| August 7, 2008
State’s commercial fishermen are being paid less for their catches
By SUSAN WEST
Ex-vessel prices paid to North Carolina commercial fishermen
haven’t come close to keeping up with inflation in recent years,
according to a new report released by the North Carolina Division of
Species, such as shrimp, croaker, southern flounder, and bluefish, all reached a pinnacle in value before 1990.
The report, “Trends in North Carolina Seafood Prices,”
tracks the changes in the ex-vessel value of 16 species harvested by
commercial fishermen over the past 35 years. Ex-vessel prices are
the prices paid fishermen by seafood dealers or wholesalers.
For some species, such as shrimp, croaker, and bluefish, the average
price per pound in 2007 was lower than the price paid more than a
In 2007, shrimp averaged $1.88 per pound, compared to $2.61 in 1994.
Fishermen were paid 30 cents per pound for bluefish in 2007, less than the 36 cents paid in 1995.
Croakers earned fishermen 37 cents per pound in 2007, but brought in 51 cents in 1990.
And, the numbers are even worse when the prices are adjusted for the
effect of inflation, a more accurate indicator of the true purchasing
power of the money in fishermen’s wallets.
The 64 cents paid to a shrimper in 1972 was worth $3.16 in consumer
price index-adjusted 2007 prices, nearly 40 percent higher than the
value of shrimp last year.
The inflation-adjusted value of king mackerel in 1976 was $2.55, while
the state’s fishermen averaged $1.86 for mackerel last year.
And fishermen earned the equivalent of $2.72 in 1989 for southern flounder, compared to $2.39 in 2007.
The report doesn’t identify the reasons behind the changes in
ex-vessel prices, but Scott Crosson, Division of Marine Fisheries
socioeconomics program manager and author of the report, said prices
can change in response to economic recessions, increases in oil prices,
and international trade.
A direct correlation between growth of the global seafood market and
downward spiraling prices for some, if not all, types of wild-caught
seafood produced in North Carolina is hard to deny.
The evidence that globalization has hurt state fishermen is perhaps
most compelling in the case of shrimp, one of the most important
commercial fisheries in the state.
As shrimp imports grew from 264,207 metric tons in 1996 to 556,936 tons
in 2007, prices paid to North Carolina shrimpers dropped from $2.54 to
$1.88 per pound.
Shrimpers here have had some success in developing niche markets for
consumers who value strict health, safety, and environmental production
standards, but the huge volume of cheaper shrimp coming into the U.S.
from Asia and Latin America clearly drives wholesale prices.
The DMF report can be downloaded at http://www.ncdmf.net/download/NorthCarolinaSeafoodPrices.pdf.