America's fishing industry declined slightly in 2015 as fishermen contended with environmental and market forces, the federal government says.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Tuesday released its "Fisheries Economics of the United States" report for 2015, the most recent year for which statistics are available. The report says U.S. fisheries contributed a little less than $208 billion in sales, a decline from nearly $214 billion in 2014, which the government stressed was a "banner year."
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The number of fisheries jobs was also down 12 percent, to 1.6 million. But the NOAA noted the 2015 totals were better than they were four years earlier and were the second best year in the period from 2011 to 2015.
The NOAA said environmental factors included marine toxins; El Nino, a naturally occurring worldwide climate phenomenon that starts with unusually warm water in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific and then changes weather worldwide; and the Pacific Ocean's "warm blob," an area of relatively warm water off the West Coast. Those factors drove down the value of crab, squid, hake and salmon, the agency said.
Environmental factors have also been felt on the East Coast, where warming ocean waters are among the factors blamed for the collapse of the Atlantic cod fishery.
"In New England in particular, we're seeing some of these environmental changes," said Alan Risenhoover, an administrator with NOAA. "That affects some stocks."
The NOAA's report mentioned one of the strongest fisheries in the country was the Maine lobster fishery. The value of all the lobster caught in Maine has climbed from $237 million in 2009 to more than $500 million in 2015.
The NOAA also released its annual "Status of Stocks" report, about the health of different species. The report states that three stocks of Chinook salmon, along the Washington coast and in the Columbia River basin, and one stock of Coho salmon, along the Washington coast, have been removed from the federal overfishing list.
The report also states that albacore has been added to the federal "rebuilt list" of improved fisheries. A half-dozen stocks, including Caribbean spiny lobster in Puerto Rico and Coho salmon in the Puget Sound, were added to the overfishing list.