When it comes to reeling in seafood news, the catch of the day is that the U.S. industry is strong.
It’s no fish tale that fishing and seafood consumption in the U.S. increased in 2017, with landings and value of domestic fisheries continuing a strong, positive trend, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Across the nation, fishermen landed 9.9 billion pounds of fish and shellfish in 2017, while the U.S. imported 5.9 billion pounds of seafood, up 1.6 percent from 2016, NOAA notes in its annual Fisheries of the United States report released Dec. 13, 2018.
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Overall, says NOAA in its report, the highest-value U.S. commercial species in 2017 were salmon ($688 million), crabs ($610 million), lobsters ($594 million), shrimp ($531 million), scallops ($512 million), and Alaska pollock ($413 million). By volume, the nation’s largest commercial fishery remains Alaska pollock, which had near-record landings of 3.4 billion pounds (up 1 percent from 2016).
NOAA notes that in 2016, estimated freshwater plus marine U.S. aquaculture production was 633.5 million pounds, with a value of $1.45 billion. Atlantic salmon was the leading species for marine finfish aquaculture, with 35.7 million pounds produced. Atlantic salmon produced was valued at $67.7 million. Oysters had the highest volume for marine shellfish production at 36.6 million pounds.
Estimated U.S. per capita consumption of fish and shellfish was 16.0 pounds in 2017, an increase of 1.1 pounds from the 14.9 pounds consumed in 2016.
Given these statistics, it’s no surprise that professionals working throughout the U.S. seafood chain, be it in training, auditing, or developing value-added new products, are actively and enthusiastically engaged in promoting quality and safety.
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Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) training is strong in the seafood industry, says Steve Otwell, PhD, seafood specialist emeritus with the University of Florida. Through the Florida Sea Grant Seafood HACCP program, Dr. Otwell serves as coordinator of the National Seafood HACCP Alliance for Training and Education (Seafood HACCP Alliance). The Seafood HACCP Alliance is a nationwide network of processors, university researchers, and governmental agencies that assists the seafood processing and importing industry with the implementation of HACCP programs.
“The alliance provides science-based information about aquatic food product safety and quality through research, publications, and community outreach programs,” Dr. Otwell explains. “Through its participation in the Seafood HACCP Alliance, Florida Sea Grant provides curriculum and essential training materials that enable seafood processors and importers to comply with federal food safety regulations, including the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).”
Dr. Otwell says seafood HACCP has been enhanced in recent years to include emphasis on traceability, a FSMA requirement, and aquaculture products.
Since 1995, the Seafood HACCP Alliance has trained over 90 percent of the nation’s processors in food safety and compliance techniques, he points out.
“In cooperation with the Association of Food and Drug Officials, the Seafood HACCP Alliance has developed a uniform and cost-effective training program for importers, processors, and distributors of fish and fishery products,” Dr. Otwell elaborates. “The training assists with the implementation of HACCP programs in commercial and regulatory settings.”
Courses have been developed for training in basic HACCP programs and the related Sanitation Control Procedures. Train-the-trainer courses are also offered. “The audience for these programs is the seafood processing and importing industry, regulatory officials, and extension agents based in the U.S.,” Dr. Otwell relates.
In 2000, Dr. Otwell initiated an annual Shrimp School based at the University of Florida, which has recently been adopted under the leadership of the National Fisheries Institute (NFI). The first NFI edition was held in Manteo, N.C., in November 2018 and, based on the success of this event, a follow-up session is scheduled for April 2019 in the same location.