Matunuck Oyster Farm staff shucking oysters at the launch of the Rhode Island Shellfish Initiative.
Marine aquaculture in the United States contributes to seafood supply, supports commercial fisheries, restores habitat and at-risk species, and maintains economic activity in coastal communities and at working waterfronts in every coastal state.
Most marine aquaculture production (about two-thirds, by value) consists of bivalve mollusks such as oysters, clams, and mussels. Salmon and shrimp make up most of the rest, but advances in technology and management techniques are making more species available to the American public.
Aquaculture also supports commercial and recreational fisheries. About 40 percent of the salmon caught in Alaska and 80 to 90 percent of those caught in the Pacific Northwest start their lives in hatcheries—adding more than $270 million to the commercial fishery. Aquaculture is also a tool to restore habitats and species. Hatchery stock is used to rebuild oyster reefs, grow wild fish populations, and rebuild threatened and endangered abalone and corals.
A compelling case can be made for growing more seafood in the United States. While the worldwide amount of wild-caught seafood has stayed the same year to year, the amount raised through aquaculture has risen dramatically. Sales of domestic marine aquaculture have grown 13 percent per year from 2007 to 2011, on average, led by increases in oyster and salmon production. The United States is a minor aquaculture producer, on a global scale—but it is the leading global importer of fish and fishery products. By value, over 90 percent of the seafood we eat comes from abroad, half of it from aquaculture. Driven by imports, the U.S. seafood trade deficit has grew to $14 billion in 2016.
In the United States, marine aquaculture production increased an average of 3.3 percent per year from 2009-2014, however, globally, the U.S. remains a relatively minor aquaculture producer. Although a small producer, the United States is a major player in global aquaculture. The nation supplies a variety of advanced technology, feed, equipment, and investment capital to other producers around the world.
For data on U.S. fisheries, see Fisheries of the United States, 2016.