By Sean Horgan
---- — The results of NOAA’s Fisheries of the United States report released Wednesday show what Gloucester fishermen have been saying repeatedly for the past two years: They now have to work much harder to make less money than ever before.
The report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which serves as an annual appraisal of American fisheries, shows a national decline in the volume and value of seafood landed by U.S. commercial fishermen in 2012 when compared to the previous year.
The findings show U.S. landings — the quantity of seafood brought ashore and sold — at 9.6 billion pounds in 2012, down 2.3 percent from 2011. The report said those landings generated $5.1 billion in revenues, representing a 3.2 percent decline from 2011.
The news was mixed in Gloucester, where the port had a 7.8 percent gain in the total volume of its seafood landings in 2012 but suffered a 6.6 percent decline in the revenues generated by its landed catch when compared to the 2011 fishing year. Each commercial fishing year runs from May 1 to the following April 30.
According to NOAA’s findings, Gloucester landed 83 million pounds of seafood in 2012, compared to 77 million pounds the previous year. Conversely, the monetary value of Gloucester’s 2012 landings fell to $57 million from $61 million in 2011.
Jackie Odell, executive director of the Gloucester-based Northeast Seafood Coalition, did not comment on the specifics or methodology of the NOAA report, except to say in a statement that it “is further evidence of the unequivocable impact that the U.S. fisheries have on the national and global economies.”
Gloucester No. 16
The report ranked Gloucester 16th among all U.S. commercial ports for the quantity of its catch — a jump of four spots from 2011 that was aided, at least in part, by massive declines in landings at several Alaskan and West Coast ports.
Landings at Ketchikan, Alaska, for instance, fell to 74 million pounds from 100 million in 2011, with similar declines at Sitka, Alaska (67 million pounds from 113 million in 2011), Petersburg, Alaska (52 million pounds from 101 million in 2011) and Port Hueneme-Oxnard-Ventura, Calif. (69 million pounds from 128 million in 2011).
Gloucester’s No. 17 ranking for revenues generated by its 2012 landings remained unchanged from 2011.
The report’s findings also underscore the continued intrinsic value and importance of the Northeast fishery even in the face of drastically slashed catch quotas, an aging and shrinking fleet and increasing climactic changes that may be affecting fish stocks.
The six New England states showed 7 percent cumulative gains in both the volume and value of their landed catches.
Massachusetts, with $618.2 million, ranked second to only Alaska ($1.7 billion) nationally in landings revenues. Maine was next with $448.5 million, and Louisiana ($356.6 million) and Washington ($302 million) filled out the top five states in terms of landings revenues.
Lobster prices plummet
Maine and Massachusetts also accounted for 94 percent of all U.S. lobster landings in 2012, which rose 18 percent to 149.6 million pounds, valued at $429.3 million. But even with that significant increase in the volume of landings, revenues only inched up 1 percent — reflecting the weak price structure and increased costs associated with lobstering.
The ex-vessel price per pound for lobster — the price received by the fishermen — was $2.87 in 2012, a 14.3 percent decline from the $3.35 in 2011, according to the report.
For the 31st consecutive year, Maine led the nation in lobster landings. In 2012, Maine had landings of 126.6 million pounds, an increase of 21 percent, valued at $340.5 million. Massachusetts had 2012 landings of 14.5 million pounds, an increase of 6 percent, valued at $53.3 million.
Alaska also led the nation in total volume of landings, with 5.3 billion pounds. Louisiana (1.2 billion pounds), Virginia (461.9 million pounds), Washington (420.1 million pounds) and California (358.2 million pounds) rounded out the top five states in landings by volume.
For the 16th consecutive year, Dutch Harbor, Alaska, led the nation in the volume of its landed catch. That Alaskan port had 752 million pounds of seafood hit its docks and make its way to market, up from 706 million in 2011.
New Bedford tops nation
For the 13th consecutive year, New Bedford led the nation’s ports in revenues from its landed catch. The Bay State port generated $411 million, up 11.4 percent from the $369 million in 2011.
New Bedford’s revenue dominance once again was fueled by its immensely valuable sea scallop fishery, which accounted for more than 80 percent of its overall revenues from landings.
The report’s findings show imports of edible seafood continued to widely outpace exports. Imports, according to the findings, rose 0.3 percent to 5.4 billion pounds, worth $16.7 billion, in 2012. Exports also remained relatively flat at 3.3 billion pounds valued at $5.5 billion.
Sean Horgan may be contacted at 978-283-7000 x3464, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT