WASHINGTON — Salmon and tilapia were the big catches in 2005, posting the largest year-over-year increases in consumption among the species tracked by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries.
According to the latest figures, for 2005, salmon consumption jumped 13%, to 2.43 pounds per capita, while consumption of farm-raised tilapia rose 21%, to 0.85 pounds.
Tilapia is becoming more popular because, with its mild flavor, it can be prepared in a variety of ways, said John Connelley, president of the National Fisheries Institute, a Washington-based trade group.
“With tilapia, we expect to see very significant continued growth,” he said.
As for salmon, Connelley speculated the boost could be due to increased awareness of the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. Among species of fish, salmon has one of the highest concentrations of the healthy fats. There are also ample supplies of salmon on the market, he said.
Americans ate 4.78 billion pounds of seafood in 2005, a slight decline from the previous year. Overall consumption dipped to 16.2 pounds per capita in 2005, compared to 16.6 pounds in 2004. From 2001 to 2005, overall consumption rose 9.5%.
Although numbers typically fluctuate from year to year, “Americans recognize the health benefits of eating seafood, and the overall trend is that consumption is up,” said Connelly.
The NFI expects the numbers for 2006 will top those of 2005 because two important studies, released last year, linked seafood to a reduction in deaths from heart attacks and other health problems.
“Landmark studies from the Institute of Medicine and Harvard Medical School found that the benefits of enjoying fish should drive the decision to eat fish more often,” Connelly said. “Including just one or two more fish meals in the diet each week can yield important results.”
In addition to the health benefits, consumers are learning more about how to make and serve seafood, and that's driving its popularity.
“Retailers are becoming more clever about developing, with their suppliers, ready-to-eat seafood that can be prepared readily and easily by consumers,” Connelley said.
In 2005, shrimp maintained its status as the No. 1-consumed species on the NFI's list of Top 10 seafood products. Following shrimp, in descending order, were canned tuna, salmon, pollock, catfish, tilapia, crab, cod, clams and flatfish. The NFI's ranking has remained virtually unchanged since 2003, with one notable exception: Increased consumption of flatfish pushed scallops off the Top 10 list.