What high U.S. seafood imports means for YOU

According to a new federal report, last year the U.S. imported more seafood into the country than at any other point in history.

On the one hand, that’s good news…

It means Americans are eating more seafood, which benefits your health tremendously, as I’ll talk about more in a moment.

On the other hand, it also means U.S. fish production is less than thriving. Which is a bit baffling when you think about it — since our country is practically surrounded by water.

Of course, I grew up near Gloucester and Rockport, Massachusetts, and still return there every summer. So, I hear a good bit about the local fishing industry.

But, when I recently visited Alaska, what I witnessed on the coastline really opened my eyes about the vast, unused resources found in these American waters. The almost endless, wandering coastline of Alaska — and its huge unpopulated offshore islands teeming with wildlife — really astounded me.

But due to poor soil quality and an extremely short growing season, Alaska doesn’t lend itself to farming. In fact, this northwestern region is the only place in the world that doesn’t rely on agriculture. I learned some of the agricultural activities in Oregon and California got further stimulus by growing food for the Alaska Gold Rush at the end of the 19th century when the population suddenly multiplied.

For centuries, there was actually no need to plant crops for food by the local peoples because natural seafood resources were (and still are) so incredibly rich.

Today, however, as I said above, the U.S. imports more seafood than ever. And our trade deficit in this sector continues to grow.

The crippling cause behind our seafood trade deficit

In 2017, the U.S. imported more than 90 percent of the seafood the public consumes.

But low supply didn’t cause this trade deficit. In fact, our fish stocks — which detail the subpopulations of different species of fish — are nowhere near being over-fished.

Instead, we have the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to thank for this dire predicament. This organization has unnecessarily placed harsh, crippling regulations on the American fishing industry for years.

For example, it recently cut quotas on cod by more than 95 percent in the Gulf of Maine.

As a result, in 2017, the U.S. imported more than $500 million in Atlantic cod from places like Iceland and Norway instead of from the huge, historic New England fisheries that once supplied a vast majority of cod to U.S. consumers and, historically, to the world.

Thankfully, the U.S. Commerce Secretary — who oversees NOAA in the Trump administration — plans to reduce the fish trade deficit for the U.S.

Hopefully, the administration will realistically lift NOAA restrictions now that seafood supply is back up. Seafood populations can bounce back quickly. But that won’t matter if the fish are preserved, but the fishing industry continues to be destroyed by overzealous government regulations.

Tragically, some out-of-work fisherman turn to using and smuggling drugs, including opiates, contributing to that current medical crisis. More unintended consequences of government interference. Getting them back to work fishing is part of the solution to the opiate crisis, at least in New England.

Once any government program gets started, it becomes nearly impossible to stop — no matter how useless or counter-productive. After all, cushy lifetime jobs and careers for government bureaucrats might be at stake.

But there’s some good news amid this mess…

U.S. exports of lobster have grown by more than $250 million since 2007 as a result of loosening federal restrictions on lobstering in New England. (The restrictions had resulted in such a boom in lobster populations, they practically had to give them away in little towns like Rockport back a few years ago!)

So, what does all this mean for you?

Eat well and live longer with local seafood on the menu

First and foremost, you should strive to eat seafood several times a week. And strive to get it from U.S. sources, if you can.

If you live near the coast, you may even have luck finding it fresh locally. If you live farther inland, look for U.S.-caught fish in your grocer’s freezer case. You can typically find this information on the packaging, but when it doubt, feel free to ask the folks behind the seafood counter.

Overall, when it comes to sourcing, avoid farm-raised fish — even if it’s been raised in U.S. fish farms. (They’re often raised in unsustainable, unhealthy conditions. Plus, they have lower levels of healthy nutrients, which I’ll talk about in just a moment.) Instead, shop for the highest quality: wild-caught fish.

My fisherman friends who live in Gloucester and Rockport recommend cooking seafood quickly at high heat: 10 minutes per inch for fish; two to three minutes for shellfish; and 10 minutes per pound of lobster.

There are many delicious ways to prepare fish and seafood. And at the risk of sounding like “Bubba,” from the 1994 movie Forrest Gump, you can use the following preparations:

  • Baked
  • Battered and fried
  • Broiled
  • Grilled (on a skewer, in a basket, or thrown on the half shell)
  • Layered (like a traditional clambake, or seafood boil)
  • Poached
  • Sautéed
  • Steamed

When your seafood is flaky and/or opaque at the thickest parts, it’s ready to eat. You can also add it to soups, stews, chowders, or pasta dishes.

I particularly enjoy making fish or shrimp tacos. Simply cook the fish and add tomatoes, onions, lettuce, corn, and/or peppers, with a little lemon or hot sauce to taste.

Of course, seafood is an excellent source of beneficial protein, fats, and especially omega-3 fatty acids.

As you may recall, a recent study found that men and women with the highest omega-3 levels had a 33 percent lower risk of dying from any cause over the seven-year study compared to those with the lowest levels.

Based on this mounting evidence, I’ve rethought my daily requirements for omega-3 fatty acids…

If you’re like a majority of Americans and don’t eat enough seafood (ideally, more than two to three times a week) I recommend you do the following:

  • Take 6 grams of fish oil that includes a combined dosage of 3,000 to 4,000 mg of EPA/DHA content.

(To discover how much EPA/DHA content a product contains, I recommend consulting the supplement facts label found on the back of the bottle — which will also give you an idea if the supplement is high quality by having enough.) You’ll more than likely have to take it in divided doses.

Of course, if you eat fatty fish or seafood at every meal — every day — you already get enough omega-3s. But for the rest, you can only reach these levels by taking a high-quality fish oil supplement.

I provide more detailed recommendations in the June issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter (“Why I’m upping my recommendations for this ‘controversial’ supplement”). You can learn exactly how much fish oil you should be taking — which depends on your personal fish and seafood consumption — as well as how to choose a quality supplement. (Don’t have a newsletter subscription? No worries — it just takes one click!)


“US imported more seafood in 2017 than any year,” Boston Globe (www.bostonglobe.com) 6/24/2018

“Local fisherman face declining prices,” Fosters (www.fosters.com) 6/30/2018