is a mild-flavored white fish with a delicate and flaky texture. Because of its adaptability, Pollock is consumed in a variety of forms that include fresh and frozen fillets, fish sticks and other breaded and battered fish products, and “surimi” products. Surimi is a stable frozen intermediate ingredient that is used to produce traditional Japanese “kamaboko” products that are formulated to imitate crab, shrimp and scallop meat. These products are commonly marketed in the U.S. as imitation crab, shrimp or lobster and are often the “seafood” in seafood salads, stuffed entrees and other products. Surimi is produced by mincing and washing Alaskan Pollock fillets and then adding other ingredients to stabilize the protein in the fish and enable it to be frozen for extended periods of time. Alaska Pollock fillets or mince is also frozen into blocks and used to produce fish sticks and portions that are sold in retail stores and used in a variety of products in fast food and other restaurants. Frozen and fresh fillets are also becoming more available in some markets.

Nutrition Information

Alaska pollock is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, high in protein, and low in carbohydrates and fat. The nutritional composition of processed seafood products made from Alaskan Pollock varies depending on the ingredients added to the product and the method of preparation. Breaded items have additional carbohydrates and calories and may have more saturated fat if they are fried or cooked in oil. Surimi products may have lower levels of protein and fat and higher levels of carbohydrates. All of these products contain omega-3 fatty acids although the levels may be lower. Specific nutrition information for various products is available on their nutrition labels.

Management and Sustainability

The Alaskan Pollock fishery is highly regulated and falls under the jurisdiction of the federal government through the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Northern Pacific Fishery Management Council. Annual catch limits and seasons are set for Pollock fisheries. Limits are also set for bycatch species that may be caught unintentionally when fishing for Pollock. Many Pollock fishermen have formed cooperatives to more efficiently utilize the fishery and limit bycatch of unintended fish species. The eastern Bering Sea and Aleutian Island Pollock stock were certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council since 2005. According to NOAA FishWatch, no overfishing is occurring on Pollock stocks.

References

Seafood Supply and Commercial Fisheries Reference: National Marine Fisheries Service, 2017. https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/resource/document/fisheries-united-states-2017-report

NOAA Fish Watch

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

Canned tuna

Types and Sources of Products

The canned tuna industry is over 100 years old. Tuna canning began in the early 1900s to produce a substitute for canned sardines, and canned tuna quickly grew into one of the most popular seafood products in the United States. About 300 million pounds of canned tuna is imported into the U.S. from other countries each year. The major suppliers of canned tuna to the U.S include Thailand, Philippines, Ecuador, Vietnam and Indonesia.

The 5 main commercial tuna species are described below:

Albacore Tuna

Primarily sold in canned tuna as ‘white’ tuna meat.
Most of the canned albacore is caught in the open waters of the Pacific.
Pacific Albacore can live up to 12 years and can grow to 80 pounds in the open ocean.
U.S. caught albacore is primarily from the Pacific Coast but it is also caught in the Atlantic Ocean. It can be sold as fresh packed canned tuna or in loins.

Skipjack Tuna

Primarily sold as canned tuna and labeled as ‘light’ tuna.
Almost all of the global harvest of Pacific skipjack tuna comes from the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.
The majority of fresh and frozen skipjack tuna sold in the U.S. is imported from Mexico, South Korea and Ecuador.
Pacific Skipjack Tuna grow up to nearly 4 feet and more than 70 pounds.

Yellowfin Tuna

Yellowfin is often marketed as frozen tuna steaks or fresh loins or steaks.
A small amount is canned as ‘light’ tuna meat mixed with skipjack.
Pacific Yellowfin Tuna can grow up to 400 lbs and have a relatively short lifespan of 6 to 7 years.

Bigeye Tuna

Bigeye look similar to Yellowfin, but the bigeye’s eyes are larger than the yellowfin’s and their finlets have black edges .
Pacific Bigeye Tuna can grow to 6.5 feet long and live up to 8 years.
Bigeye is frequently served in sashimi or sushi dishes or as fresh or frozen steaks or loins.

Bluefin Tuna

Pacific Bluefin tuna is the highest valued Atlantic tuna species in the market with inividual fish reaching three million dollars at auction.
Western Atlantic Bluefin Tuna can live up to 20 years and can produce up to 10 million eggs per year.
Bluefin is used almost exclusively in sashimi or sushi dishes.

Product Forms

The canned tuna sold in supermarkets or in foodservice outlets, delis, or in tuna sandwiches is either albacore or a mixture of skipjack and yellowfin tuna. “Light tuna” which consists mostly of skipjack and small amounts of yellowfin is the less expensive product and represents the largest portion of canned tuna sales in the U.S. Albacore tuna is the only species authorized to be labeled ‘white meat tuna’ in the United States. Fresh or frozen tuna loins or steaks sold in retail stores and restaurants are generally yellowfin, bigeye, or albacore tuna. High quality or “sushi grade” bigeye and bluefin tuna are delicacies that are usually used in sushi and sashimi dishes.
Nutrition

Canned tuna is a good source of essential nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, high quality protein, selenium and Vitamin D. Most tuna species have approximately 2 grams of fat per 113 gram portion and less than 45 milligrams of cholesterol and sodium. Tuna also provides an important dietary source of the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids needed for good heart health, brain function and normal growth and development. Albacore and bluefin tuna have the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids followed by skipjack and yellowfin. The canning process creates a convenient, nutritious product with a long shelf-life that is a good source of protein and other nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids. The nutritional composition of canned tuna products is influenced by the liquid (oil or water) that it is packed in and whether or not other ingredients such as salt are added. Nutritional labels provide a basis to compare these products.

Management and Sustainability

As a highly migratory fish, tuna can travel thousands of miles in their lifetime, making it an accessible fishery for many nations around the globe. Highly migratory species require international cooperation for fishery management. The U.S. is a member of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) as well as the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). Both organizations have been created to conserve and manage tuna fisheries in the Pacific Ocean. Pacific albacore tuna caught along the U.S. Pacific coast recently received sustainability certification through the Marine Stewardship Council. In the Atlantic Ocean the U.S. is a member of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas. The U.S. domestic fishery is managed by the NOAA Fisheries Service Highly Migratory Species Management Division.

References

National Marine Fisheries Service, 2018. https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/resource/document/fisheries-united-states-2017-report.

NOAA FishWatch

Catfish

Types and Sources of Products

Farm raised domestic catfish has been one the top ten most frequently consumed seafood products in the U.S. for almost 20 years. Consumption levels over the past decade have been around 1 pound per person each year.

In the United States, the term catfish refers to the popular farm raised variety known as channel catfish (Ictalurus puntatus) native to the Southeastern states. These catfish are grown on farms located in the southeast, primarily in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Farm raised U.S. catfish are different from catfish species that live in the wild, and from various other catfish species that are imported from other parts of the world.

Catfish is the leading aquaculture produced seafood product in the U.S. The annual harvest of farm raised catfish in the U.S. is at least twice as much as the annual aquaculture production of all other species of fish and shellfish combined. Annual production over the past decade has ranged from about 500 to 650 million pounds. Catfish are grown in controlled ponds using special formulated feeds based on natural grains. On average, it takes approximately 18 months for catfish to grow to a harvestable size. During this period the fish receive constant attention, and water quality, growth rates, and health are monitored. Production is controlled and staggered to assure that fresh and frozen catfish products are available throughout the year.
Product Forms and Buyer Advice

Farm raised catfish is available in a variety of different forms. Whole fish that have been eviscerated (gutted) and headed with or without the skin intact are available in most markets. Fillets are cut to be skinless and boneless and do not contain the small pinbones found in many other fish. Smaller portions including nuggets, strips or chunks are cut from the whole fish or fillets. All product forms are available as fresh, refrigerated, or frozen raw fish or as products that may include breading, flavorings or other ingredients.

Domestically grown catfish should be identified as a farm raised product of the United States or a specific U.S. state. Imported catfish should be identified by the country of origin and the accepted market name for the species of catfish being sold. For example, the catfish species commonly raised in Vietnam should be called Basa, Swai, or Tra to distinguish it from the U.S. farm raised catfish whose acceptable market name is Catfish.

The edible meat of catfish (raw or cooked) should be free of any objectionable aromas or off-flavors. The raw odor is best described as neutral or mild. Some aromatic descriptions, best noted in the cooked form, are nutty, buttery, chick-like, and grain-like (corn). Off-odors or flavors in some catfish have been associated with the conditions of the growing waters (algae-like, woody and musty). Domestic catfish are subject to inspection by the USDA, and quality control procedures and sensory monitoring are used to assure a high quality product with uniform mild and neutral aroma and taste prior to harvest and market distribution.

Nutritional Information

Catfish is a moderately fatty fish that is also a good source of high quality protein. A nutrition label for a 3 ounce cooked portion of catfish is provided. Nutrient levels can be affected by the ingredients and cooking method used to prepare catfish fillets.
Sustainability and Management

Farmed production of domestic catfish exceeds demand such that additional production is possible and sustainable. Production concerns involve available feeds and production costs, but significant research is investigating options for continued and sustainable catfish aquaculture in the United States.

References

National Marine Fisheries Service, 2018. https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/resource/document/fisheries-united-states-2017-report

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

Clams

There are over 150 different edible species of clams in the world. All clams are bivalve (two shells) mollusks that obtain their food by pumping water through their system and filtering small organisms from surrounding waters. Clams bury themselves in bottom sand or sediments and differ from other bivalves like oysters that grow attached or clustered to hard surfaces and other shells, or scallops that can move about the bottom. The flavor and color of clams is influenced by the sand or sediment and the waters that they live in.

Types and Sources of Product

There are a variety of clam species in the United States that are harvested from the wild or farm raised. Some of the more common species from the Atlantic and Pacific coasts along with their market name, common name, scientific name, and harvest locations are provided below.

Market Name Common Name Harvest Locations Product Form
Surf Clam  Spisula solidissima Atlantic and Gulf Coast Ocean waters Chopped clam meat or strips
Hardshell Clam or Quahog Mercenaria mercenariaMercenaria campechiensis Atlantic and Gulf Coast Near shore coastal waters Live whole clams
Softshell Clam or Steamers Mya arenaria Atlantic and Gulf Coast Near shore coastal waters Live whole clams
Ocean Quahogs or Mahogany Clams Artica islandica Atlantic and Gulf Coast Ocean waters Chopped clam meat or strips
Manila Clams Tapes philippinarum            Pacific Coast Live whole clams
Butter Clams Saxidomus giganteus Pacific Coast Live whole clams
Geoduck Clams (gooey duck) Panopea abrupta Pacific Coast Live whole clams or meat strips or portions
Littleneck Clam Protothaca staminea Pacific Coast Live whole clams
Razor Clam Ensis directus                Siliqua patula Atlantic Coast           Pacific Coast Live whole clams

Product Forms and Buyer Advice

Knowledge of the type or name for clams is important to distinguish products in a particular region. Local nomenclature can include product names as well as size categories or other product features. A consumer ordering littleneck clams in Portland Maine will likely get a completely different species of clam than someone ordering littleneck clams in Portland, Oregon.

Clams come in many product forms. The whole form, known as shellstock (both shells intact), is available fresh and preferably alive or sometimes frozen. The form is eaten raw, steamed or added to various recipes that include the shells for appearance. The half-shell form (top shell removed) can be provided fresh or frozen and some come topped with flavorings or stuffing.

Different sizes of live whole clams are often given market names to describe size. The largest clams are called chowders followed by cherrystones, topnecks, middlenecks, and littlenecks, which are the smallest. These size designations are not standardized and may vary from one region to another. The price will also vary depending on the size, with the smallest littlenecks commanding the highest price because they are frequently the preferred product for the half shell market.

The shucked form (both shells removed) can be provided as whole, chopped, steaked or stripped portions that are fresh, frozen, canned or breaded. Popular processed clam products include juices, chowders and soups.

All varieties especially those harvested or grown in near shore and inland waters adjacent to coastal development must be from ‘approved’ waters as maintained and designated by state authorities. Site evaluations and water testing, is used to determine if waters are approved for harvesting. Clams harvesters, processors and shippers must also be licensed by their state regulatory agency. In addition, all containers of clams must be properly tagged so that the waters from which they are harvested can be identified along with those who have handled the product from the harvester to the retail store or restaurant.

When buying fresh whole clams, it is important to make sure that they are alive. The shells of live clams should be tightly closed or try to close when tapped or agitated. A tradition in the U.S. is to eat clams raw on the half shell. Although state and federal regulatory authorities have extensive programs in place to ensure that live bivalves are safe to eat, the system is not perfect and the risk of foodborne illness for these products is higher than for cooked foods. Health authorities have advised high risk individuals, including young children, elderly adults, pregnant women and any person with a compromised immune system (commonly associated with liver diseases, alcoholism, chemotherapy, steroid use, AIDS, diabetes and/or routine use of antacids) not to eat raw animal products like meat, poultry, shellfish like oysters and clams, and eggs which may contain potentially harmful viruses or bacteria for decades.

A special note of caution is necessary for consumers that plan to harvest their own clams rather than purchase them through established commercial sources. Any personal or recreational harvest must be from ‘approved’ waters and consumers should contact local authorities to identify the approved locations and resources.

Nutrition Information

Clams are a low fat, high protein seafood choice with an above average amount of healthful minerals such as selenium, zinc, iron and magnesium and B vitamins like niacin. The nutritional profile of clam products will be determined by the product form and any added ingredients. A nutrition label for a 3 ounce portion of clams cooked by moist heat (steamed) is provided.
Management and Sustainability

Clams represent one of our nation’s most sustainable seafood resources. Natural production remains strong and exceeds demand, and farmed production is improving and expanding. The ocean based resource of surf and mahogany clams is managed under a Surf Clam–Ocean Quahog Management Plan and the resource is healthy. Other clam species are primarily harvested in state waters (up to 3 miles from shore) and are managed by state fishery management programs. Clams are a good example of a sustainable resource because they are dependent on clean and healthy waters, and are effectively managed at the local level. They are an important part of a healthy ecosystem because their active filtering can help improve or maintain water quality.

References

National Marine Fisheries Service, 2011. Fisheries of the United States 2010

NOAA Fish Watch

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

Cod

Types and Sources of Product

In the United States two similar but different cod species are harvested commercially, the Atlantic cod native to the northern Atlantic Ocean and Pacific cod which can be found throughout the northern Pacific Ocean. Both of these cod species are part of a group of fish species often referred to as “Groundfish” because they usually live on or near the ocean floor. Some other species in this group include pollock, haddock, hake, ocean perch and flatfish.

The majority of cod currently landed in the United States is Pacific Cod. This fishery takes place off of the west coast of the U.S. and Alaska with the majority of landings from the Alaskan fishery. Pacific cod are harvested with trawl nets, long lines, and traps.

Atlantic cod ranges from the Mid-Atlantic U.S. states through New England and the northern waters of the Atlantic Ocean in Canada, Greenland and Europe. The primary fishing gear is trawl nets with some of the catch from gillnets and long lines.

There are no existing commercial aquaculture operations for Atlantic or Pacific Cod in the United States, although ocean farming techniques for Atlantic Cod are being developed.

The United States imports cod mainly from Canada, China and Iceland.

Product Forms

Atlantic and Pacific Cod comes in many product forms including fresh and frozen fillets, frozen whole fish, breaded fillets or portions, smoked, dried, salted and canned products. Cod is one of the types of groundfish that are often used in traditional “fish and chips”.

Nutrition

Cod is a low fat flaky white meat fish that is a good source of protein, phosphorus, niacin, and Vitamin B-12. An individual 100 g (raw) portion of cod has less than 90 calories, less than one gram of fat, and 17 grams of protein.
Management & Sustainability

Atlantic cod populations are currently believed to be low and strict management measures have been implemented to rebuild the population. This East Coast fishery is highly regulated and fishing is restricted to ensure sustainability.

Pacific cod is considered healthy and abundant throughout its range and not subject to overfishing. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, Pacific Cod is “hailed as being one of the best managed fisheries in the world”.

References

NOAA Fish Watch

NOAA Status of Fisheries 2017

Crab

Types and Sources of Products

There are several species of crab that are commercially important in the United States. These include King and Snow crab caught in Alaska, Dungeness crab caught along the West coast and Alaska, and Blue crab caught along much of the Eastern seaboard and the Gulf of Mexico. Total commercial landings of all crab species in the United States over the past decade have ranged from 275 to 350 million pounds per year with an annual dockside value between 400 and 550 million dollars.

The blue crab fishery is the largest crab fishery in the United States with over 150 million pounds landed on average with a value of over $200 million in 2010. Dungeness crab is the second largest crab fishery with an average of 60 million pounds caught and a total value of almost $140 million in 2010. Dungeness crabs are caught along much of the U.S. Pacific coast and a large portion of the catch is from Oregon and is the state’s most valuable single-species fishery. King and snow crabs are highly valued commercial species mainly caught in Alaska.

Fresh and frozen whole crabs, sections or legs, and frozen, pasteurized or canned crab meat is also imported into the U.S. from many different countries around the world. For most of the past decade, between 150 and 200 million pounds of crabs, 15 to 30 million pounds of frozen or pasteurized crab meat, and 50 to 70 million pounds of canned crab meat were imported annually.

Blue Crabs

Blue crab is the largest crab fishery in the United States.
Blue crab the mainly harvested in coastal bays and estuaries along much of the Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico.
Blue crabs are important to areas like the Chesapeake Bay because of their ecological, economical and historical value.

Snow (Tanner) Crabs

Snow crabs are fished at ocean depths of 240 to 600 feet.
Snow crabs can live up to 20 years.
Snow crabs are only found in the Bering and Chukchi Seas in Alaska.

Dungeness Crabs

Dungeness crabs can live over 8 years and can reach a size of 9 inches across the shell
Dungeness crabs are named after a small fishing village on the Strait of Juan de Fuca in Washington State.
Commercial crab pots are placed at depths of 30 to 600 feet and most of the harvest occurs from December through February.

King Crabs

King crabs are mainly found in Bristol Bay and in the Aleutian Islands in Alaska.
King crab is one of the most valuable seafood products harvested in the U.S. In 2009, the U.S. catch of 22.3 million pounds had a dockside value of over $86 million.
The largest king crab on record had a leg span of nearly 5-feet across.

Product Forms

Most crab species are available as either live whole crabs, fresh cooked whole crabs, or frozen cooked whole crabs, sections or single legs. Crabs can be found in the marketplace all year because of freezing and other storage techniques. Crab meat that has been picked from the shell is also a common and popular product form. Crab meat is available as refrigerated fresh, pasteurized, or frozen meat and is often packed in metal or plastic containers. The meat of various types of crabs harvested in the U.S. and many other countries around the world is also available as a canned product.

Buyer Advice

As with any seafood product, buy crab and crab meat from a reputable source that has high standards for quality and sanitation. Live crabs should be alert and active in the tank and can be stored outside of water for a short period of time. Fresh and pasteurized crab meat must be refrigerated.

Nutrition

All crab species are low in fat and a good source of protein. Like other marine species, crabs are rich in minerals like selenium and other nutrients. Some crab products that are brine frozen may have higher levels of sodium. Nutritional labels for two common species of cooked crab are provided.
Management and Sustainability

Most crabs are caught using traps or ‘crab pots’. In most fisheries, regulations specify the type of crab pots that can be used to ensure that appropriate size crabs are caught, escape panels are used to reduce by-catch, and biodegradable rings are incorporated to prevent ghost fishing. Ghost fishing is a term used when lost gear is able to continue to catch marine life. Both the King and Snow (tanner) crab fisheries are managed by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. King crab populations are healthy and snow crab populations are rebuilding under current regulations. About 99% of the Dungeness crab in the U.S. market is from domestic sources, and the Tri-State Dungeness Crab Project allows the Fish and Wildlife agencies from California, Oregon and Washington to consult on issues affecting the commercial fishery. The Dungeness crab fishery was the first crab fishery to achieve Marine Stewardship Council status. The blue crab fishery is also primarily managed by state regulations with interstate cooperation. For example, in the Chesapeake Bay, the Bi-State Blue Crab Advisory Committee which includes the states of Maryland and Virginia in collaboration with the Chesapeake Bay Commission oversees the management of the blue crab fishery.

References

National Marine Fisheries Service 2011, Fisheries of the United States, 2010.

NOAA FishWatch

Flatfish

Types and Sources of Products

There are several different types of flatfish available to the seafood consumer in the United States. The most recognizable species include halibut, flounder and sole.

As the name implies, flatfish have an unusually flat body shape which make them well-suited for life close to the ocean floor. There are many different species of flatfish that are sold as flounder or sole which are among the top 10 species consumed in the United States.

The majority of flounder and sole are commercially harvested in the U.S. by trawl net fisheries. Hook and line fisheries are responsible for the majority of halibut catch. There are also important recreational fisheries that catch flounder and halibut by hook and line.

Flatfish species including flounder, sole, halibut and turbot are also imported into the United States for consumption as fresh or frozen dressed fish, fillets or blocks. Flounder and sole are imported primarily from Canada, China, Europe, Mexico and Argentina. Halibut is imported primarily from Canada, China and Europe.

Flounder

There are many different flounder species worldwide, and flounder are harvested in the U.S. in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The primary Atlantic species are Summer, Winter, Yellowtail and Witch flounder. The primary Pacific species is Arrowtooth flounder which is primarily harvested in Alaskan waters. Most flounder are harvested by trawl fisheries.

Sole

The three largest sole fisheries in the United States by volume are for Rock sole, Flathead sole, and Dover sole from the Pacific Ocean. Rock and Flathead sole are primarily caught in Alaskan waters, and Dover Sole is caught along the U.S. Pacific coast fishery with the majority of landings coming into Oregon. Sole is primarily harvested by trawl vessels.

Halibut

The majority of halibut landed in the United States commercially is Pacific halibut. Managed by a treaty between the United States and Canada, harvesting is done by bottom long-line gear and takes place off of Alaska, Washington and Oregon.

Product Forms

Flatfishes are generally available as fresh or frozen whole or dressed fish or fillets. Some species of fresh flatfish may be only available during certain times of the year. Frozen dressed fish or fillets or steaks are likely to be available year round.

Nutrition

Flatfish are all low fat white fish with a mild taste. The taste and texture varies from one species to another. All flatfish are less than 100 calories per 3 ounce cooked serving, are a good source of protein and have less than 2 grams of fat. Most flatfish species are also a good source of niacin, B vitamins, phosphorus, calcium and selenium.

Management & Sustainability

The Arrowtooth Flounder fishery off the west coast is managed by the Pacific Fishery Management Council and the population is healthy. The Alaskan Arrowtooth fishery is managed by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and this population is also healthy with no overfishing occurring.

The Summer Flounder fishery is managed by the Atlantic State Marine Fisheries Commission and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council. Once overfish, summer flounder recovered to sustainable levels in 2011 under a rebuilding plan. The Winter and Yellowtail flounder fisheries are managed by the New England Fishery Management Council, and strict management measures have been implemented to rebuild these populations, some of which are overfished.

The Dover sole fishery off the west coast is managed by the Pacific Fishery Management Council – the populations are healthy and no overfishing is occurring. The Dover sole fishery in Alaska is managed by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

The Rock and Flathead sole fisheries in Alaska are managed by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. These populations are considered healthy and no overfishing is occurring.

Pacific Halibut is managed by the International Pacific Halibut Commission through a treaty between the United States and Canada. Pacific halibut populations are healthy and no overfishing is occurring.

References

NOAA Fish Watch

NOAA Status of Fisheries 2009

Lobster

Types and Sources of Products

There are two distinct lobster fisheries in the United States, the American lobster off the coast of New England and Eastern Canada, and the spiny lobster in the Florida Keys. The American lobster fishery is one of the most valuable fisheries in the United States with an average total catch of approximately 90 to 100 million pounds worth up to $400 million annually. In addition to U.S. lobster harvests, a large amount of northern lobsters are imported from Canada. The lobster’s habitat is rocky areas from just below the surface to depths of 2,300 feet, although they are usually concentrated at depths of 130 feet. Lobsters molt as they age, and it is estimated the American lobster will molt over 20 times in 5 to 8 years before reaching the minimum size for commercial fishing.

The spiny lobster fishery lands approximately 4 to 6 million pounds annually with a value between $20-40 million. Most of the spiny lobster sold in the U.S. is imported. These lobsters can be found in dense vegetation as juveniles and eventually migrate to coral reefs as adults. Like American lobsters, the spiny lobsters will molt about 25 times in the first 5 to 7 years of life. The minimum size for commercial and recreational fisheries is 3 inches.

The U.S. export over 50 million pounds of lobster annually, with the main importer being Canada, followed by Italy, Spain and France. The U.S. and Canada are the major suppliers of lobster in the world. There is currently no aquaculture of lobsters, although feasibility studies have been done for both commercial species.

American Lobster

American lobster is also known as New England or Northern lobster.
Lobsters are found in colder waters off of the New England coast
The American lobster is one of the most valuable fisheries in the United States.
The Northern lobsters’ lifespan is thought to exceed 50 years.
The largest American lobster on record weighed 44 pounds.

Spiny Lobster

Spiny lobster is also known as Caribbean lobster.
Spiny lobsters live in warm waters, and the main U.S fishery is in the Florida Keys.
Frozen lobster tails in U.S. markets are usually spiny lobster.
Spiny lobsters can grow to 3 feet or more.

Product Forms

Lobster is sold mostly fresh or frozen as shell-on lobster tails, cooked meat or live whole lobsters. A small amount of lobster meat is canned.

Buyer Advice

As with any seafood product, one should purchase lobster and lobster meat from a reputable source that has high standards for quality and sanitation. Live lobster quality can decrease as it is stored in tanks, so it is best to buy from a source with a high volume of sales. Lobsters can be stored alive out of water in a moist environment for up to one day. The minimum weight for market lobster sales is 1-pound.

Nutrition

Both species of lobster are low in fat and a good source of protein. Like other marine crustaceans, lobsters are high in selenium and other minerals. For more information on the nutritional content of lobster, see the nutrition labels provided.

Management and Sustainability

Spiny lobster is found in the warmer waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The commercial fishery can be found throughout the Caribbean and the U.S fishery is mainly in the Florida Keys. This species is managed by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, which includes waters 3-200 miles off the coasts of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and East Florida to Key West; and by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council. In the Caribbean the spiny lobster fishery is managed by the Caribbean Fishery Management Council.

Within 3 miles of shore, the American lobster is managed by the Atlantic State Marine Fisheries Commission under the Interstate Fishery Management Plan. States implement management measures for lobster harvesting in their waters within 3 miles of the shore consistent with the recommendations of this management plan. In off-shore federal waters (3-200 miles) the northern lobster is managed under the Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Cooperative Management Act.

Both lobster fisheries use traps to catch lobster which have little impact on the environment and limited by-catch. Regulations have been put in place to reduce the number of ‘ghost traps’. Ghost traps are lost gear that continues to capture fish and lobsters. Biodegradable hinges and escape panels are required on all lobster traps to reduce their occurrence. Other gear restrictions and regulations include trap size, gear marking requirements, and escape vent. Lobsters are also taken as by-catch in some trawl fisheries. Regulations are in place stating the minimum and maximum carapace length limits, protection of females, gear restrictions, trap limits, and several area-specific limited entry programs. The recreational fishery of spiny lobsters is done primarily by divers; which is allowed during a special 2-day period before commercial fishing begins.

References

NOAA FishWatch

National Marine Fisheries Service, 2011, Fisheries of the United States, 2010.

Oysters

There are over 200 species of oysters in the world, but only a few species are commonly used for food. Most species are too scattered or too small to harvest for food, and some are collected for their thorny and wing-shaped ornamental shells. Oysters are bivalve (two shells) mollusks that obtain their food by pumping water through their system and filtering small organisms from surrounding waters. They grow near the bottom and attach themselves in clusters to hard surfaces or shells. The edible varieties are usually cultivated in approved coastal waters that are closely monitored to assure product safety. These extra measures for product safety are necessary because many consumers prefer to eat raw oysters.

Types and Sources of Product

Two species of oysters are widely harvested for food in the U.S., the Eastern oyster (Crassoteria virginica) and the Pacific oyster (Crassoteria gigas). There are significant variations within each species from one harvest location to another. The shape, color and taste of the oyster and its meat are influenced by the surrounding waters and the method of cultivation. Natural cultivation relies on maintaining existing oyster beds that support the full life cycle of the native oysters. Farmed cultivation or aquaculture can use structures and facilities to help support and encourage growth of selected oysters in particular coastal locations. Both approaches depend on natural growth in marine waters.

Since oysters feed by filtering the surrounding waters, the taste will vary (e.g., salty, earthy, etc.) and reflect the unique conditions of the waters in which they live and the season of harvest. For these reasons, oysters are commonly marketed with names associated with their harvest location or region. For example, in the United States along the Eastern Atlantic coast and Gulf of Mexico the common species Crassosteria virginica, may be sold as Wellfleet Oysters (from Cape Cod), Blue Point Oysters (from New York and Connecticut), Chesapeake Bay Oysters (from Maryland and Virginia), Apalachicola Bay Oysters (from Florida) and SW Pass Oysters (from Louisiana). The common west coast species Crassosteria gigas, may be sold as Fanny Bay Oysters (from British Columbia), Willapa Oysters (from Washington), Umpqua Oysters (from Oregon) and Hog Island Oysters (from California). Many other varieties may be similarly named to identify the waters or region where they are harvested.

Product Forms and Buyer Advice

Oysters can be purchased in many forms. Whole oysters (shellstock) have both shells intact and usually come alive and may be cooked in the shell, or shucked to remove the raw meat for cooking. Half-shelled oysters are typically prepared at the restaurant or bar as a raw selection or a cooked product with special toppings. Shucked meat is the edible portion removed from the shell and sold in pints, gallons, trays or other containers. The meats can be used as an ingredient in recipes, soups and stuffing or be breaded for cooking. All product forms can be purchased refrigerated or frozen.

The size and shape of an oyster will be influenced by the harvest location. Crowded growth conditions on natural oyster beds or cultivation practices used can determine the length, uniformity of size and depth of the shells (cup shaped or flat shaped). There are no formal or regulated size categories for whole oysters or shucked meats. Shellstock can be purchased by shell size (count) or weight per container size (bushel, bag or box). Market names are also used to describe the number of shucked meats per pound. Extra large or counts are the largest with less than 20 meats per pint followed by large or extra selects, medium or selects, and small or standards which may have up to 60 meats per pint.

Oyster color may also be influenced by harvest location and season. In general, the edible meats should appear cream to beige in color surrounded by clear liquor (natural moisture associated with the shucked oyster). Discoloration is uncommon and can be removed during processing. Rarely a shade of pink, green or black can develop after shucking. These are seasonal events related to the oyster’s diet that can include certain natural colored plankton.

When buying fresh whole oysters, it is important to make sure that they are alive. The shells of live oysters should be tightly closed or try to close when tapped or agitated. A tradition in the U.S. is to eat oysters raw on the half shell. Although state and federal regulatory authorities have extensive programs in place to ensure that live bivalves are safe to eat, the system is not perfect and the risk of foodborne illness for these products is higher than for cooked foods. Health authorities have advised high risk individuals, including young children, elderly adults, pregnant women and any person with a compromised immune system (commonly associated with liver diseases, alcoholism, chemotherapy, steroid use, AIDS, diabetes and/or routine use of antacids) not to eat raw animal products like meat, poultry, shellfish like oysters and clams, and eggs which may contain potentially harmful viruses or bacteria for decades.

A special note of caution is necessary for consumers that plan to harvest their own oysters rather than purchase them through established commercial sources. Any personal or recreational harvest must be from ‘approved’ waters and consumers should contact local authorities to identify the approved locations and resources.

Nutrition Information

Oysters are a low fat, high protein seafood choice with an above average amount of healthful minerals such as selenium, zinc, iron and magnesium and B vitamins. The nutritional profile of oyster products will be determined by the product form and any added ingredients. Nutrition labels for 3 ounce cooked portions of Pacific and Eastern oysters are provided. Three ounces of oysters provide more that 1 gram of omega-3 fatty acids.

Management and Sustainability

Oysters are a sustainable seafood product because they can be cultivated as a renewable resource. Maintenance of natural oyster beds and new aquaculture practices assure a continuous supply in the United States. Current limitations are associated with the availability of clean coastal waters that can comply with stringent standards for approved harvest, and outbreaks of natural oyster diseases. Oysters are an important part of a healthy ecosystem because their active filtering can help improve or maintain water quality. Oysters are primarily harvested in state waters (up to 3 miles from shore) and are managed by state fishery management programs.

References

National Marine Fisheries Service, 2011. Fisheries of the United States 2010

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

Pangasius

Pangasius is a term used for a special variety of imported freshwater fish that have become the tenth most popular seafood product eaten in the United States. Consumers are eating about 6 ounces of Pangasius per year and demand for this moderately priced selection is expected to continue to increase. It is a primary example of the increasing demand and dependence on aquaculture or farm raised seafood products.

Pangasius is the scientific family name for certain types of freshwater catfish primarily found in Vietnam, Cambodia and neighboring nations. Like the U.S. catfish industry, aquaculture production techniques have been applied to these species, and the number of fish being raised in cages and ponds in the Mekong River Delta region of Vietnam has increased rapidly. The demand for these fish is driving an expansion of farming operations in other nations including China, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. All of the species being raised in these countries are Asian catfish.

Confusion about the variety of different catfish species produced in many different countries has created problems for buyers trying to distinguish product attributes and price. The nomenclature is complicated by similar names for different fish species and by the production of the same fish species in different locations. The current approved market name specified by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration for various catfish species from different parts of the world are provided in the Table below.

Market Names Scientific Names Current Sources
Catfish or Channel Catfish   Ictalurus punctatus   United States and China
Basa or Pangasius    Pangasius bocourti  Vietnam, China and neighboring Asian nations
Swai, Tra, Sutchi, Striped Pangasius or Pangasius Pangasius hypophthalmus Vietnam, China and neighboring Asian nations

All of these fish are produced by aquaculture. Wild harvest is possible but very limited, and the wild fish are subject to considerable variation in quality.

Product Forms and Buyer Advice

Pangasius is available in the same forms available for most fish. The most popular form is boneless, skinless fillets or portions in different sizes and shapes cut from fillets. Fillets can range in size up to 6-8 ounces. Most products are shipped to the U.S. frozen and are available as a frozen item or thawed and sold as a previously frozen refrigerated product.

Market demand and associated product prices for different Pangasius species reflect consumer preferences. Basa is the preferred imported variety of Pangasius due to a mild to sweet flavor, whiter meat color and somewhat flaky cooked texture. In contrast the Swai or Tra can appear more off-white to beige and the fillets are thinner with a more coarse texture. The characteristics of the traditional United States farm raised catfish seems to fall somewhere between the two Pangasius selections. Consumer preferences are usually influenced by price or the intended recipes.

Market preference for Basa has boosted prices above that for similar portions of Swai or Tra. The hardier Swai or Tra grow rapidly and can yield market size products within less than 10 months which is another factor that makes this species more economical. Illegal substitution of Pangasius for more valuable fish like grouper has been documented in the U.S. Pangasius should be identified both by the correct market name and country of origin.

Nutrition Information

Pangasius species have a low to moderate fat content with high levels of protein. The amount and composition of the fat content will be influenced by the feed used in aquaculture operations. A nutrition label for a four ounce raw portion of Pangasius is provided. The actual nutrient content of products that are consumed will be affected by added ingredients and the cooking method that is used.

Sustainability and Management

Continuing world wide demand for seafood will require more aquaculture production. The rapid growth in the popularity of Pangasius in the United Sates is a prime example of this trend. Various organizations, regional and national authorities, and third parties have focused on measures to assure sustainability. Producers, buyers, international organizations, and national authorities are advancing and mandating the use of Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP’S) to minimize impacts on local environments and communities. It is likely that Pangasius production will continue to increase with numerous measures to assure responsible practices and sustainability.

Market attempts to distinguish product sources have resulted in publicity claims about food safety issues related to pollution or the use of antibiotics in these products. While some of these concerns may have been partially true in prior and limited situations, both growers and governments have responded to these claims by imposing additional food safety controls and specific product monitoring procedures.

References

National Marine Fisheries Service, 2011. Fisheries of the United States 2010

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

Salmon

Types and Sources of Products

The term “salmon” refers to a variety of species that are all “anadromous” fish, which means they are born in fresh water rivers and streams, migrate to the ocean to mature and spend much of their adult life, and then return to the streams and rivers in which they were born to spawn (reproduce) and then die. Six types of salmon are consumed in the United States including: Atlantic, Chinook, Chum, Coho, Pink, and Sockeye Salmon. Of these, five species (Chinook, Chum, Coho, Pink and Sockeye) are harvested from wild fisheries in the Pacific Ocean and one type, Atlantic salmon, is primarily farmed raised.

Salmon has been the third most frequently consumed seafood product in the U.S. for most of the past decade. Average consumption has consistently been around 2 pounds per person per year, surpassed only by shrimp and canned tuna. Two-thirds of the salmon consumed in the United States is farmed and imported primarily from Norway, Chile and Canada. U.S. commercial landings of salmon were 1 billion pounds valued at $687.8 million—an increase of 447.2 million pounds (80%) and almost $267.5 million (64%) compared with 2016. Alaska accounted for nearly 98 percent of total landings; Washington, 2 percent; California, Oregon, and the Great Lakes accounted for less than 1 percent of the catch. Sockeye salmon landings were 291.6 million pounds valued at $323.7 million—an increase of over 4.3 million pounds (2%) and $73.5 million (more than 29%) compared with 2016. Chinook salmon landings decreased to 9 million pounds—down 2.9 million pounds (over 24%) from 2016. Pink salmon landings were 495.3 million pounds—an increase of 365 million (280%); chum salmon landings were 177.1 million—an increase of nearly 75.8 million (75%); and coho salmon increased to 35.2 million—an increase of nearly 4.9 million (16%) compared with 2016.

Salmon Facts

Atlantic salmon

The majority of salmon currently consumed in the U.S. is farm raised Atlantic salmon from Canada, Chile and Norway.
Farmed Atlantic salmon is primarily sold as fresh or frozen dressed fish, fillets or steaks.
Commercial fishing for wild Atlantic salmon is prohibited in the U.S. because wild population levels in the eastern U.S. are extremely low.

Pink salmon

Almost all the pink salmon harvested in the United States comes from Alaska fisheries with some lesser amounts landed in Washington, and Oregon.
Pink salmon is often sold as a canned product.

Sockeye salmon

Sockeye salmon is caught by U.S. fishermen, mainly in Alaskan waters.
Sockeye salmon is sold fresh, frozen and canned.

Chum salmon

Chum salmon are primarily harvested by U.S. fishermen in Alaska.
Wild fish populations in Alaska are supported by the release of hatchery raised fish.
Chum salmon are sold fresh, frozen and canned

Coho salmon

Most Coho salmon is caught in Alaskan waters, and some is imported from Canada and Chile.
Most Coho salmon is sold fresh or frozen.

Chinook (King) salmon

Chinook salmon are commercially harvested in Alaska, Washington, Oregon and in small amounts off California.
Most Chinook salmon is sold fresh or frozen.

Product Forms

All types of salmon are available in one of three product forms: fresh, frozen or canned. Most of the salmon consumed in the U.S. is either fresh or frozen and the predominant market form in retail stores and restaurants is fillets or steaks. About one fourth or less of the wild domestic salmon catch is canned, and most canned salmon is either pink, chum, or sockeye. Some imported canned salmon is also available in U.S. markets. Smoked salmon is also produced in the U.S. and some is imported. Cold smoked salmon, marketed as “lox” or “nova lox”, is a lightly salted, smoked and partially cooked ready-to-eat product that is sold in retail stores and restaurants as an appetizer or as an ingredient in other dishes. Hot smoked salmon is also lightly salted and fully cooked. Most smoked products are made from either Atlantic, King or Coho salmon.

Nutrition Information

All types of salmon provide a good source of high quality protein and the heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids. The fat and omega-3 content varies from one species to another. Total fat content ranges from approximately 4 to 11 grams per 3 ounce cooked serving. Omega-3 fatty acid content ranges from 700 to 1,800 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids per 3 ounce cooked serving. A summary of the fat and omega-3 content of the six commercially important salmon species is provided in the chart below. Salmon is also a good source of a variety of vitamins and minerals. Canned salmon that contains bones is also a good source of calcium.

Salmon Species Total Fat 
(Grams per 100 g serving (raw))
Saturated Fatty Acids (Milligrams per 100 g serving (raw)) Cholesterol 
(Milligrams per 100 g serving (raw))
Atlantic, Farmed 6.34 981 55
Chinook (King), Wild 10.43 3,100 50
Coho, Wild 5.93 1,260 45
Sockeye, Wild 8.56 1,495 62
Chum, Wild 3.77 840 74
Pink, Wild 3.45 558 52

Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

Management and Sustainability

Although Atlantic salmon are contained in the Atlantic Salmon Fishery Management Plan, they are currently being managed under a federal Recovery Plan in close cooperation with the state of Maine, due to their listing as endangered in 2000. Recovery plans delineate actions that are thought to be necessary to recover and/or protect endangered species. Today, U.S. fishery regulations prohibit commercial and recreational harvest of sea-run Atlantic salmon in state and federal waters. Atlantic salmon aquaculture in the United States must comply with environmental and health standards, and U.S. producers and buyers are involved in improving best practices for aquaculture worldwide.

All management of the Alaska salmon fisheries in federal waters is deferred to the State of Alaska, which is also responsible for managing the commercial, recreational, and subsistence fisheries for salmon in state waters. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game manages salmon in state waters. The salmon populations in Alaskan waters, where most of the U.S. commercial harvest occurs, are all generally considered to be healthy with no overfishing occurring. The salmon fisheries in the federal waters off Washington, Oregon, and California are managed by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) under a different FMP. Each state manages the salmon fishery in their respective state waters. Local populations of some species of salmon native to certain river systems in California, Oregon and Washington are considered threatened and are being actively managed as necessary to preserve habitat and encourage populations to rebuild.

References

National Marine Fisheries Service, 2018. Fisheries of the United States 2017.
NOAA FishWatch
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Food Supply Estimates for Red Meat, Poultry and Fish.
USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

Scallops

Scallops are one of the most popular seafood items due to their unique appealing texture and succulent flavors. U.S. fishermen have landed between 50 and 60 million pounds of scallops annually over the past decade, and it is one of the nation’s most valuable fisheries. Scallops have been among the top ten seafood items consumed in the U.S. for decades, and Americans eat about one third pound of scallops per year.

Types and Sources of Product

There are several types of scallops harvested in North America including the sea scallop, bay scallop and calico scallop. Several types of wild and farm raised scallops are also imported from Japan, China and Europe. A description of common varieties of scallops, harvest locations, and their general size categories are provided in the Table below.

Common Name Scientific Name Size Category Harvest Locations
Sea Scallop Placopecten magellanicus Large Northeast U.S. & Canada
Weathervane Scallop Patinopecten caurinus Large Alaska
Japanese Scallop Patinopecten yessoensis Large Japan
Bay Scallop Argopecten irradians Medium MA to NC
Pink Scallop 
Spiny Scallop
Chlamys rubia     
Chalmys hastate
Medium to Small AK to CA
Calico Scallop Argopecten gibbus Small NC to FL
Queen Scallop Chlamys opercularis Small Europe
Icelandic Scallop Chalmys islandica Small Iceland, Europe & Canada

Product Forms and Buyer Advice

Scallops are available as fresh refrigerated meats or frozen meats. Size categories refer to the size of the adductor muscle (scallop meats) which is the main edible portion of the scallop. Scallop size categories can be simply grouped as large, medium and small. There are no enforced grade designations for scallop size. However, in general large scallops are likely to have between 10 and 30 meats per pound, medium scallops between 30 and 70 per pound, and small scallops between 70 and 110 per pound.

Scallop adductor muscle has a tendency to absorb water when removed from the shell. Likewise, the meats can lose moisture when thawed or stored in refrigeration for some time. For the larger varieties, buyers can specify a purchase for ‘dry’ or ‘wet’ scallops, which refers to prior processing procedures that can influence the moisture content in the scallop. Wet scallops may be treated during processing to retain moisture. Dry scallops are not treated.

In some markets whole scallops are sold as a specialty item, but most U.S. consumers prefer the adductor muscle alone. Similar to oysters and clams, scallops are filter feeding bivalves (two shells) that can be influenced by the contents of the surrounding waters. Certain plankton and the presence of scallop roe can influence the color of some scallop meats. Such coloration (tan, yellow and orange tones) is not a product defect.

The old tale about scallops being made by punching out round portions from some other fish is just that, an old tale. There is no financial incentive for this practice and the resulting products would be very easy to detect.

Nutrition Information

Scallops are a low fat seafood choice that is a good source of protein and some minerals and vitamins. Based on an average serving size of 3.5 ounces (100 grams), a serving of scallops can include 4 to 5 large scallop meats, 9 to 12 medium scallop meats and 15-20 or more small scallop meats. A nutrition label for a 3 ounce cooked portion of steamed scallop meats is provided.

Management and Sustainability

According to the NOAA Fish Watch website, the nation’s most important scallop resource, Atlantic sea scallops, is healthy and harvested at sustainable levels. For example, certain species like the Icelandic scallop from cold arctic waters are more sedentary or attached to the bottom. For this population, fishing activity with the commonly used dredging techniques can impact the resource and special management practices are necessary. In contrast, the rapid growing and somewhat mobile calico scallops found in warm waters about Florida can vary significantly in abundance from year to year with little relation to prior fishing activity.

According to the NOAA Fish Watch website, the nation’s most important scallop resource, Sea scallops, is healthy and harvested at sustainable levels. Fishing effort has been reduced and areas where scallops can be harvested are rotated to maximize scallop yields and protect beds of young scallops as they grow. Bay and calico scallops tend to be harvested in coastal waters close to shore and are primarily managed by state regulations. Overall, most scallop production is subject to effective management programs and aquaculture (scallop farming) is expanding.

References

National Marine Fisheries Service, 2011. Fisheries of the United States 2010

NOAA Fish Watch

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

Shrimp

Shrimp is the most popular seafood eaten in the United States. It represents over 25 percent of the nation’s annual per capita seafood consumption. This calculation indicates that the average consumer eats 4 pounds of shrimp per year.

Types and Sources of Shrimp

There are numerous species of shrimp which can be collectively sold under the single term – shrimp. Occasionally they are sold as prawns, which is a term that refers to larger varieties that are more common in certain international markets. The term, camarones, is Spanish for shrimp or prawns.

There are a variety of different types and sources of shrimp available in U.S. markets.

Cold water shrimp are the smaller varieties harvested in ocean waters in the northwest and northeast regions of the United States and Canada. They are known as Pandalid shrimp. A popular species is the pink colored Pandalus borealis commonly used in salads, soups or chowders. Coldwater shrimp are only available previously cooked and peeled (shell removed).

Warm water shrimp are harvested and farmed in tropical and sub-tropical regions around the world. They include Penaeusand Litopenaneus species that are more commonly sold by reference to basic shell colors (white, brown and pink shrimp). Additional names can include tiger, banana and hopper shrimp. Buyer preferences are usually directed by taste, texture, size and costs which will vary from one species to another.

Wild shrimp refers to either cold water or warm water varieties that are harvested from coastal ocean waters with traditional vessels. They are often preferred for traditional flavors and recipes. The harvesting of wild shrimp is regulated by management programs that set annual production limits. Less than 10 percent of the shrimp eaten in the United Sates comes from wild harvests.

Farmed shrimp refers to warm water varieties that are grown in open and closed pond systems supplemented with formulated feeds. Shrimp diets and pond waters can be controlled to influence production rates and sensory attributes of the shrimp. Over 90 percent of the shrimp eaten in the United States come from farmed sources grown in other countries around the world.

Domestic shrimp is a term used to refer to wild shrimp harvested about the coasts of the United States.

Imported shrimp refers mainly to farm-raised shrimp from productive regions in China, Thailand and many other Asian nations, and the Gulf of Mexico and Pacific coasts of Central and South America.

Product Forms and Buyer Advice

Shrimp can be purchased fresh (refrigerated, never frozen) or frozen. They are available as individual shrimp or in various sized frozen blocks. Frozen shrimp products are the most common forms, and they are available year round. Shrimp are usually sold by weight. Product yield should be considered during the purchase because the price per pound is directly affected by the amount of edible product that is available. For example, headless, peeled and deveined shrimp represent a product form that is all edible but this product form only represents 45 to 50% of the original weight of a whole head-on shrimp so the average price per pound will be higher than product forms that have more waste.

Shrimp are sold by sizes based on the number of individual shrimp per pound. For examples, 25-30 count shrimp means that there are 25 to 30 shrimp in one pound. Typical counts for larger shrimp include: Under 10, 10-15, 16-20 etc. The smallest, coldwater shrimp may have size ranges from 100 to 500 per pound. There are no mandated or regulated size categories for the terms jumbo, extra large, large, medium and small shrimp. These are common market terms which should be explained by the count or number of shrimp per pound. Also, it is important to note that cooked shrimp can be described by the count before or after cooking. In general, the larger sized shrimp of the same species cost more per pound than smaller sizes.

Shrimp color will vary from one species to another and can be influenced by age (size), harvest season, farm site, and diets. The meat color of raw shrimp can range from white to shades of gray and light bluish tints covered by surface patterns of red, pink or dark gray. Some species like tiger shrimp, have a shell color with natural black stripes. All types of shrimp turn a pink or reddish color when cooked.

After harvesting, a black discoloration can appear on the edges of the shrimp’s shell. This is due to a natural color reaction, called melanosis, which occurs after the shrimp are exposed to air, but it does not necessarily indicate poor quality shrimp. Sulfites may be used on certain species to prevent this black discoloration. Current regulations require product labels to clearly state if shrimp have been treated with sulfites. The level of sulfites needed to properly control shrimp melanosis have not been associated with allergic-type reactions in consumers, but some consumers may be hyper sensitive to sulfites and should read labels carefully to avoid an allergic reaction. Some individuals may be allergic to shrimp (a food allergy not related to sulfites) and should avoid eating shrimp and recipes containing shrimp.

Shrimp product types can include raw, cooked, breaded, canned, smoked, pickled and specialty entrees or meals that can be cooked directly in a skillet or microwave oven. Commercially breaded shrimp must contain 50% shrimp, and light breaded products contain 65% shrimp. Restaurant recipes may vary in size designations, percent breading, and other added ingredients.

Nutrition Information

Shrimp is low in fat and high in protein and a moderate source of omega-3 fatty acids. Crustaceans including shrimp have more sodium and cholesterol than other seafood products. It is important to refer to nutrition labels to compare different products, and consider the preparation methods that are used. A sample nutritional label for a 3 ounce portion of cooked (steamed) shrimp is provided. The nutrient content of other products will be influenced by the ingredients such as breading that may be added and the cooking method.

Management and Sustainability

The world supply of shrimp currently exceeds demand. The production of farmed shrimp continues to expand and farming techniques have continued to improve as best practices are implemented, and certification programs become available to provide assurance that responsible production methods are used. Information about the status of the most important species of shrimp caught from the wild in U.S. waters is available from the NOAA Fish Watch Website, which indicates that wild populations are stable and healthy, are being harvested at sustainable levels, and measures to protect marine mammals have been successfully implemented.

References

Seafood Supply and Commercial Fisheries Reference: National Marine Fisheries Service, 2014. Fisheries of the United States 2014

NOAA Fish Watch Website

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

Tilapia

Tilapia has progressively grown in popularity since 2002 when it first entered the top ten list of the most frequently consumed seafood products in the United States. It is currently the fourth most popular type of fish behind tuna, salmon and Alaskan pollock, and the third most popular aquaculture or farm raised seafood product behind shrimp and salmon. Since 2006, Americans have consumed over 1 pound of tilapia per person each year. Predictions suggest it will remain a popular selection due to its mild flavor and taste, versatility in preparation, and competitive prices.

Types and Sources of Products

Tilapia is probably the oldest farm raised fish in the world. Stories from biblical scholars suggest it was the fish used by Jesus to feed the crowds at the Sea of Galilee, the so-called ‘St. Peter’s Fish’. Today, over 80 nations produce farm-raised tilapia including the United States. China is the largest producer accounting for over 50 percent of the world’s production.

There are many different species of tilapia. Aquaculture producers have developed various breeds or hybrids that grow efficiently to market size and have desirable appearance and flavor characteristics. The approved market name for all varieties is ‘Tilapia’, and the three primary species in the marketplace are: Nile or Black tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), Blue tilapia (O. aureus), and Mozambique or red tilapia (O. mossambicus). Although the species names imply different colors, the edible fillets or portions are very similar and more influenced by growing conditions and feeds than external colors.

Tilapia is a hardy herbivorous fish that feeds on algae or small aquatic plant cells, and is primarily raised in freshwater systems using cages, ponds, raceways or open waters. The water conditions in the farming operations have an important impact on product quality and taste. Tilapia has been called the “aqua-chicken” because of the breeding improvements and mass production methods that evoke comparisons to the land based chicken industry in the United States. Organic production methods for tilapia have been developed and some producers are seeking official recognition for their products.

Product Forms and Buyer Advice

Tilapia is popular because it is a mild flavored, white-fleshed fish that is available throughout the year at a competitive price. The most popular product form is skinless and boneless fillets ranging in size from 3 to 9 ounces (5 to 7 ounce fillets are the most common). Various processing and packaging methods are used to ensure that fillets have a mild flavor and retain their bright red color. During the early years of production, tilapia from some sources had unpredictable off-flavors that were associated with water conditions and certain types of algae from different freshwater farming operations. However, recent production improvements have introduced methods to prevent the development of off flavors and screen products to ensure that flavors are uniform.

As the tilapia market has grown, some efforts to creatively market this species or illegally change its name to something more appealing such as sunshine snapper, cherry snapper and pink snapper have occurred. Substituting tilapia for a more valuable species is also illegal, but stands as testimony to its quality attributes.

Nutrition Information

Tilapia has a low to moderate fat content, and is a rich source of high quality protein. A nutrition label for a 3 ounce cooked portion of tilapia is provided. Nutrient levels can be affected by the ingredients and cooking method used to prepare tilapia fillets.

Sustainability and Management

Tilapia is a sustainable farm-raised product. Because tilapia are herbivorous fish that feed on algae, there is no need for feeds produced from wild caught fish. Raising tilapia in some ponds or other small water bodies can actually help improve the quality of waters compromised by excessive algae blooms. Some farming operations are using a technique called aquaponics to cultivate fish and vegetables or herbs together to produce two or more products in the same water based system.

References

National Marine Fisheries Service, 2011. Fisheries of the United States 2010

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

Health Benefits of Omega-3s

There is a significant amount of scientific evidence that suggests that omega-3 fatty acids may play a role in reducing the risk of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in most Western countries. Researchers have found that omega-3 fatty acids can make blood less likely to clot and block blood vessels, and that consuming omega-3s may also decrease levels of some blood fats and possibly cholesterol. Possible relationships between omega-3 fatty acids and other disorders such as cancer, arthritis, and asthma are also currently being studied.

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that are required for healthy human development. They need to be obtained through food. Fish and shellfish are the main dietary sources of two important omega-3 fatty acids known as EPA and DHA. Plants contain a different omega-3 fatty acid called ALA, which is made into EPA and DHA at a low rate in the human body.

EPA and DHA can help reduce the risk of heart disease and contribute to healthy brain and vision development in infants. Health organizations suggest an EPA+DHA intake of at least 250 to 500 milligrams per day. The American Heart Association recommends 1000 milligrams of EPA+DHA per day for patients with coronary heart disease, and two meals of oily fish per week for people without heart disease.

All fish and shellfish contain some omega-3s but the amount can vary. Generally, fattier fish contain more omega-3 fatty acids than leaner fish. Fish with medium to high levels of omega-3 fatty acids include oily ocean fish, such as salmon, herring, mackerel and sardines.

Adapted from: Seafood and Health: The Omega-3 Connection – A Resource for Food and Nutrition Professionals, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Ken Gall, Carole Bisogni, Christina Stark, Carol Sperazza, Maria Sant’Angelo and Gail Bromley

Omega-3 (EPA+DHA) Levels in Common Fish and Shellfish

Health organizations suggest an EPA+DHA intake of at least 250 to 500 milligrams per day. The American Heart Association recommends 1000 milligrams of EPA+DHA per day for patients with coronary heart disease, and two meals of oily fish per week for people without heart disease.

Omega-3 Content of Frequently Consumed Seafood Products

SEAFOOD PRODUCT OMEGA-3s PER 3 OUNCE COOKED PORTION
Herring, Wild (Atlantic & Pacific) ♥♥♥♥♥ >1,500 milligrams
Salmon, Farmed (Atlantic) ♥♥♥♥♥
Salmon, Wild (King) ♥♥♥♥♥
Mackerel, Wild (Pacific & Jack) ♥♥♥♥♥
SEAFOOD PRODUCT OMEGA-3s PER 3 OUNCE COOKED PORTION
Salmon, Canned (Pink, Sockeye & Chum) ♥♥♥♥ 1,000 to 1,500 milligrams
Mackerel, Canned (Jack) ♥♥♥♥
Mackerel, Wild (Atlantic & Spanish) ♥♥♥♥
Tuna, Wild (Bluefin) ♥♥♥♥
SEAFOOD PRODUCT OMEGA-3s PER 3 OUNCE COOKED PORTION
Salmon, Wild (Sockeye, Coho, Chum & Pink) ♥♥♥ 500 to 1,000 milligrams
Sardines, Canned ♥♥♥
Tuna, Canned (White Albacore) ♥♥♥
Swordfish, Wild ♥♥♥
Trout, Farmed (Rainbow) ♥♥♥
Oysters, Wild & Farmed ♥♥♥
Mussels, Wild & Farmed ♥♥♥
SEAFOOD PRODUCT OMEGA-3s PER 3 OUNCE COOKED PORTION
Tuna, Canned (Light) ♥♥ 200 to 500 milligrams
Tuna, Wild (Skipjack) ♥♥
Pollock, Wild (Alaskan) ♥♥
Rockfish, Wild (Pacific) ♥♥
Clams, Wild & Farmed ♥♥
Crab, Wild (King, Dungeness & Snow) ♥♥
Lobster, Wild (Spiny) ♥♥
Snapper, Wild ♥♥
Grouper, Wild ♥♥
Flounder/Sole, Wild ♥♥
Halibut, Wild (Pacific & Atlantic) ♥♥
Ocean Perch, Wild ♥♥
Squid, Wild (Fried) ♥♥
Fish Sticks (Breaded) ♥♥
SEAFOOD PRODUCT OMEGA-3s PER 3 OUNCE COOKED PORTION
Scallops, Wild < 200 milligrams
Shrimp, Wild & Farmed
Lobster, Wild (Northern)
Crab, Wild (Blue)
Cod, Wild
Haddock, Wild
Tilapia, Farmed
Catfish, Farmed
Mahimahi, Wild
Tuna, Wild (Yellowfin)
Orange Roughy, Wild
Surimi Product (Imitation Crab)

Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

Seafood Nutrition Overview

Although no single food alone can make a person healthy, good eating habits based on moderation and variety can help to maintain and even improve health. Because of the nutrients found in seafood, current dietary guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommend that Americans increase their seafood intake to twice a week.

Calories

Seafood is considered to be a low calorie food when compared to other protein-rich foods such as meat and poultry. Most lean or lower fat species of fish, such as cod, flounder, and sole, contain 100 calories or less per 3 ounce cooked portion, and even the fattier fish like mackerel, herring, and salmon contain approximately 200 calories or less in a 3 ounce cooked serving. With seafood, you can consume fewer calories to meet your daily protein needs. This is one reason why seafood is a good choice for diets designed to help you lose or maintain an ideal weight.

Protein

Seafood contains a high-quality protein that includes all of the essential amino acids for human health, making it a complete protein source. A 3 ounce cooked serving of most fish or shellfish provides about one-third of the average daily recommended amount of protein. The protein in seafood is also easier to digest because it has less connective tissue than red meats and poultry. This is one reason why fish muscle is so fragile, and why it flakes when cooked and can be eaten without further cutting or slicing. For certain groups of people such as the elderly who may have difficulty chewing or digesting their food, seafood can be a good choice to help them obtain their daily protein needs.

Fat

Seafood is considered to be low in both total fat and saturated fat. Current dietary recommendations suggest that we reduce our total fat intake to less than 30 percent of the calories that we eat, and that we limit our intake of saturated fat. Lean fish have significantly less fat than other protein-rich foods, and most kinds of fish and shellfish contain less than 5 percent total fat. Even the fattiest fish have a fat content similar to lean meats, and contain less fat than most ground beef, some processed meats, and the fattiest (skin and dark meat) portions of some poultry products. Higher fat fish such as mackerel, herring and King salmon have about 15% total fat.

To get a general idea of the fat content of most fish species, look at the color of the flesh. The leanest species such as cod and flounder have a white or lighter color, and fattier fish such as salmon, herring, and mackerel usually have a much darker color. The fat content of fish and shellfish can vary depending on when and where they are caught and other factors. To assist you in comparing common seafood choices the following table groups a variety of fish and shellfish according to their average amount of total fat and percent calories from fat.

Fat Content in a 3 ounce cooked Serving of Common Types of Fish and Shellfish
High Fat (10 grams or more) Herring, Mackerel, Sardines, Salmon (Atlantic, Coho, Sockeye and Chinook)
Medium Fat (5 to 10 grams) Bluefish, Catfish, Rainbow trout, Swordfish
Low Fat (2 to 5 grams) Tilapia, Halibut, Mussels, Ocean perch, Oysters, Pacific rockfish, Salmon (Chum, Pink)
Very Low Fat (less than 2 grams) Crab, Clams, Cod, Flounder/sole, Haddock, Hake, Lobster, Mahi-mahi, Pollock, Scallops, Shrimp, Tuna

When evaluating a food, it’s important to consider both the total amount of fat and the kind of fat that it contains. The two major kinds of fat are the saturated fats (usually solid at room temperature like butter or lard) and unsaturated fats (usually liquid at room temperature like vegetable oils). Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are two types of unsaturated fat. Current dietary recommendations suggest that we decrease the amount of saturated fat and increase the proportion of unsaturated fat in our diet. A large proportion of the fat in seafood is unsaturated, and seafood contains a unique kind of polyunsaturated fat, called omega-3 fatty acids, which can provide additional health benefits. Because of the amount and kind of fat in seafood it can be a good choice to help you follow current dietary recommendations.

Cholesterol

Most animal foods including seafood contain some cholesterol. Current dietary recommendations suggest that we reduce our cholesterol intake to less than 300 milligrams per day. Almost all types of fish and shellfish contain well under 100 milligrams of cholesterol per 3 ounce cooked serving, and many of the leaner types of fish have less than 60 milligrams. Most shellfish contain less than 100 milligrams of cholesterol per 3 ounce cooked serving. Shrimp contain somewhat higher amounts of cholesterol, with 170 milligrams per 3 ounce cooked serving, and squid is the only seafood that has a significantly elevated cholesterol content which averages almost 400 milligrams per 3 ounce cooked portion. Fish roe, caviar, the internal organs of fish (such as livers), the tomalley of lobsters, and the mustard of crabs can contain high amounts of cholesterol.

Sodium

Current dietary recommendations suggest that we use salt and sodium only in moderation because for some people reducing their sodium intake can decrease risks associated with high blood pressure. The current recommended limit for daily sodium intake is less than 2,300 milligrams for the general adult population and higher risk groups would benefit by further reducing their sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams per day. Fish are naturally low in sodium and even those species with the highest sodium levels contain less than 100 milligrams per 3 ounce cooked portion. Most shellfish generally have more sodium, ranging from 100 to 500 milligrams per 3 ounce cooked serving. Some processed or frozen seafood products may contain significantly higher sodium levels. Products that are brine frozen such as crab legs may contain as much as 800 to 1000 milligrams of sodium per serving, and other products such as surimi or imitation shellfish products, smoked fish, and some canned products that have salt added during processing may also contain higher amounts of sodium. It’s a good idea to carefully read ingredient or nutritional labels for processed products to determine their sodium content.

Vitamins and Minerals

Seafood is generally considered to be a reasonable but not a particularly rich source of vitamins. Fish have levels of B vitamins that are similar to many other protein-rich foods. Fattier fish like mackerel and herring can be a good source of Vitamin D and Vitamin A. Most types of seafood are a reasonable source of minerals such as phosphorus, potassium, and selenium. Canned fish such as salmon and sardines that contain bones which are softened during the canning process can be a good source of calcium, but most fish flesh doesn’t provide a significant amount of calcium. Some shellfish, such as clams and oysters, are a good source of iron, zinc, magnesium, copper, iodine, and other trace minerals. Most fish contain moderate to small amounts of these minerals.

Fish and Shellfish Nutrient Composition Chart

This chart provides the nutrient composition for a 3 ounce cooked portion of the 20 most frequently consumed seafood products identified by the FDA.

Fat and Fatty Acids

Breading and frying is a popular way of preparing seafood products, but the oil can be absorbed into the raw product causing an increase in total fat and calories. The chart below shows how breading and frying seafood can double the calories in a 3-ounce serving. Frying or deep-frying does not just increase total fat; it can change the amount of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids in each serving. Health organizations suggest eating seafood twice per week to get an average daily intake of 250 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet. Frying can cause these beneficial omega-3 fatty acids to dissolve in the cooking oil. It can even change the amount of each omega-3 fatty acid present, creating a less healthy ratio. Instead of serving seafood fried, there are preparation methods that can maintain its healthy benefits, including: poaching, steaming, baking, broiling, stir-frying and microwaving. 

Healthy Seafood Preparation

Nutrient Healthy Preparation Use in Limited Amounts
Fat & Fatty Acids Grilling, poaching, steaming, baking, broiling, and stir-frying Breaded and fried/deep fried
Cholesterol Use sauces that are wine or vegetable-based Sauces using eggs or dairy
Sodium Use lemon and other herbs, such as dill, fennel, cilantro for fish fillets; and basil, chives, oregano, thyme, and rosemary for shellfish Marinades or large amounts of smoked fish

Seafood Nutrient Table

The table below contains nutrient information for popular raw, cooked and processed seafood products, including total fat, sodium, and fatty acid content. All values are presented in 3-ounce portions, but keep in mind that serving sizes can range from 3 to 8-ounces depending on the recipe and individual preferences. A 3-ounce serving of fish is the size of a deck of cards. Nutrient information for other seafood products can be found at this USDA website.

Salmon Nutrient Content

Seafood
(3 ounces)
Calories
(kcal)
Total Fat
(g)
Saturated Fat
(g)
Omega-3’s, 
EPA+DHA
(mg)
Sodium
(mg)
Cholesterol
(mg)
Raw Atlantic Salmon 177 11.41 2.59 1671 50 47
Baked Atlantic Salmon 175 10.50 2.12 1825 52 54
Raw Chinook Salmon 152 8.87 2.63 1659 40 42
Smoked Chinook Salmon 99 3.67 0.79 383 666 20
Kippered Chinook Salmon 178 11.01 2.07 1062 740 57
Raw Sockeye Salmon 144 5.69 0.77 673 114 54
Canned Sockeye Salmon 141 6.21 1.33 1228 306 37
Smoked Sockeye Salmon 175 6.17 1.25 1335 510 79
Salmon Nuggets or Burger 180 9.96 1.33 422 147 22

Catfish Nutrient Content

Seafood
(3 ounces)
Calories
(kcal)
Total Fat
(g)
Saturated Fat
(g)
Omega-3’s, 
EPA+DHA
(mg)
Sodium
(mg)
Cholesterol
(mg)
Raw Catfish 101 5.05 1.11 62 83 47
Baked Catfish 122 6.11 1.34 76 101 56
Battered and Fried Catfish 195 11.33 2.79 290 238 60

Clam and Oyster Nutrient Content

Seafood
(3 ounces)
Calories
(kcal)
Total Fat
(g)
Saturated Fat
(g)
Omega-3’s, 
EPA+DHA
(mg)
Sodium
(mg)
Cholesterol
(mg)
Raw Oysters 50 1.32 0.37 333 151 21
Baked/Grilled Oysters 67 1.80 0.58 384 139 32
Battered and Fried Oysters 169 10.69 2.71 357 354 60
Raw Clams 73 0.82 0.15 91 511 26
Canned Clams 121 1.35 0.26 150 95 42
Battered and Fried Clams 333 19.52 4.88 N/A 616 65
Clam chowder (1 cup) 154 5.09 2.75 26 688 18

Shrimp Nutrient Content

Seafood
(3 ounces)
Calories
(kcal)
Total Fat
(g)
Saturated Fat
(g)
Omega-3’s, 
EPA+DHA
(mg)
Sodium
(mg)
Cholesterol
(mg)
Raw Shrimp 60 0.86 0.09 51 481 107
Steamed Shrimp 101 1.45 0.16 87 805 179
Battered and Fried Shrimp 206 10.44 1.7 198 292 117

Pollock Nutrient Content

Seafood
(3 ounces)
Calories
(kcal)
Total Fat
(g)
Saturated Fat
(g)
Omega-3’s, 
EPA+DHA
(mg)
Sodium
(mg)
Cholesterol
(mg)
Raw Alaskan Pollock 78 0.83 0.11 357 73 60
Battered and Fried Fish Fillet 197 10.45 2.39 N/A 452 29
Battered and Fried Fish Sticks 212 11.26 2.33 343 358 24
Fish sandwich 243 13.29 3.781 N/A 436 68

Tuna Nutrient Content

Seafood
(3 ounces)
Calories
(kcal)
Total Fat
(g)
Saturated Fat
(g)
Omega-3’s, 
EPA+DHA
(mg)
Sodium
(mg)
Cholesterol
(mg)
Raw Skipjack 88 0.86 0.27 217 31 40
Canned Light Tuna (oil) 168 6.98 1.3 109 301 15
Canned Light Tuna (water) 99 0.70 0.19 230 287 26
Canned White Tuna (oil) 158 6.87 1.08 207 337 26
Canned White Tuna (water) 109 2.52 0.67 733 320 36
Tuna salad 159 7.87 1.3 59 342 11

Crab Nutrient Content

Seafood
(3 ounces)
Calories
(kcal)
Total Fat
(g)
Saturated Fat
(g)
Omega-3’s, 
EPA+DHA
(mg)
Sodium
(mg)
Cholesterol
(mg)
Raw Blue Crab 74 0.92 0.18 273 249 66
Canned Blue Crab 71 0.63 0.17 143 336 82
Blue Crab cakes 132 6.39 1.26 377 280 128
Raw Alaskan King Crab 71 0.51 0.07 N/A 711 36
Steamed Alaskan King Crab 82 1.31 0.11 351 911 45
Imitation Alaskan King Crab, surimi 81 0.39 0.15 N/A 715 17

Herring Nutrient Content

Seafood
(3 ounces)
Calories
(kcal)
Total Fat
(g)
Saturated Fat
(g)
Omega-3’s, 
EPA+DHA
(mg)
Sodium
(mg)
Cholesterol
(mg)
Raw Herring 134 7.68 1.73 1336 76 51
Broiled or Baked Herring 173 9.85 2.22 1712 98 65
Pickled herring 223 15.31 2.02 1181 740 11

*All values obtained from the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.

Overview of the Seafood Industry

Overview

A wide variety of seafood products are available in the U.S. marketplace from many different sources. In the U.S., wild fish and shellfish are harvested by commercial fishermen in both near shore and open ocean waters, and in fresh water lakes or rivers. Farm raised (aquacultured) seafood products are raised both on land in ponds (catfish), or re-circulating tanks (tilapia and hybrid bass), and in near shore coastal waters (salmon and shellfish). These same methods are used to farm a wide variety of fish and shellfish in other countries around the world which are then imported into the U.S.

Once seafood products are harvested, they are generally processed or packaged for distribution to retail stores and restaurants. Wild fish and shellfish are unloaded from harvest vessels and farmed products are harvested from facilities then transported and packed for distribution to processing plants or wholesalers. Processors convert the whole fish or shellfish to various other product forms such as fresh fish fillets or steaks or other items such as frozen products, breaded fish portions, and canned or smoked products. Some of these products may be further converted by secondary processors to heat and serve or ready-to-eat products like seafood salads, entrees or other items. Wholesalers and foodservice distributors receive both raw and processed products from many different domestic and foreign sources and distribute them to retail stores and restaurants. Consumers purchase these products from retail stores for home consumption or at restaurants and other foodservice establishments.

Sources of Fish and Shellfish Consumed in the U.S.

The commercial seafood products consumed by Americans at home or in restaurants or other foodservice establishments primarily come from three different sources: U.S. commercial fisheries, U.S. aquaculture production, or imports brought into the U.S. from other countries. Seafood is also a unique food in that a large amount of fish and shellfish are harvested from the wild by individuals for recreational purposes and some of that harvest is also consumed. The following information provides an overview of the types of fish and shellfish that comes from these four different sources.

U.S. Commercial Fisheries

Commercial landings (edible and industrial) by U.S. fishermen at ports in the 50 states were 9.9 billion pounds or 4.5 million metric tons valued at $5.4 billion in 2017—an increase of 344 million pounds (up by 3.6%) and an increase of $110 million (up 2.1%) compared with 2016.

Over 50% of all U.S. landings were fish caught by in the Pacific Ocean within the Alaska region including groundfish like Pacific cod, flounders, hake, ocean perch, Alaska pollock, and rockfishes. Other important commercial Pacific Ocean species are salmon, halibut, Dungeness, King and Snow crab, tuna, and squid. In the Atlantic Ocean, some of the most economically important species include: scallops, lobster, clams, blue crab, oysters, and herring. Shrimp is an important fishery in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic. Another important fishery is groundfish species caught by trawlers in the North Atlantic from Chesapeake Bay through New England that include: butterfish, Atlantic cod, cusk, haddock, hake, ocean perch, and Atlantic pollock. A variety of finfish species such as tuna, flounder, grouper, snapper and other reef fish are important fisheries in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. The menhaden fishery in the Mid-Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico is also important, but is not used for human food but for bait or conversion to fish oil and fish meal that is used in a variety of products.

U.S. Aquaculture Production

In 2016, estimated freshwater plus marine U.S. aquaculture production was 633.5 million pounds with a value of $1.45 billion, an increase of 6.1 million pounds (1.0%) in volume and $60.6 million (4.3%) in value from 2015. Pond raised catfish represents the most significant species of the total farm raised seafood products produced annually in the U.S. Other important domestically produced aquaculture food products in order of the quantity produced include: salmon, crawfish, trout, oysters, tilapia, striped bass, clams, shrimp, and mussels.

Imported Seafood Products

The total import value of edible and nonedible fishery products was $38.4 billion in 2017—an increase of $2.5 billion (7.0%) compared with 2016. Imports of edible fishery products (product weight) were 5.9 billion pounds valued at $21.5 billion in 2017. Volume increased 92.8 million pounds (1.6%), while value increased by $2.0 billion (10.4%) compared with 2016. Imports of nonedible (i.e., industrial) products were $16.9 billion—an increase of $473.9 million (2.9%) compared with 2016.

China is the largest producer of seafood products in the world, followed by India, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Bangladesh. Globally, carps (30.5 million metric tons), tilapias (5.9 million metric tons), and salmon (3.3 million metric tons) are the finfish species groups with the greatest production. Clams (5.6 million metric tons), oysters (5.6 million metric tons), and shrimp (5.2 million metric tons) are the shellfish species groups with the most production. Aquatic plant farming, primarily seaweed, also represents a significant sector of global aquaculture production (30.1 million metric tons, valued at 11.6 billion). Seaweed farming is just now establishing in the U.S. and shows promise to become an important contributor to future U.S. marine aquaculture production.

Recreational Fisheries in the U.S.

NOAA estimated 8.6 million marine recreational anglers made 202 million marine recreational fishing trips in the continental United States, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico in 2017. Alaska data are not available for the current year. The estimated total marine recreational catch was 1 billion fish, of which 64 percent was released alive. The estimated total weight of harvested catch was nearly 447 million pounds. The Atlantic coast accounted for the majority of trips (69%) and catch (nearly 62%). The Gulf coast accounted for 28 percent of trips, and more than 36 percent of the catch. The Pacific coast accounted for nearly 2 percent of trips, and over 1 percent of the catch. Nationally, most (nearly 56% in numbers of fish) of the recreational catch came from inland waters, more than 34 percent from state territorial seas, and more than 9 percent from the EEZ. The majority of Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific trips fished primarily in inland waters.

Seafood Processing

The processing sector of the seafood industry converts the whole fish or shellfish harvested by fishermen or produced by aquaculture operations in the U.S. or in other countries into the products that are sold at retail stores or restaurants. The National Marine Fisheries Service estimated the estimated value of the 2017 domestic production of edible and nonedible processed fishery products was $12 billion, up 1.2 billion (10.8%) from 2016. The value of edible products was $11 billion—up 1.1 billion (10.7%) compared with 2016. The value of industrial products was $903.1 million in 2017—up 96.3 million (11.9%) from 2016. The annual U.S. production of raw (uncooked) fish fillets and steaks, including blocks, include a number of major species processed: Alaskan Pollock, salmon, cod, hake, flounders and haddock. 

Primary processors generally convert whole fish into fish fillets, steaks, loins, or shuck or cook raw shellfish, or remove the edible meat. These edible portions are then packed in some way and distributed as fresh refrigerated products or are frozen prior to distribution to wholesalers or directly to retail stores or restaurants. Other processors pack these edible portions into cans or other containers and apply a heat process to eliminate microorganisms that could cause the product to spoil or cause foodborne illness. Canned products are treated to sterilize their contents and can be stored without refrigeration. Pasteurized products are heat treated in a way that eliminates most but not all microorganisms and must be stored under refrigeration. Other processes could include the use of high pressure, irradiation or other treatments to sterilize or pasteurize the seafood product.

Secondary processors convert fresh or frozen fish and shellfish products and other ingredients into the final products that are available in retail stores and restaurants. Examples of value added finished seafood products could include: smoked seafood products, sushi, seafood salads and sandwiches, and seafood entrees or meals.

Seafood Wholesale and Distribution

There is a large network of wholesale and distribution businesses in the U.S. that purchase seafood products from a variety of different sources, store them, assemble the items into orders for customers, and deliver them. There are many variations to this basic business model. Some businesses specialize in specific types of products, or products from a specific geographic area. Other businesses called “broadline” distributors, buy and sell a full line of all types of products to meet their customers’ needs. Other businesses may focus on the unique needs of specific customers such as retail stores, restaurants, or institutional buyers with the the military, prisons, schools or hospitals. This much needed commercial business network is responsible for sourcing, purchasing, transporting, storing and delivering the seafood products available in our Nation’s diverse markets.

Seafood Retail Stores

Fresh, frozen and processed seafood products are primarily available to consumers for home consumption from retail stores. It has been estimated that about one third of the seafood consumed in the U.S. is purchased at retail stores for home consumption. There are many different types of retail stores with different business strategies. Small independent stores often specialize in products caught by local fisherman but also supply popular items such as shrimp which may come from Asia. Large retail chains also offer a variety of products which may also include locally caught items and a variety of other products from other regions of the U.S. or the world. Although there is some variation in the availability of seafood across the U.S., in most areas there is a wide variety of choices for retail purchases of seafood products.

Restaurants and Foodservice

U.S. consumers spend about two thirds of their annual expenditures on seafood in restaurants, cafeterias or other types of foodservice businesses. Seafood is an important item on the menu for most foodservice operations and the selection varies depending on the type of consumer that is targeted and menu prices. Fish portions, breaded shrimp, clams and other items are served in a variety of chain restaurants because of their consistent cost and good value. Portion sizes are easy to control and they can be prepared quickly and consistently. Seafood is frequently used as an ingredient in pasta or rice dishes and in sandwiches, wraps, soups and other entrees in a variety of mid-priced restaurants. Fresh seafood is also widely available in restaurants that feature one or more chefs that use their skills to creatively prepare different local or specialty items depending on availability and demand.

Overview of the U.S. Seafood Supply

Seafood in the American Diet

Over the past two decades per capita consumption of seafood products (fish + shellfish) in the U.S. has ranged from a low of 14.6 pounds per person in 1997 to a record high of 16.5 pounds in 2004 and 2006. Since 2004, U.S. annual consumption of fish and shellfish has gradually decreased to 14.9 pounds per person in 2018. For comparison, U.S. annual per capita consumption of other food commodities in 2016 is: beef about 55.4 pounds, chicken near 90.1 pounds, dairy products over 600 pounds, vegetables over 380 pounds, fruits over 250 pounds, and flour and cereal products over 170 pounds.

Description of Top Commercial Seafood Items

A wide variety of fish and shellfish products are available in the marketplace. It has been estimated that hundreds of different species of fish and shellfish are sold annually. However, ten different types of fish and shellfish products represent more than 80% of the seafood consumed in the U.S. About 55% of all seafood consumed in 2017 was limited to three types of seafood: shrimp, canned tuna and salmon. One new product which has increased in consumption is fish from Pangasius species, that are called basa, swai or tra in the U.S. These fish are farmed in freshwater and primarily imported from the Mekong River delta region in Vietnam.

Types of Seafood Products Consumed

About three fourths of the seafood products consumed in the U.S. are fresh or frozen, and consumption of these product forms has reached a plateau. Slightly more than half of the fresh or frozen products consumed are finfish and less than half shellfish, primarily shrimp. Canned seafood products account for slightly less than one fourth of the seafood consumed in the U.S., and the amount has decreased steadily over the past two decades. Canned tuna represents about 60% of all the canned seafood consumed in the U.S., but the amount of canned tuna consumed has fallen from a high of 3.9 pounds per person in 1989 to 0 pounds in 2017. Canned shellfish represents over 13% of all canned products consumed, followed by sardines at 6.5%. Cured seafood items such as smoked, salted or pickled products have consistently been about 2% of all seafood products consumed over the past two decades.

The U.S. Seafood Supply

Imported Seafood Supply – The majority of seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported from other countries around the world. This number continues to rise in order to meet consumer demand. However, NOAA Fisheries data shows that a significant portion of this imported seafood is caught by American fishermen, exported overseas for processing, and then imported back to the U.S. With much of this imported seafood representing fresh or frozen products. Shrimp is the leading fresh or frozen product imported into the U.S. followed by freshwater fillets and steaks, salmon, tuna, groundfish (cod, haddock and hakes), crabs and crabmeat, frozen fish blocks used to make fish sticks or portions, squid and lobster. The leading foreign suppliers of seafood products to the U.S. in 2014 were China, Canada, India, Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia. About two thirds of the edible seafood imported into the U.S. came from these six countries.

U.S. Domestic Seafood Supply

Commercial Fisheries – About 9.5 billion pounds of edible seafood products with a dockside value of $5.4 billion were landed in the U.S. in 2017. The majority (over 80%) of this catch is finfish and the rest is shellfish. The leading species landed by U.S. commercial fishermen in 2017 in descending order includes: Alaska pollock, menhaden, tuna, cod, and salmon. Alaska led all states in volume of landings in 2017 with over 60% of the total catch; followed by the Gulf of Mexico 14%, Atlantic 13%, and Pacific regions at 12%.

Aquaculture Production – The production of farm raised fish and shellfish in 2017 was about 633 million pounds worth $1.5 billion. In the United States, the amount of fish and shellfish harvested from the wild annually is more than 10 times greater than the amount produced by domestic aquaculture farms. Pond raised catfish represents a little over half of the total farm raised seafood products produced annually in the U.S. Other important domestically produced aquaculture products in order of the quantity produced include: crawfish, trout, oysters, salmon, tilapia, striped bass, clams, shrimp and mussels.

Processed Products – The value of seafood products processed in the U.S. in 2017 was over $10 billion. Government figures estimate that there were 3,137 seafood processing and wholesale plants in the U.S. that employed almost 63,000 people in 2017. States with the largest number of people employed in seafood processing or wholesale plants were: Alaska, Washington, California, Massachusetts, Florida, Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana. The major seafood products processed in the U.S. were canned seafood (primarily tuna and sardine), fresh and frozen fish fillets and steaks, breaded fish portions and sticks, and breaded shrimp.

Recreational Fisheries – According to National Marine Fisheries Service estimates, in 2017, more than 8 million anglers made over 202 million marine recreational fishing trips in the U.S. The estimated total marine recreational catch was nearly 397 million fish. The estimated total weight of the recreationally harvested catch was almost 447 million pounds. Nationally, most (56 percent in numbers of fish) of the recreational catch came from estuaries, 34 percent from state or territorial coastal marine waters 0 to 3 miles from the shore, and nearly 9 percent from federal ocean waters from 3 to 200 miles from shore.