Skip to main content
fisherman_001
Up Front

Economic Contributions of the U.S. Fishing Industry

, , and

A founding principle of The Hamilton Project’s economic strategy is that long-term prosperity is best achieved in a changing global economy by promoting sustainable, broadly shared economic growth. One important way to fulfill the goals of this strategy is to encourage the efficient use of our nation’s natural resources. This fall, The Hamilton Project will release new papers and host forums on this topic, with a specific focus on U.S. fisheries in September, and on America’s water crisis in October. 

With regard to fishing, the economic importance of this sector extends well beyond the coastal communities for which it is a vital industry. Commercial fishing operations, such as seafood wholesalers, processors, and retailers, all contribute billions of dollars annually to the U.S. economy. Recreational fishing—employing both fishing guides and manufacturers of fishing equipment—is a major industry in the Gulf Coast and South Atlantic. Estimates suggest that the economic contribution of the U.S. fishing industry is nearly
$90 billion annually
, and supports
over one and a half million jobs.

A host of challenges threaten fishing’s viability as an American industry. Resource management, in particular, is a key concern facing U.S. fisheries. Since fish are a shared natural resource, fisheries face traditional “tragedy of the commons” challenges in which the ineffective management of the resource can result in its depletion. In the United States, advances in fishery management over the past four decades have led to improved sustainability, but more remains to be done: 17 percent of U.S. fisheries are classified as overfished, and even those with adequate fish stocks may benefit economically from more-efficient management structures.

In a new policy memo, “What’s the Catch: Challenges and Opportunities of the U.S. Fishing Industry,” The Hamilton Project considers the economic challenge of ocean fishery management, which has important implications for the commercial and recreation fishing industries, and to the economic viability of myriad coastal communities around the country. The full policy memo can be found here.

On September 10th, The Hamilton Project will host a forum to discuss new opportunities for improving the economic prosperity and long-term sustainability of the U.S. fishing industry. The Project will also release a new paper by economist Christopher Costello of UC Santa Barbara proposing that fisheries meeting certain criteria undertake a transparent comparison of the economic, social, and ecological trade-offs between status quo management and alternative management structures, including catch shares. Costello contends that such a comparison would provide fishermen and other stakeholders with the necessary information to better advocate for management approaches that reflect their diverse goals and promote the long-term prosperity of the U.S. fishing industry.

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin will open the forum, followed by a roundtable discussion on the new proposal. Costello will be joined by Lee Crockett, Director of U.S. Oceans at the Pew Charitable Trusts; Amanda Leland, Vice President of Oceans at the Environmental Defense Fund; John Pappalardo, Executive Director of the Cape Cod Commercial Fisherman’s Alliance; and Captain Steve Tomeny of Steve Tomeny Charters. 

For the full agenda and to register for the forum, please click here. For updates on the event, follow @hamiltonproj and join the conversation using #CastTheNet.

Authors

Benjamin H. Harris

Former Brookings Expert

Visiting Associate Professor - Kellogg School of Management

Get daily updates from Brookings