Animal Aquaculture

SIC 0273

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This industry classification includes establishments engaged in the production of finfish and shellfish within a confined space and under controlled growing and harvesting procedures. It includes farmed aquatic animals intended as human food (catfish, trout, and oysters), bait (minnows), and pets (goldfish and tropical aquarium fish). Establishments primarily engaged in hatching fish and in operating fishing preserves are classified in SIC 0921: Fish Hatcheries and Preserves.

The U.S. aquaculture industry is based on production of freshwater finfish, such as channel catfish. The industry experienced some ups and downs during the last decades of the twenty-first century. Aquaculture crops doubled between 1975 and 1983, but the U.S. aquaculture industry experienced relatively flat growth in the per capita consumption of seafood throughout the 1990s, primarily due to a declining market share to cheaper imports. During the last years of the first decade of the 2000s, the industry benefited from good press about the health benefits of freshwater fish and seafood, which spurred demand. But increasing regulations on the harvesting of wild fish shifted industry focus to farm-raised fish. U.S. per capital consumption of fish and fish products was approximately 16.0 pounds at the end of the first decade of the 2000s.

However, during that decade, the number of fish hatcheries and their production continued to decline. Development and expansion of the U.S. marine aquaculture industry was challenged by the high cost and limited availability of coastal land and water resources, effluent concerns, high production costs, restricted growing seasons, lack of sufficient quality seedstock, and a general lack of experience regarding reproduction, larviculture, husbandry, and production strategies.

Although aquaculture is a relative newcomer in significance to the U.S. economy, the industry itself is not new and has applications in many parts of the world. Japan has raised oysters for centuries, as did the ancient Romans. Many Pacific island nations have turned swampy seaside areas into simple fish farms. During the 1860s, the United States developed techniques for raising salmon and trout in captivity. By 1990, nearly all catfish, rainbow trout, and hybrid striped bass consumed in U.S. restaurants were harvested from fish farms.

In the mid-years of the first decade of the 2000s, sales in the aquaculture industry reached $1.1 billion. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that food fish--including catfish, perch, salmon, hybrid striped bass, tilapia, and trout--accounted for 62 percent of all aquaculture sales. Ornamental fish, such as koi and tropical fish, each accounted for approximately 5 percent of sales. They were followed by baitfish at 4 percent and sport fish at 2 percent. Mississippi led the nation in sales of aquaculture products, with nearly $250 million in 2005. Arkansas, Alabama, and Louisiana were the other states with sales topping $100 million. Louisiana had the largest number of aquaculture farms. The state's 873 farms were more than double the number in any other state.

The largest single sector of the U.S. aquaculture industry is shellfish culture (oysters, clams, mussels), which accounts for about two-thirds of the total U.S. aquaculture production, followed by salmon (about 25 percent) and shrimp (about 10 percent).

Catfish

In 2009, 466 million pounds of catfish were sold to processors at an average price of 77.1 cents per pound for total revenues of $359 million. In 2008, farm-raised catfish totaled 510 million pounds and was sold at an average price of 78.0 per pound for revenues of $398 million. Over 90 percent of the nation's catfish are raised in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. In 2010 catfish farms were struggling with high feed costs and cheap imports. Acres of catfish farms in Mississippi, which leads the nation in catfish production, declined from 113,000 in 2002 to 65,000 in 2010, with more acres expected to be pulled from production during 2010 as producers struggled to remain profitable.

In the early 2010s, producers were lobbying for increased inspection standards for imported catfish, which may help bolster the sagging industry. Specifically, producers want the inspection duties to be moved from U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the National Marine Fisheries Service to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where imports are under more rigorous standards and labeling. In 2010, imported catfish accounted for 20 percent of the U.S. catfish market

Trout

Trout sales in the United States totaled $72.4 million in 2008, down from $79.7 million in 2007. Idaho accounted for about 40 percent of all sales. Other leading states by number of operations included Pennsylvania, Washington, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. The number of trout farms continued to decline through the late years of the first decade of the 2000s to approximately 1,000 farms nationwide. Although the number of farms was down and producers were struggling with the same feed costs and sagging economy, production values late years in the decade were generally up. Although 2008 saw a decline from 2007 values, $72.4 million compared positively to $52.9 million in production value recorded in 2003.

Because restaurants are the main purchasers of trout, sales are impacted by the general economy and changes in personal disposable income, as well as the supply and prices for other farm-raised fish, principally catfish, tilapia, and salmon. Trout producers have benefited from the higher farm and import prices for those fish. While trout producers are expected to benefit from continued strong prices for catfish and other competing products, they are subject to volatile conditions, including the weather. Trout farmers in Western areas are challenged by years of low rainfall or drought conditions.

Shrimp

Shrimp is the most popular seafood product in the United States and is especially suitable for farming because of high market value, rapid growth, and low position on the food chain. The United States relies heavily on shrimp imports, which reached 896 million pounds of frozen and 321 million pounds of fresh in 2009. Value of imported shrimp in 2009 was $2.77 billion; value of fresh and prepared shrimp was $1.00 billion. The domestic shrimping industry was battered in the late years of the first decade of the 2000s by high fuel costs and the continued influx of low-cost imports. In addition, numerous hurricanes hit the Gulf Coast, disrupting shrimpers' ability to trowel and grounding many of the industry's shrimp boats. The Gulf Coast shrimping industry was dealt a devastating blow in 2010 when a British Petroleum (BP) oil spill flooded the Gulf Coast with oil, bringing all shrimping in the area to a halt. In April 2010, Louisiana shrimpers banded together to sue BP for depriving them of their livelihood.

Tilapia

U.S. demand for tilapia increased in the late years of the first decade of the 2000s due in part to Americans' rising concern for their health and the promotion in the media of fish as one of the healthiest foods. By late in the decade, the mild-tasting tilapia was the second most popular finfish in the United States, behind salmon. According to the National Fisheries Institute, tilapia consumption in the United States grew over 300 percent during the first decade of the 2000s. Most of the tilapia that Americans eat is imported, and in the late years of the decade, imports continued to outpace domestic production. U.S. tilapia imports surged to more than 297 million pounds in 2005 to over 404 million pounds in 2009. Worldwide, China is the largest producer of tilapia.

Mussels, Clams, and Oysters

In 2008, U.S. growers produced 22.5 million pounds of oysters, mussels, and clams combined. Oyster production fluctuated between 7.8 million pounds in 2005 and 6.2 million pounds in 2007 and 2008, whereas mussels showed sharper changes, from 1.0 million pounds in 2005 to 2.5 million pounds in 2006 to 1.8 million pounds in 2007 and 2008. Clam production increased from 10.5 million pounds in 2005 to 13.5 million pounds in 2008. The United States exported a combined 20 million pounds of mussels, clams, and oysters in 2009; clams accounted for over half of total exports. In comparison, in 2009, U.S. imports of mussels, clams and oysters totaled over 115 million pounds.

Higher prices contributed to the rise in value of oyster, mussel, and clam imports in the first decade of the 2000s, while the quantity of imports of these shellfish increased only for mussels. Canada and New Zealand were the leading suppliers of live mussels and mussel products. Oyster imports increased during the first decade of the 2000s, in part because of declines in the domestic harvest, especially in the Chesapeake Bay, a major source of U.S. oysters. During that time, exports of oysters more than doubled in terms of value and quantity, primarily due to strong growth in shipments to Asia. Mussels and clam exports, on average, remained at about the same level.

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