Thursday September 20, 2012

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) -- The U.S. seafood catch reached a 17-year high last year, with all fishing regions of the country showing increases in both the volume and value of their harvests.

Commercial fishermen last year caught 10.1 billion pounds of fish and shellfish valued at a record $5.3 billion, according to a report released Wednes day by the National Oceanic and Atmos pheric Admini stration. That's a 23 percent increase in catch by weight and a 17 percent increase in value over 2010.

New Bedford, Mass., was the highest-valued port for the 12th straight year, due largely to its scallop fishery. Dutch Harbor, Alaska, was the No. 1 port for seafood volume for the 15th year in a row.

The increases are evidence that fish populations are rebuilding, said Sam Rauch, deputy assistant administrator for NOAA's Fisheries Service.

Still, a number of fisheries are in trouble. The Depart ment of Commerce has declared disasters for cod and other so-called groundfish in New England, oyster and blue crab fisheries in Mississippi, and chinook salmon in Ala ska's Yukon and Kuskokwin rivers.

"Overall nationally, the numbers are very good news," Rauch said. "But we don't want to miss the fact that there are parts of the industry that are or soon will be suffering economic pain."

Alaska led all states by far in catch volume, with 5.4 billion pounds, followed by Louisiana, California, Virginia and Wash ington, according to the report.


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Alaska was also tops in the value of its catch, at $1.9 billion, followed by Massa chusetts, Maine, Louisi ana and Washington.

Fishermen brought 706 million pounds of product to Dutch Harbor, the leading port by volume, while New Bedford, the top port by value, had $369 million worth of seafood cross its docks.