state and international agreements as well. Fisheries are important to the culture and social structure of their practitioners and can have a major economic impact, at least regionally.

Commercial Fisheries

The United States has the largest exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of any nation, covering about 11 million km2.The United States was the fifth-largest fish producer in 1993, following China, Japan, Peru, and Chile (FAO 1995b). The first-sale value of U.S. commercial landings (4.47 million t6) in 1997 was estimated at $3.5 billion (NMFS 1998), with a direct contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) of $20.2 billion. The United States is also one of the world's largest fish-trading nations, with a deficit of $4.6 billion in 1994 resulting from $12 billion in imports and $7.4 billion in exports (NMFS 1995a).

U.S. commercial landings were relatively stable at about 2 million per year from 1935 until 1977, when the United States extended its jurisdiction over fisheries to 200 miles from the coast and increasingly excluded foreign vessels. At present foreign fishing is not permitted in the U.S. EEZ, although in some cases—for example, menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus) in the Gulf of Maine—foreign processor vessels receive catches from the U.S. EEZ. Since 1977, landings have more than doubled, to 4.47 million t in 1997 (NMFS 1998). The rapid rise in U.S. catch in the late 1980s was due primarily to the walleye pollock fishery that resulted from displacements of foreign vessels during the 1970s and into the 1980s (Figure 2-5). About half of the U.S. landings are from the fishing grounds off Alaska, primarily walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma). Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus), and various salmon (Oncorhynchus) species. As is true for most fishing nations, U.S. fishers are dependent on a small number of species, with almost 50 percent of the catch composed of walleye pollock from the Pacific Ocean and menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus and B. patronus) from the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean.

Recreational Fisheries

Recreational fishing also is important in the United States. Although the recreational catch is only about 2 percent as large as commercial landings for all species combined (90,000 t in 1994), there are more than 17 million marine recreational fishers, who in recent years made more than 66 million fishing trips per year, caught about 360 million fish, and spent $25.3 billion per year on

6  

This number includes the weight of the meat but not the shells of shellfish. FAO statistics usually include the weight of the shells also. When FAO reports landings for the United States (and other countries), it estimates shell weight and thus the weight is usually about 0.7 million t higher for U.S. landings than the weight given usually in U.S. publications (D. Sutherland, NMFS, personal communication, 1998).



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