Yesterday, the Fishery Monitoring Branch of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries’ Southeast Fisheries Science Center released the first 2020 shrimp landings data from the Gulf of Mexico.
In January, 2.8 million pounds of shrimp were landed by commercial fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico. This was a significant increase from the 2.4 million pounds of shrimp harvested in January of 2019, but still well below the prior eighteen-year historical average for January of 3.9 million pounds.
Although shrimp landings in Louisiana were much higher last month than in the previous two Januarys, volumes remained substantially below historic norms. At 996,000 pounds, the volume of shrimp reported as harvested in Louisiana was 43.7 percent below the prior eighteen-year historical average of 1.8 million pounds. Nevertheless, this level of harvest was well above what was reported in January 2019 (548,000 pounds) and January 2018 (379,000 pounds).
At 1.0 million pounds, shrimp landings in Texas last month were actually 12.4 percent above the prior eighteen-year historic average of 915,000 pounds for the month of January. NOAA’s reporting indicates that more shrimp was harvested in Texas last month than in any prior January since 2012.
Ex-vessel prices for shrimp landed in the Gulf were largely not reported for last month. No ex-vessel prices were reported by NOAA for ports in the eastern Gulf (Florida west coast ports) for January. For the northern (Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi) Gulf, ex-vessel prices for just three count sizes were reported – 26-30 count, 31-35 count, and 36-40 count headless, shell-on – with each of these prices substantially higher than what had been reported by NOAA for January of 2019. For the western (Texas) Gulf, ex-vessel prices for just four count sizes were reported – 15-20 count, 21-25 count, 26-30 count, and 31-35 count headless, shell-on – with each of these prices higher than what had been reported by NOAA for January of 2019.
As in past months, NOAA’s monthly reporting of shrimp landings in the Gulf of Mexico continues to include the following disclaimer:
“BE ADVISED THAT THE SUMMARIES IN THIS REPORT ARE COLLECTED OR ESTIMATED BY THE FEDERAL PORT AGENTS AND MAY NOT REFLECT THE LANDINGS FROM THE STATES”
As previously noted, the numbers reported – and the ex-vessel prices that have not been reported – throughout this year by NOAA appear to indicate that port agents may have been unable to collect information in the same manner as they have done historically.
The significant discrepancy between the monthly, interim shrimp landings figures reported by NOAA and the official landings data reported by NOAA in its annual Fisheries of the United States report is evident from the most recent report issued by the agency covering commercial seafood landings in 2018 just last week. In 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018, the shrimp landings volumes reported for the Gulf of Mexico by NOAA in the Fisheries of the United States were significantly higher than the total amount reported by the agency in its monthly landings data. This discrepancy has increased in each of those four years. For 2018, the final, official shrimp landings data reported by NOAA for the Gulf of Mexico was roughly 38 percent higher than what had been reported in the monthly landings reports. This discrepancy is anticipated to continue to grow even larger in 2019.
Yet, even if this data comparison further demonstrates the deficiencies of NOAA’s current monthly landings reporting, a look at other information in the Fisheries of the United States report shows why monthly landing reporting data remains important. The Southern Shrimp Alliance has produced summary tables, available at the link below, showing that even while monthly landings data has significantly understated the amount of shrimp landed in the Gulf of Mexico, these data have accurately reflected trends in the shrimp harvest. In other words, where monthly landings data showed a decline or an increase from the volume reported in the monthly landings data from the prior year, this likely accurately reflected whether shrimp landings volumes were decreasing or increasing. For this reason, the monthly landings data remains an important bellweather indicator for whether there have been substantial changes in the shrimp harvest.
In contrast, no such interim monthly data is reported for shrimp landings in the South Atlantic. The Fisheries of the United States report indicates that shrimpers in that region experienced a massive decline in shrimp landings in 2018 after four consecutive years of increasing harvests. Roughly a third of the volume of annual landings disappeared in 2018 compared to 2017, falling from 29.7 million pounds (live weight) to 20.3 million pounds, with the commercial value of the harvest dropping from $71.4 million in 2017 to $49.7 million in 2018.
Please click the following link to view SSA’s compilation and summary of January 2002-2020 Shrimp Landings and Ex-Vessel Prices for January 2001-2020: https://shrimpalliance.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/January-2020-Landings.pdf
Please click the following link to view SSA’s compilation and summary of shrimp landings data reported in the Fisheries of the United States for 2003 through 2018 and a comparison of these data with the data reported by NOAA in the monthly shrimp landings reports: https://shrimpalliance.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/2018-Landings-Comparison.pdf