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    Seafood Consumption Dipped Last Year: NOAA

    The Fisheries Service said developing U.S. aquaculture instead of depending on imports would bring costs down and stimulate a purchasing comeback.

    The average American ate 16.3 pounds of fish and shellfish in 2007, a 1 percent decline from 16.5 pounds in 2006, according to a Fisheries Service study by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce, which was released today.

    The total amount of seafood eaten last year came to 4.908 billion pounds of seafood, a little less than the 4.944 billion pounds consumed in 2006. The United States is still the third-largest consumer of fish and shellfish, after China and Japan.

    Shrimp stayed the No. 1 seafood choice in the United States at 4.1 pounds per person, a slight decline of 0.3 pounds from 2006. Of the total of 16.3 pounds consumed per person, 12.1 pounds were fresh and frozen finfish and shellfish, down 0.2 pounds from 2006.
    Canned seafood, mainly canned tuna, remained at 3.9 pounds per person. Americans ate five pounds of fillets and steaks, including Alaskan Pollock, salmon, flounder, and cod, down 0.2 pounds from 2006. Cured seafood such as smoked salmon and dried cod accounted for the remaining 0.3 pounds.

    The United States imports about 84 percent of its seafood, a proportion that has been steadily rising. Imports made up just 63 percent of U.S. seafood only a decade ago.

    "While NOAA works to end overfishing and rebuild wild fish stocks, the U.S. also needs more sustainable domestic aquaculture to help meet consumer demand for healthy seafood and narrow the foreign trade gap," noted Jim Balsiger, acting NOAA assistant administrator for NOAA's Fisheries Service. "The National Offshore Aquaculture Act of 2007, pending before Congress, would provide a clear permitting process for
    businesses and individuals to develop safe, sustainable aquaculture in U.S. federal waters."

    At least half of the seafood the United States imports is farmed. Aquaculture production in the rest of the world has grown dramatically over the past 30 years and now supplies half of the world seafood demand, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

    By contrast, America's aquaculture industry currently meets just 5 percent to 7 percent of the nation's demand for seafood. Most of that is catfish, with oysters, clams, mussels, and salmon supplying a combined 1.5 percent.

    "Expanding U.S. aquaculture would provide consumers with more affordable, locally and regionally produced, safe and healthy seafood," said Balsiger. "The development of domestic aquaculture will complement our wild fisheries and help revitalize waterfront economies."

    NOAA's Fisheries Service annual report, "Fisheries of the United States" is available at http://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/st1/index.html.

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