Numbers Don't Lie
February 1, 2019
The Port of Grays Harbor’s December 2018 newsletter reports that the Port of Westport, Washington landed more than 150 million pounds of crab, salmon, hake and other seafood in 2017, making it 11th in the nation for commercial seafood landings based on NOAA Fisheries Statistics. Westport also climbed to 13th in the nation in value with just more than $64 million of product landed.
The data come from the annual statistics on the fisheries of the United States compiled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and include the figures from the Ports of Ilwaco and Chinook, Washington which saw 16 million pounds landed for a value of $22 million. The ports of Seattle and Bellingham’s commercial catch brought $29 million and $23 million, respectively.
Meanwhile, on the sport side, the numbers tell the tale as well. Recreational finfish numbers rose in California but dropped slightly in Oregon, while In Washington the sport harvest by weight fell by 11 percent and the number of fish harvested by 17 percent.
The aquaculture industry is also reported in the NOAA statistics. Among freshwater and marine products, our interest is mostly Atlantic salmon, which are raised in net pens on the US and Canadian West Coast. The NOAA numbers don’t reflect Canadian aquaculture, but the US statistics are enlightening.
Over the 6 years detailed in this most recent report, ending in 2016, the volume of Atlantic salmon aquaculture steadily declined and by last year had fallen by 25 percent to 16 thousand metric tons. We like to believe this reduction is due to the increasing awareness by the general public of the health benefits of wild salmon and the poor quality and chemical adulteration of the farmed product.
In spite of any new awareness the fish-buying public might have of farmed Atlantic salmon, the fishing industry must remain vigilant. Recently a group of fishermen sent a firmly-worded letter to the US House of Representatives voicing their opposition to industrial ocean fish farming – also known as open ocean, offshore, or marine finfish aquaculture. The fishermen, who hail from ports of call as diverse as Pelican, Alaska, Bayou La Batre, Alabama and Tenants Harbor, Maine, are reacting to legislation promoting the widespread implementation of aquaculture, which is currently working its way through both houses of congress.
The “Advancing the Quality and Understanding of American Aquaculture (AQUAA)” act would give NOAA the regulatory authority over aquaculture with no consideration for the economic and environmental consequences of widespread finfish aquaculture.
“Simply put, industrial seafood farms threaten the integrity of the wild fish populations that are key to our industry’s success, and the coastal communities we support,” the fishermen wrote. They said the presence of finfish aquaculture in marine ecosystems poses significant challenges to the prosecution of domestic wild capture fisheries.
“As commercial fishermen, our livelihoods depend on good stewardship and science-based marine conservation to preserve sustainable fisheries for generations to come.”
NOAA’s own numbers show the value of commercially-harvested wild fish, and the decreasing interest in the farmed product. Promoting finfish aquaculture to the detriment of our wild stocks is absurd, and shows an increasing disconnect between our elected representatives and the people they claim to serve. Contact your elected representatives at 202-224-3121 and tell them to vote against the AQUAA act.
Chris Philips can be reached at: 206-284-8285 or email: email@example.com