The average American chowed down on nearly one pound more of fish and seafood in 2015 than the previous year, according to a report released Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The 150-page “Fisheries of the United States” report states U.S. fishermen across the nation landed 9.7 billion pounds of fish and shellfish valued at $5.2 billion. The highest valued U.S. commercial species were lobster (at $679.2 million) followed by crab (at $678.7 million) and shrimp ($488.4 million).
“That’s good news,” said Karen Bell, owner of A.P. Bell Fish Co. and Star Fish Co. Market and Restaurant in Cortez. “I know it (seafood) seems to be popular... we could sell more if we had more.”
Alan Lowther, statistician with NOAA Fisheries and co-author of the report, said in a press call Wednesday that it is a large increase compared to what he and other experts have seen in previous years.
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“There was a larger amount of fish available for fresh and frozen consumption so that part of it made up a large part of the increase,” he said. “And then a little bit of the increase was attributed to an increase in canned seafood consumption.”
U.S. landings of shrimp were 327.1 million pounds, said NOAA officials. Florida’s West Coast saw almost 11.5 million pounds of shrimp, up nearly 17 percent according to the report.
I think seafood is definitely one of the healthier options. To me, it indicates that the American public is shifting their habits, if you will, to a more healthier diet so that’s exciting.
Erik Walker, culinary director of the Chiles Restaurant Group
“I want to say I’m not really surprised about it, but I’m definitely happy about it,” said Erik Walker of the Chiles Restaurant Group on Anna Maria Island. “I think seafood is definitely one of the healthier options. To me, it indicates that the American public is shifting their habits, if you will, to a healthier diet. So that’s exciting.”
Walker is the culinary director for the Chiles group’s three properties: the Sandbar Restaurant in the city of Anna Maria, the Beach House Restaurant in Bradenton Beach, and the Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant & Pub in Longboat Key.
Though mullet is one of the restaurants’ biggest items, Walker said shrimp is also very popular.
“Being seafood restaurants, we do sell an enormous amount of shrimp,” he said. “Our three restaurants have made a valiant effort to eliminate foreign shrimp for the main purpose of using domestic products, and that’s because it’s easier for us in terms of verifying the location that it was caught, how it was caught, and the general sustainability.”
Walker embraced NOAA’s reported increase in seafood and fish consumption nationwide.
“It’s definitely cool that more people are getting into seafood,” he said.