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Aquaculture in the United States

Farmed oysters, clams, and mussels account for about two-thirds of total U.S. marine aquaculture production. Pictured above, workers from the Matunuck Oyster Farm in Rhode Island head out to harvest fresh oysters for their customers. [credit: NOAA Aquaculture Office]

More than 50% of the seafood eaten globally is produced through aquaculture. Click on the above image for more information on the U.S.'s contribution and global trends.

Marine aquaculture in the United States contributes to seafood supply, supports commercial fisheries, restores habitat and at-risk species, and maintains economic activity in coastal communities and at working waterfronts in every coastal state.

The preponderance of marine aquaculture production – approximately two-thirds by value – consists of bivalve mollusks such as oysters, clams, and mussels.  Salmon and shrimp constitute most of the rest, but advances in technology and management techniques are increasing the availability of other species for the American public.

Aquaculture also supports commercial and recreational fisheries. About 40% of the salmon caught in Alaska and 80-90% in the Pacific Northwest start their lives in a hatchery - contributing over 270 million dollars to the commercial fishery.

Aquaculture is a tool for habitat and species restoration as well. Hatchery stock is used to rebuild oyster reefs, enhance wild fish populations, and rebuild threatened and endangered abalone and corals.

Globally, the U.S. is a minor aquaculture producer. Here are some visual representations of world aquaculture production, would consumption of seafood, global values by country, and trade.

A compelling case can be made for growing more seafood in the United States. While the worldwide amount of wild-caught seafood has stayed the same year to year, there is a dramatic increase in the amount raised through aquaculture. The United States is the leading global importer of fish and fishery products, with 91% of the seafood we eat (by value) originating abroad – half of which is from aquaculture. Driven by imports, the U.S. seafood trade deficit grew to over $14 billion in 2016.

Although a small producer, the U.S. is a major player in global aquaculture, 
supplying a variety of advanced technology, feed, equipment, and investment to 
other producers around the world.

For data on US fisheries, see Fisheries of the United States - 2015.

Outside the U.S.

In contrast to world capture fisheries production, which has essentially stagnated since the mid-1980s, aquaculture has maintained an annual growth rate of 5.8 percent worldwide since 2005. In addition to fish production, aquaculture produces considerable quantities of aquatic plants. World aquaculture production of fish and plants combined reached 101.1 million tonnes in live weight in 2014, for an estimated total farmgate value of US$165.8 billion

In the United States sales of domestic marine aquaculture have grown on average 13 percent per year from 2007-2011 led by increases in oyster and salmon production. Global aquaculture production is dominated by Asia (89%), while China alone accounts for 62 percent.

Many other countries invest heavily in aquaculture. According to the 2016 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report on The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, the United States ranks 17th in total aquaculture production behind China, Indonesia, India, Viet Nam, Philippines, Bangladesh, the Republic of Korea, Norway, Chile, Egypt, Japan, Myanmar, Thailand, Brazil, Malaysia, and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The list of farmed species imported to the United States is dominated by shrimp, Atlantic salmon, tilapia, and shellfish (scallops, mussels, clams, and oysters).  Asian countries and Ecuador supply most of the shrimp to the U.S. market while Canada, Norway, and Chile supply most of the imported Atlantic salmon.

For data on US imports and exports of seafood, see US Foreign Trade.