For fishing communities, NOAA Fisheries’ annual publication about commercial landings makes for great reading — in much the way farmers enjoy the crop report.
Make no bones about it: Irrespective of decades of impressive economic diversification, the Lower Columbia and nearby places like Garibaldi, Willapa Bay and Westport, Wash., are fishing communities in essential cultural and monetary senses.
Our story last week focused on the horse race between Astoria and Newport for top West Coast fishing port — Newport edged us out in poundage in this latest tally — but there is much else to be gleaned from “Fisheries of the United States 2014.” (www.tinyurl.com/2014FishReport)
Here are a few eye-catching items and our reaction to them:
• Estimated U.S. per capita consumption of fish and shellfish was 14.6 pounds of edible meat in 2014, up from 14.5 pounds in 2013. It is safe to guess that some in our area eat several times this amount.
• Nationwide, U.S. fishermen landed 9.5 billion pounds valued at $5.4 billion in 2014. This was a decrease of 394 million pounds and $43 million from 2013, but the average ex-vessel price paid increased 57 cents a pound, compared to 55 cents a year earlier. Normal economic theory suggests that higher prices go hand in hand with a diminishing supply.
• Oysters — which play an enormous role in Washington’s Pacific County’s economy — are on a sharp upward trend in terms of price. The average price was $7.04 in 2014, up from $4.85 the year before. Overall, the U.S. produced 34.1 million pounds valued at $240.3 million. Gulf states produced 16.4 million pounds, the West Coast 10.6 million and Middle Atlantic states 5.3 million. Washington state alone produced 9.1 million pounds, 86 percent of the West’s total.
• Shrimp are surprisingly large factor in West Coast fisheries. Oregon landed 51.7 million pounds (up 9 percent) and Washington 31.4 million pound (up over 120 percent).
• Dungeness crab are amazingly lucrative but 2014 was an off year. Landings were 54.5 million pounds valued at $209.5 million, a 38 percent decrease in poundage and 17 percent decrease in dollars from 2013. Washington leads, with 19.3 million pounds and 35 percent of landings, followed by California (18 million pounds, 33 percent) and Oregon (11.9 million pounds, 21.8 percent). The average ex-vessel price was $3.84 in 2014, way up from $2.88 in 2013.
• Salmon, once the foundation of the Lower Columbia economy, are now pretty tiny here in a commercial sense. Alaska accounted for 95 percent of 2014 landings, Washington nearly 4 percent. Oregon, California and the Great Lakes combined for the remaining 1 percent. Even so, 2014 was a comparatively good year for Oregon salmon, up 82 percent in poundage and 62 percent in value.
This all is much to discuss and wonder over for old fishermen gathering for strong black coffee.