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Economics of Aquaculture United States
Aquaculture is the fastest growing “agricultural” industry in the United States. In 1990, there were over 100 species cultured; eight species accounted for approximately 70% of total culture, with over 3400 aquaculture operations in the United States. This trend is driven by increased demand for fisheries product and reduced yield from traditional fisheries landings (National Research Council, 1982). Given the increased demand, there is a significant potential for job creation in an expanded aquacultural industry.
The estimated U.S. Total Aquaculture Production (including freshwater) has more than doubled from 139,887 metric tons with a total value of over $260 million in 1983 to an estimated 313,518 metric tons with a total value of over $724 million in 1992. (NMFS Statistics Division) The aquaculture industry supports an infrastructure of hatcheries, feed mills, processing plants, equipment manufacturers, and suppliers of specialty services and products, as well as enhancing the natural fishery with juvenile finfish and shellfish seed and spat.
U.S. annual per capita consumption of fish and shellfish has increased since estimates were first made in 1909. At that time the per capita estimate was 11 lbs., in the 1950 and 60’s it was well below 5 lbs., and in 1993 it was 15 lbs. (U.S. Department of Commerce, 1993). Most remarkable was the sharp rise in consumption from 1970 (about 4 lbs.) to 1990 (about 5 lbs.) The domestic seafood industry has identified a goal of increasing domestic seafood consumption to 20 lbs/per capita by the year 2000 although this appears unlikely.
It is estimated that 10% – 14% of the fishery products currently consumed in the United States are aquaculturally derived. Changing consumer preferences combined with the reduction in the wild fishery appear to be the dominant factor in the growth of aquaculture. (FDA, 1990)
Most of the United States’ demand for seafood is met by imports. The value of imported fisheries products more than doubled during the 1980’s, to $9.6 billion in 1989. This resulted in a significant trade deficit – $4.9 billion for all fisheries products and $3.1 billion for edible fish and shellfish in 1989. Imported fisheries products contribute more to the United States’ trade imbalance than any other food or agricultural commodity. After petroleum products, imported seafood contributes more to the United States trade deficit than any other natural resources product. (Joint Subcommittee on Aquaculture, 1992)
Despite the trade imbalance, some aquacultured fish products are exported. There has been significant growth in U.S. exports of ornamental fish with exports of $17 million in 1993 and over $10 million in the first half of 1994. (US Department of Agriculture, 1994)
Northeast Region
The Northeast Region, as covered by the Northeastern Regional Aquaculture Center (NRAC), includes the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and West Virginia. NRAC estimates the total 1992 farm gate value of aquacultured products in the northeastern United States to be $146,409,000. Cultured shellfish comprises approximately 53 percent of the 1992 regional farm gate value, with oyster production being the single largest segment of the regional industry accounting for roughly 42 percent of the total. Net pen culture of Atlantic salmon and steelhead trout was the second largest category contributing 29 percent to the regional value. (Northeastern Regional Aquaculture Center, 1993)
The state of Connecticut is the largest aquaculture producing state in the region with estimated farm gate sales of $61.7 million, primarily from oyster sales. Maine is the second largest aquaculture producing state in the region with farm gate sales of $42.9 million, largely from pen-reared salmonid. Pennsylvania is the third largest aquaculture producing state, with farm gate sales totaling $11,926,000, dominated by trout culture. New York is the forth largest aquaculture producer, with $9,637,000 in sales, primarily from the Long Island oyster farms. (NRAC, 1993)
Massachusetts follows as the fifth largest aquaculture producer with $8,020,000 in sales. The dominant species in Massachusetts, in order of economic value are: Northern Quahog, oyster, trout, hybrid striped bass, scallops, baitfish/other fish and tilapia. (NRAC, 1993) Trout, striped bass, baitfish/other fish and tilapia are all grown in inland facilities in Massachusetts.
When comparing the aquaculture industries from state to state, it should be kept in mind that the potential for aquaculture to succeed is dependent on several considerations. While some of these considerations are flexible and can be made more accommodating for aquaculture (laws, regulations, policy, business climate, private and public initiatives) others, (tidal range, exposure, biological parameters, flushing rates, temperature, native species) cannot be easily overcome.