The Fishery Monitoring Branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries’ Southeast Fisheries Science Center has released preliminary shrimp landings data from the Gulf of Mexico for December 2019 and for the full year.
At 5.5 million pounds, landings of shrimp in the Gulf of Mexico were the lowest reported for any December in the historical database maintained by the Southern Shrimp Alliance going back to 2000. Landings for the month in Louisiana were considerably higher than they were in December of last year (1.8 million pounds versus 1.1 million pounds), but a steep drop in reported landings in Texas compared to last year (2.1 million pounds versus 4.2 million pounds) subsumed that increase.
Across the Gulf, NOAA reported that 80.8 million pounds of shrimp were landed in all of 2019, down 98.3 million pounds in 2018 and over 35 percent below the prior twenty-year historic average (124.6 million pounds). The 80.8 million pounds of shrimp landed in 2019 represents the lowest annual shrimp harvest reported by NOAA since at least 2000.
Compared to 2018, landings were down in every single reporting area of the Gulf:
* off the west coast of Florida (3.5 million pounds versus 3.9 million pounds);
* in Mississippi (4.3 million pounds versus 4.9 million pounds);
* in Alabama (13.0 million pounds versus 14.1 million pounds);
* in Louisiana (29.6 million pounds versus 35.4 million pounds); and
* in Texas (30.4 million pounds versus 40.0 million pounds).
Ex-vessel prices were not reported for December in the eastern Gulf (Florida west coast) or for three of the seven count sizes in the northern Gulf (Alabama, Louisiana, & Mississippi). For the four count sizes reported in the northern Gulf (U15, 15/20, 21/25, & 26/30), the ex-vessel prices reported were on par with those reported in December 2018. However, in the western Gulf (Texas), the reported ex-vessel prices last month were substantially higher than last year.
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.
Ultimately, the harvest volumes reported in NOAA’s monthly reporting are likely to be significantly revised when the agency issues a Fisheries of the United States covering 2019 commercial landings. A historical comparison of the final numbers included in the Fisheries of the United States and the preliminary numbers included in NOAA’s monthly reporting shows that the final harvest figures have had to be significantly revised upwards in 2016 and 2017. Although generally released in the fall, NOAA has not yet issued a Fisheries of the United States for 2019 reporting final 2018 commercial fishery harvest amounts. However, when this report is ultimately issued, the final landings numbers for 2018 are likely to be substantially higher than the 98.3 million preliminary figure reported in the monthly reports for 2018.
Nevertheless, even if revisions are assumed, NOAA’s reporting over the last twenty years shows a consistent, continuing downward trend in the volume of shrimp harvested in Louisiana. This sharp decline is apparent in both the preliminary and final shrimp landings data reported by the federal agency.