Food from the Sea

If you like seafood, you’ve got a lot of company. Seafood consumption in the United States has risen steadily since the 1990s. At the same time, many of America’s regional fisheries have declined, due to over-fishing, pollution, habitat destruction, disease, and other factors. Fisheries that historically helped feed the nation—Atlantic cod, Chesapeake oysters, and Columbia River salmon—have all but disappeared.

Still, all-you-can-eat seafood restaurants are found in most American cities, and fresh seafood is available in supermarkets and seafood specialty stores everywhere. If American fisheries are in such crisis, what are we eating?



Bering Sea Fishery

The Bering Sea, which lies between Alaska and Russia, is tremendously productive. American fishermen are permitted to fish within 200 miles of the shores and islands of Alaska, waters that support the largest commercial fisheries in the United States. After a shift to warmer air temperatures in the 1970s, the population of pollock in the Bering Sea increased by 400 percent. Commercial fishing is rigorously managed to ensure the survival of the species and viable fisheries.


Courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Factory trawlers in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, 2005

Dutch Harbor, on the Aleutian chain of islands in southwest Alaska, is home base for many trawlers during fishing season. Factory processors like the Alaska Ocean offload their frozen products in Dutch Harbor. They also refuel, pick up mail, and load supplies before heading back out to sea.