Wednesday, September 11, 2013

In Cod (And Crab!) We Trust – Oregon’s Seafood Processing Industry

Oregon has about two dozen employers and 1,200 employees turning slimy fish and armored crustaceans into succulent seafood ready for cooking. Commercial fishers landed about 307 million pounds of fish and shellfish in Oregon in 2012, nearly 80 pounds per Oregonian. This haul had a dockside value of $128 million, making 2012 the second-best year of the past decade. Fishermen sold a small portion of the harvest off their vessels or at markets directly to consumers. Most, however, was sold to processors and buyers then exported or sold to wholesalers, retailers, restaurants and consumers.

In 2012, Oregon exported $9.6 million worth of seafood directly to other countries. Canada is by far the leading destination. Seafood exports are growing; Oregon exported $11.8 million of seafood in the first four months of 2013. Crustaceans, mostly crab, accounted for about half the exports.

A major trend within the seafood processing industry is consolidation. Oregon has lost six business units in the processing industry since 2000 – a drop of nearly 20 percent. The industry’s consolidation goes hand in hand with the geographic consolidation in the Oregon fishing fleet. Three ports: Astoria, Newport and Charleston, had almost 96 percent of all commercial fish landings by volume in Oregon in 2012. Smaller ports like Garibaldi, Depoe Bay, and Florence struggle to find money for infrastructure, dredging, and jetty maintenance that can attract vessel owners and seafood processors.

To learn about the historical and projected employment trends in this industry, check out the rest of Erik Knoder's article. And, if you really want to get down in the trenches, Shawna Sykes wrote a companion story about some of the workers in this industry, "Cuts Like a Knife: Slicing into the Meat, Poultry, and Fish Cutters and Trimmers Occupation."

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