The domestic fishery can no longer supply additional landings of most wild-caught species without endangering the resources. Increases in demand will have to be met either through increased aquaculture production or increased imports. Many species are currently being over-exploited world-wide causing further need to look elsewhere for fishery products to meet the ever-increasing global demand. Seafood consumption has been steadily growing in the U.S. Even if consumption remained unchanged in the 1990's, U.S. population growth alone would add forty million pounds to the demand for seafood each year. Shortfalls in domestic wild harvests of fish and shellfish also draw in imports to fill demand. More than 60 percent of the seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported resulting to trade deficits in fisheries products. Economic benefits from aquaculture production accrue not only to those directly involved in the industry but contribute to increased employment and revenue of the entire region. Recent analyses suggest output, income and employment in the Mississippi catfish industry are multiplied two to two and one-half times in the local economy. Aquaculture can also supplement domestic fisheries, increase seafood production and provide stability for the seafood industry. A successful approach to many of these current domestic fishery problems is through the development of an extensive aquaculture program in the United States. Of particular interest is the success of the farm-raised catfish industry, centered in the Mississippi Delta. It stands as an example of what is possible in aquaculture.
Aquaculture has been established in the U.S. for over 100 years, but it remains relatively undeveloped in comparison to the rest of the world. While farmed seafoods contribute over 20 percent by weight to world seafood production, U.S. production is less than two percent of world aquaculture production. In 2000, however, U.S. production has grown to more than 370,000 metric tons or 823 million pounds valued at $973 million. Coastal and offshore aquaculture frequently involves new species, product forms or production technologies. During the last decade, several species have been raised in the Mississippi Gulf Coast including catfish, baitfish, gamefish, crawfish, soft-shell crab and crawfish, redfish, hybrid striped bass, tilapia, alligators, freshwater prawns, cultured oysters and carp. Because research and development efforts have been focused on production, little attention has been paid to linking aquaculture with existing support services or to developing needed infrastructure. Essential seafood services such as processing, storage, transportation, financing, insurance and personnel training already exist in the coastal region. A key constraint to development is the lack of linkage between aquaculture and existing seafood industries.
For further information, contact: Dr. Ben Posadas, Associate R/E Professor of Economics