SIC 0913

This industry classification includes establishments primarily engaged in the commercial taking of shellfish. The shellfish designation includes mollusks (such as clams, mussels, oysters, and squid) and crustaceans (such as crabs, crayfish, lobsters, and shrimp). Establishments primarily engaged in shellfish farming are classified in SIC 0273: Animal Aquaculture.

NAICS Code(s)

114112 (Shellfish Fishing)

After growing, albeit slowly, in the late 1990s, the market for seafood began to wane in the early 2000s. Total shellfish landings in 2002 were 8.08 billion pounds, down from 8.24 billion pounds in 2001; the value of landings declined from $1.47 billion to $1.35 billion over the same time period. Clam landings grew from 122.7 million pounds in 2001 to 130.0 million pounds in 2002, while crab landings increased from 272.2 million pounds to 357.6 million pounds. However, shrimp landings declined from 324.4 million pounds in 2001 to 316.7 million pounds in 2002, and squid landing dipped from 231.6 million pounds to 205.5 million pounds.

Although most shellfish imports decreased during the late 1990s and early 2000s, shrimp imports grew 41 percent between 1998 and 2003. In fact, they jumped 64 million pounds in 2002 alone to 946 million pounds, worth an estimated $3.4 billion. Despite a weak U.S. economy, shrimp imports throughout the early 2000s had grown significantly due to declining prices. This trend continued in the first half of 2003, with the quantity of imports rising 14 percent while the price declined 1 percent. By the end of 2003, shrimp imports were predicted to exceed 1 billion pounds. Thailand is the largest shrimp importer to the United States, accounting for $393 million in shipments during the first half of 2003 alone.

Fresh and frozen crabmeat imports declined from 28.4 million pounds to 22.7 million pounds between 2001 and 2002. Over the same time period, fresh and frozen lobster imports increased from 91.6 million pounds to 99.8 million pounds, while fresh and frozen scallop imports increased from 39.6 million pounds to 48.2 million pounds.

Imports of clams grew 27 percent to 4.4 million pounds in the first six months of 2003, while imports of oysters grew 31 percent to 9.6 million pounds. Mussel imports, however, declined 16 percent to 24.2 million pounds during this time period. After declining modestly in the late 1990s, exports of clams and oysters recovered in the early 2000s, despite sluggish economic conditions

SIC 0913 Shellfish

in Asia. During the first six months of 2003, exports of mussels, clams, and oysters rose 19 percent to 5 million pounds. Oysters realized the largest percentage of this growth, accounting for nearly half of mollusk exports. The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts increasing mollusk prices and continued weakness in Asian economics, the combination of which will likely weaken demand for mollusk exports by 2005.

The U.S. fishery industry produced 950.5 million pounds of canned shellfish products for human consumption in 2002, compared to 858.3 million pounds in 2001. The value of canned shellfish increased from $1.11 billion to $1.14 billion between 2001 and 2002.

The largest potential for growth in consumer shell-fish demand in the early 2000s and beyond is expected to be shrimp. Industry analysts, however, question whether fishermen can harvest increased amounts of shrimp without damaging the ability of populations to sustain themselves. Other concerns relate to harvesting shrimp without damaging other marine populations, such as sea turtles.

The shellfish industry had entered the 1990s with a myriad of regulatory and management challenges. Many East Coast shell fisheries were recovering from sharp declines during the middle years of the 1980s when algae blooms ravaged fertile scallop grounds and decimated clam populations. Oyster stocks from Long Island to the Chesapeake Bay were threatened by viral oyster diseases. Catches of Alaskan crab, which had dropped from 347 million pounds in 1980 to 129 million pounds in 1985, totaled 281 million pounds in 1990.

As past methods of managing shellfish populations through the use of quotas and limited seasons have not proven entirely successful, government agencies are analyzing new approaches. For example, in the 1990s an innovative management plan for surf clams replaced a policy under which vessels could work a total of only 144 hours annually. The new system, designed to be more flexible, permits the sale and transfer of allocations.

Regulators are also looking for ways to control bycatch problems. "Bycatch" refers to unintentionally caught fish, birds, marine mammals, and turtles that are killed in the harvesting process. Because shrimp are traditionally caught in trawls (net devices pulled behind the boat) they catch significant quantities of other marine animals. Shrimp bycatch was blamed for reductions in red snapper populations and for thousands of turtle deaths. Some reports estimated that as many as 50 to 75 percent of juvenile red snapper were being caught and discarded annually by shrimpers. In addition, a study done by the National Academy of Sciences estimated that trawls killed up to 50,000 turtles per year.

One apparatus used extensively to reduce trawl bycatch by the early 2000s was called a Turtle Excluder Device (TED). TEDs operate by holding the net open so turtles can escape rather than asphyxiate. Florida had started requiring shrimpers within state waters to use TEDs during the middle of 1990.

One major threat endangering shell fishing today is the algal blooms known popularly as "red tides." Shell-fish, which are mostly filter feeders, siphon the algae out of the water and feed on it, retaining any toxins in their own bodies. These toxins can then be transferred to people who eat the shellfish, resulting in a syndrome known as paralytic shellfish poison (PSP). Since 1972, "red tides" have increased in frequency worldwide and resulted in the closing of many clamming beds. In the United States, however, PSP poses a very small threat to human life, thanks to efficient monitoring of algal events. The turn of the twenty-first century saw major institutes conducting research into water contaminations.

In the early 2000s, increasing outbreaks of the Vibrio bacteria in shellfish, particularly in raw oysters, caused a certain amount of concern over the safety of consuming shellfish. The Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference in July of 2001 began lobbying to reduce seafood-borne illnesses by 60 percent by 2007.

Further Reading

Lash, Steve. "Shellfish Industry Calls for 60 Percent Vibrio Vulnificus Reduction." Food Chemical News, 6 August 2001.

National Marine Fisheries Service. U.S. Commercial Landings, 2002. Available from .

U.S. Department of Agriculture. "Aquaculture Outlook." Washington, DC: Economic Research Service, 9 October 2003. Available from .

U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census. Imports and Exports of Fishery Products, Annual Summary, 2002. Washington, DC: 2002.

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