Commercial Fishing

Industry Profile Report

Dive Deep into the industry with a 25+ page industry report (pdf format) including the following chapters

Industry Overview Current Conditions, Industry Structure, How Firms Operate, Industry Trends, Credit Underwriting & Risks, and Industry Forecast.

Call Preparation Call Prep Questions, Industry Terms, and Weblinks.

Financial Insights Working Capital, Capital Financing, Business Valuation, and Financial Benchmarks.

Industry Profile Excerpts

Industry Overview

The 2,500 commercial fishing operations in the US harvest fish and shellfish from their natural habitats in fresh water, tidal areas, rivers and oceans. The approximately 300 target species vary by region and require differing methods, vessels and equipment for their catch. Imports currently represent 94% of US consumption of fish and shellfish.

Limits to Prevent Overfishing

Overfishing is the catching and killing of more fish than can naturally be replaced.

Weather Hazards

Fishing is a seasonal job and catch is highest during the summer and fall, as winter fishing is particularly hazardous.

Industry size & Structure

The average commercial fishing company employs 2 workers and generates nearly $2 million in annual revenue.

    • Companies in commercial fishing vary in size from small vessel and family operations that operate as a fishing community to supply local and regional markets to large corporate fleets that supply regional, national and export markets.
    • There are about 2,500 companies in commercial fishing and 94% of companies have four or less employees.
    • Total annual revenue or "landings value" for commercial fishers range $4-6 billion.
    • Approximately 69,200 are employed in the industry, 92% are self-employed.
    • The largest firms are typically integrated, moving from managing their own fishing fleet to processing and distribution. These firms include: Nippon Suisan Kaisha (USA), Shamrock Foods, and Trident Seafoods Corporation.
    • Eight regional fishery management councils under NOAA oversee about 54 fishery management plans that control approximately 480 major fish stocks making up over 90% of annual revenue.
                              Industry Forecast
                              Commercial Fishing Industry Growth
                              Source: Vertical IQ and Inforum

                              Recent Developments

                              Mar 27, 2023 - Lower Catch Limits on Pacific Halibut
                              • The 2023 Pacific halibut season opened in March with lower catch limits than last year, KMXT in Kodiak, Alaska reports. Catch limits for Pacific halibut are 10.3% lower than last year across all user groups – including commercial and recreational fishermen. Because stock assessments showed different rates of declines across the fishery, not all areas are subject to the lower catch limits: The lower 48 US states actually saw higher numbers than last year and no cuts to its catch limits, while Alaska’s fishery saw cuts across the board. Harvest limits for the Central Gulf of Alaska, which is the largest fishing area by volume and includes most of the fishing grounds off Kodiak Island, are about 17% lower than in 2022. According to NOAA, 95% of halibut is caught in Alaska.
                              • New research funded by The National Sea Grant College Program aims to keep sharks away from commercial fishing gear, Coastwatch reports. Researchers are pilot testing an electronic device that produces a small electric field around a baited hook to deter sharks. Unlike other fish, sharks possess an electrosensory system that enables them to detect close-range movements of predators or prey. Sharks are deterred by the electric impulse emitted by the device because they find it disorientating or physically uncomfortable. The device could help conserve several overfished shark species, including scalloped hammerhead, dusky, sandbar, and blacknose sharks, whose populations fishery managers are trying to rebuild. Sharks are often caught as “bycatch” when fishers are targeting other fish. “NOAA has made reducing shark bycatch a management priority,” says researcher Sara Mirabilio. “Positive results with our refined design would demonstrate that this device could help reduce shark bycatch nationally — and globally.”
                              • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in February released its draft National Seafood Strategy, outlining how the administration will support the domestic US seafood economy and seafood sector in the coming years, SeafoodSource reports. The draft recognizes seafood’s benefits to human health, critical role in feeding the growing global population, and economic impact. The US harvests around 10 billion pounds of seafood each year, with a dockside value of $6.3 billion. The draft also recognizes seafood as an environmentally friendly way to produce a nutritious food given its relatively low carbon footprint and efficient use of resources. It supports the goals of increasing US wild-capture and aquaculture production, increasing the industry’s access to domestic and global markets, and better promotion of US seafood, highlighting its sustainability and nutritional value. NOAA is currently requesting public input on the strategy through mid-March 2023.
                              • Lobster fishermen may soon face new size restrictions on lobsters trapped off the coast of New England, National Fisherman Magazine reported in February. The rules, designed to maintain the breeding population, could become stricter, potentially bringing big changes to one of the US’s most valuable seafood industries. Fishermen are required to measure lobsters from eyes to tail and throw them back if they're too large or too small. The rules, which can vary slightly based on fishing grounds, would apply to key areas such as the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank. The regulatory Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is considering changing the standards by a fraction of an inch in some of the fishing grounds. The commission said it’s considering the changes due to a worrisome lack of baby lobsters growing off New England. If approved, the changes could be implemented by fall 2024.
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