Americans ate 16.1 pounds of seafood in 2018, an insignificant rise over the same period last year, but enough to reach an 11-year high, according to newly released data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries division.
The annual "Fisheries of the United States" report, which will be released Friday, found consumption grew just 0.1 pounds from the year prior, or a .6 percent increase -- a disappointing flatline compared with the sharp jump in 2017 consumption, which rose 7.4 percent from the year prior.
Shrimp was a standout in 2018, however, reaching a record-high 4.6 pounds per capita -- 15 percent higher than the year prior.
NOAA attributed the small rise in overall seafood consumption to an increase in fresh and frozen seafood purchases. Consumption of fish sticks and portions continued its slow decline, falling to just 0.5 pounds per capita. Fillet and steak consumption, meanwhile, was flat at 5.8 pounds per capita.
Canned seafood consumption was also down, but NOAA attributed the decline to lower wild salmon production out of Alaska, and cautioned against drawing conclusions about the trend.
The NOAA Fisheries calculation of per capita consumption is based on a “disappearance” model.
The total US supply of imports and landings is converted to edible weight; decreases in supply, such as exports and industrial uses, are subtracted.
The remaining total is divided by the US population to estimate per capita consumption.
Average US seafood consumption between 2013-2016 was among the lowest in the industrialized world, according to the report.
The estimated 48.5 pounds (live weight equivalent) consumed per person during the three-year period was roughly half the consumption of seafood-loving Japan and Norway, and a quarter of the island nations of Iceland and the Faroe Islands. US consumption also trailed Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Denmark and France, among others.
Consumption was, however, slightly higher than in the United Kingdom, and well above Germany's 29.3-pound average for the period.
Despite the lag in per-capita consumption, however, the growing US consumer base puts its overall seafood consumption in 2018 second only to China.
Trade deficit widens
America's dependence on imported seafood, despite the efforts of the Trump Administration to re-balance trade between the country and China in particular, continued to grow.
Overall the United States imported $22.4 billion (€20.8 billion) worth of edible seafood products and exported $5.6 billion (€5.2 billion) for a trade deficit of $16.8 billion (€15.6 billion).
That's over 8 percent higher than the 2017 trade deficit of $15.5 billion (€14.4 billion).
Signs of life
Americans ate 16 pounds of fish and shellfish in 2017, an increase of 7.4 percent from the 14.9 pounds consumed in 2016. Before then, seafood consumption hadn't reached the 16-pounds-per-person level in nearly a decade.
US dietary guidelines recommend 8-12 ounces of a variety of seafood species per week, or 26-39 pounds per person annually.
The annual report, which also highlights catch volume and value and details on the US seafood processing sector, was delayed significantly from last year.
NOAA will present detailed findings of the report on Feb. 21.
The National Fisheries Institute (NFI) typically releases its ranking of most-consumed species soon after the annual NOAA Fisheries report.
Below is the 2017 Top 10 ranking: