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PUBLISHED: 4:43 PM on Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Americans eating less seafood but favorites the same
Market experts say the decline in shrimp imports accounted for dip in consumption
Americans ate slightly less seafood last year, and their favorites have remained largely the same for nearly a decade.

Each person consumed 16.3 pounds of fish and shellfish last year, a 1.2 percent decline from 2006, according to the popular Top 10 list released each year by the National Fisheries Institute. It was a decline in imports of the #1 favorite - shrimp - that accounted for the overall dip in seafood consumption, market watchers said.

Canned tuna held onto the #2 spot, although that product has been on a steady decline in recent years. Salmon remained as the third most popular favorite, and saw the strongest gain of all seafoods on the top 10 list. Each American ate 2.2 pounds of salmon last year.

Pollock ranked #4 again, and farmed tilapia remained at #5. Rounding out the top 10 list of favorites were catfish, crab, cod, clams and flatfish, which includes halibut.

How does seafood stack up against the competing 'center of the plate' proteins of cow, pork and poultry?

Americans continued their love affair with beef, said market watcher Ken Talley, with each person eating a whopping 62.4 pounds last year, a slight decline. Chicken ranked second at 59.8 pounds per person, although U.S. consumption dipped slightly. Pork saw a hefty boost to 47.7 pounds, a 2.3 percent gain as farmers pushed pigs to market early to reduce production costs, Talley said. The biggest winner among major proteins last year was inexpensive turkey at 13.6 pounds per capita, a 3 percent growth.

Discharge and Exxon Tax updates

Fishing boats got a break from tough new water discharge laws that would require permits even for hosing off the deck. Congress last week passed legislation pushed by Senators Lisa Murkowski and Ted Stevens that gives commercial fishing boats a two-year moratorium from permits for discharges under the Clean Water Act. Senator Murkowski held up the original bill last week because it exempted all recreational boats from the permits- even 400 foot yachts - but not small fishing vessels. The measure will give relief to nearly 10,000 Alaska fishing boats, most of which are less than 36 feet.

The Environmental Protection Agency is also tasked with determining the types and effects of discharges from fishing boats of varying sizes within 15 months. That information will be used to determine if the exemptions should be permanent.

On another front: the bill to give a one time tax break to Exxon Valdez oil spill (EVOS) plaintiffs is still on the move. It has been included in a tax extender, Senator Murkowski said.

"The chairman of the finance committee has indicated to me that it is his full intention to include the EVOS measure in the tax extender bill, and that he recognizes it is just good policy," Sen. Murkowski said in a phone conversation.

Coastie kudos

Aug. 4 marked the 218th birthday of our nation's oldest sea going service - the U.S. Coast Guard.

It was originally launched in 1790 as the U.S. Lighthouse Service when the first Congress gave orders to build 10 vessels to enforce tariff and trade laws under the newly formed Treasury Department. At the time, that was the only source of revenue for the federal government. It then became known as the Revenue Cutter Service until 1915 when it was merged with the Life-Saving Service, and received its present name from Congress.

In the Coast Guard's Top 10 list of most memorable missions, the response to Hurricane Katrina three years ago ranks as #1. The USCG is credited with saving more than 33,000 people after it took charge there.

The single largest rescue effort in Coast Guard history was in 1937, when a flood on the Mississippi River led to the rescue of 44,000 people - and more than 100,000 head of livestock.

Two Alaska events made the Top 10 list: In 1897, six Coast Guardsmen set off from a Cutter near Point Barrow to save the crews of eight whaling ships trapped in the ice. Using dog sleds, they brought 400 reindeer to the whalers in a 1,500 mile journey that took more than two months. Also, the rescue of 520 people after a fire broke out and sank the cruise ship Prinsendam 130 miles off Ketchikan in 1980.

Today, nearly 40,000 men and women serve in the US Coast Guard. They are credited for saving more than one million lives and counting.

Laine Welch has been writing about Alaska's seafood industry since 1991. Her Fish Factor column appears each week in nearly 20 papers and websites. Her daily Fish Radio programs air on 30 stations in Alaska. This article is protected by copyright and may not be reprinted or distributed without permission. Visit www.alaskafishfactor.com or contact msfish@alaska.com.


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