SIC 0913

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This industry classification includes establishments primarily engaged in the commercial taking of shellfish. The shellfish designation includes mollusks (such as clams, mussels, oysters, and squid) and crustaceans (such as crabs, crayfish, lobsters, and shrimp). Establishments primarily engaged in shellfish farming are classified in SIC 0273: Animal Aquaculture.

Industry Snapshot

According to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), total shellfish landings varied widely in the first decade of the 2000s, with figures ranging from a low of 3.4 million pounds in 2001 to a high of 44.0 million pounds in 2007. Landings in 2008, the most recent year for which figures are available, totaled 23.8 million pounds. Total value fluctuated correspondingly; shellfish landings were worth $4.2 million in 2001, $39.2 million in 2007, and $18.7 million in 2008. Clam landings hit a decade high in 2008 at 79.9 million pounds and were worth $46.9 million. Total shrimp landings, however, decreased from 2.8 billion pounds worth $4.5 billion in 2000 to 257.6 million pounds worth $448.8 million in 2008. Finally, squid landings totaled 132.9 million pounds worth $44.9 million in 2008, up 9.5 million pounds from the previous year.

Background and Development

The shellfish industry entered the 1990s with a myriad of regulatory and management challenges. Many East Coast shell fisheries were recovering from sharp declines during the middle years of the 1980s when algae blooms ravaged fertile scallop grounds and decimated clam populations. Oyster stocks from Long Island to the Chesapeake Bay were threatened by viral oyster diseases. Catches of Alaskan crab, which had dropped from 347 million pounds in 1980 to 129 million pounds in 1985, totaled 281 million pounds in 1990.

Because previous methods of managing shellfish populations through the use of quotas and limited seasons had not proven entirely successful, government agencies analyzed new approaches. For example, an innovative management plan for surf clams replaced a policy under which vessels could work a total of only 144 hours annually. The new system, designed to be more flexible, permitted the sale and transfer of allocations.

Regulators also looked for ways to control bycatch problems. "Bycatch" refers to unintentionally caught fish, birds, marine mammals, and turtles that are killed in the harvesting process. Because shrimp are traditionally caught in trawls (net devices pulled behind the boat), they catch significant quantities of other marine animals. Shrimp bycatch was blamed for reductions in red snapper populations and for thousands of turtle deaths. Some reports estimated that as many as 50 to 75 percent of juvenile red snapper were being caught and discarded annually by shrimpers. In addition, a study done by the National Academy of Sciences estimated that trawls killed up to 50,000 turtles per year.

One apparatus used extensively to reduce trawl bycatch was called a Turtle Excluder Device (TED). TEDs operate by holding the net open so turtles can escape rather than asphyxiate. Florida started requiring shrimpers within state waters to use TEDs in 1990.

A major threat endangering shell fishing in the early years of the first decade of the 2000s was the algal blooms known popularly as "red tides." Shellfish, which are mostly filter feeders, siphon the algae out of the water and feed on it, retaining any toxins in their own bodies. These toxins can then be transferred to people who eat the shellfish, resulting in a syndrome known as paralytic shellfish poison (PSP). In the latter part of the twentieth century, red tides increased in frequency worldwide and resulted in the closing of many clamming beds. In the United States, however, PSP posed a very small threat to human life, thanks to efficient monitoring of algal events. The turn of the twenty-first century saw major institutes conducting research into water contaminations.

Current Conditions

According to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the U.S. aquaculture industry was small compared to the rest of the world in the late years of the first decade of the 2000s, with U.S. production worth only about $1 billion out of the $70 billion in annual revenues worldwide. About 20 percent of U.S. aquaculture production was in shellfish. In 2008, the United States produced 152.2 million pounds of shellfish, with crawfish accounting for 75 percent, oysters for 14 percent, clams for 7 percent, shrimp for 3 percent, and mussels for less than 1 percent. Correspondingly, the United States continued to import more shellfish than it exported. In 2008, 83 percent of the seafood Americans consumed was imported. That year, imports reached a record high of $14.2 billion. After hovering at $14.1 billion in 2008, the value of seafood imports dropped to $13.1 billion in 2009. NMFS figures showed that shrimp was the number one U.S. shellfish import in terms of volume and value. Shrimp imports grew significantly throughout the first decade of the 2000s due to declining prices. In 2009, the United States imported 1.0 billion pounds of fresh and frozen shrimp worth $3.7 billion, compared to 1.2 billion pounds worth $4.1 billion in 2008. These figures were still significantly higher than the 946 million pounds imported in 2002.

Crabs (fresh and frozen) were the fourth highest seafood in terms of value of U.S. imports (salmon and freshwater fish were second and third, respectively) in the late years of the first decade of the 2000s. Although volume of crabs imported increased from 154.1 million pounds in 2008 to 170.1 million pounds in 2009, value decreased from $721.1 million to $700.1 million in the same time period. Lobster imports decreased in both volume and value, from 107.7 million pounds worth $1.1 billion in 2008 to 99.2 million pounds worth about $785 million in 2009. Squid was also a significant import, though volume dropped from 129.7 million pounds in 2008 to 107.6 million pounds in 2009 and value decreased significantly from $170.6 million to $141.3 million. Other major shellfish imports entering the United States in 2009 included crabmeat (107.6 million pounds), mussels (57.0 million pounds), scallops (53.8 million pounds), and clams (25.1 million pounds).

The major providers of all seafood to the United States in the late years of the first decade of the 2000s were Ecuador, China, and Thailand. Thailand was the largest shrimp importer to the United States, providing 33 percent of all shrimp imports; Indonesia accounted for 16 percent, Ecuador for 10 percent, Vietnam and China for 8 percent each, Mexico for 6 percent, Malaysia for 5 percent, and other countries for the remaining 14 percent.

The U.S. exported 2.5 billion pounds of seafood in 2009, as compared to 5.2 billion pounds in imports. Seafood exports were valued at $3.7 billion, down from almost $4 billion in 2008. Lobster was the number one U.S. shellfish export in the late years of the first decade of the 2000s, with 54.5 million pounds worth $332.1 million shipped in 2009. Other important exports included crabs (34.5 million pounds) and shrimp (15.8 million pounds).

The largest potential for growth in consumer shellfish demand in the 2010s and beyond was expected to be shrimp. Industry analysts, however, questioned whether fishermen can harvest increased amounts of shrimp without damaging the ability of populations to sustain themselves. Other concerns relate to harvesting shrimp without damaging other marine populations, such as sea turtles.

In the early years of the first decade of the 2000s, increasing outbreaks of the Vibrio vulnificus bacteria in shellfish, particularly in raw oysters, caused concern over the safety of consuming shellfish. The Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference began lobbying to reduce seafood-borne illnesses, but in the fall of 2009 the issue came to the forefront of the industry again when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it planned to require restaurants to serve processed oysters rather than live ones and possibly prohibit the sale of live oysters from Texas, Louisiana, and Florida between the months of May and October beginning in 2011 due to incidences of Vibrio infections. According to the FDA, 30 people a year are infected with the bacteria, about half of whom find the illness fatal. Many in the shellfish industry opposed the proposal.

Another serious issue in the industry was related to the massive oil spill that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010, which brought oyster production in the area to a standstill. Bill Dewey of Taylor Shellfish Co. in Seattle told the Associated Press, ".The Gulf, and Louisiana in particular, is the leading oyster-producing area in the country, and so when they go down it creates a huge void." The resulting drop in production caused market shortages and price increases..

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