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A Message from Sam Rauch, Head of NOAA Fisheries

It's Time For Our Annual Statistical Yearbook for U.S. Fisheries
September 2012 

Think back to your school days and the excitement you felt when your yearbook arrived. I always enjoyed looking back at all that happened during the year. It’s with this same excitement that I share with you NOAA Fisheries’ yearbook, Fisheries of the U.S., 2011. Yes, fitting our rich scientific tradition, this is a statistical yearbook filled with facts and figures about our domestic fisheries.

You probably noticed our yearbook is for the 2011 fishing year. That’s because a handful of dedicated NOAA Fisheries scientists gather information from a variety of data collection efforts coordinated through NOAA and our partners. This means it takes some time to get the information right, but it’s worth it to have all these important statistics in one single document.

Take the time to flip through the pages and you’ll see Fisheries of the U.S., 2011 has some good news to share. Although we’re in a tough economic climate, it’s encouraging to note the landings of commercial U.S. wild-caught fish was up over the previous year, exceeding 10 million pounds for the first time in over a decade. Still better news for our economy are the values of these catches reaching a 17-year high.

Consumers welcomed this availability of sustainable seafood. In 2011, Americans consumed almost 5 billion pounds. Although per capita consumption actually dropped, the United States moved past Japan, making us second only to China in worldwide seafood consumption.

To see the values and landings rise again is good news for fishermen, fishing communities, and for Americans who want sustainable, healthy U.S. seafood. It’s further indication that we’re turning the corner, rebuilding fisheries, and making a difference for the people who live and work in our nation’s coastal communities.

Take Alaska pollock as an example. Catch was up more than 850 million pounds in 2011. The reason? Timely and accurate science leading to informed, responsive management. Pollock is one of our signature fisheries. Our scientists found pollock had grown above population levels needed for sustainability, giving managers the freedom to raise catch levels, and allowing fishermen to harvest more fish in 2011. This is yet another reason why Alaska pollock is considered among the best managed fisheries in the world and a standard for others to follow.

Another encouraging sign emerging from the pages of Fisheries of the U.S, 2011 is the rebounding of Gulf of Mexico fisheries. We all vividly remember the devastating Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 and wondered how our fisheries would respond. It’s a positive indication that in 2011, commercial fishermen in the Gulf hit their highest landings totals since 1999 -- much of this increase is due to landings of menhaden that were 66 percent higher than 2010.

It’s worth taking a moment to talk about the statistical side of our statistical yearbook. We have teams of scientists around the world collecting and analyzing fisheries data. We’re constantly challenging ourselves to find better ways to produce reliable, accurate, and timely statistics because we know peoples’ lives and livelihoods rely on the quality of information we provide.

While the majority of Fisheries of the U.S., 2011 contains commercial statistics, we do include recreational figures because they are an equally important contributor. For the past several years, we’ve been investing heavily in improving the reliability of our recreational statistics through a program called the Marine Recreational Information Program, or MRIP. Many of the recreational catch figures reported in this edition of Fisheries of the U.S. utilize a new method for calculating catch developed through MRIP. This is just one of several improvements underway through MRIP that will improve the quality of the information in FUS in future years.

I encourage you to take a look at Fisheries of the U.S., 2011, this year's yearbook. Spend a moment to look back and see how far we’ve come together. And then, let’s turn our attention back to today and use this information to help set our sights on an exciting future.

Samuel D. Rauch III
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs,
performing the functions and duties of the Assistant Administrator for Fisheries