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Have economic and social effects on local communities changed?

Indicator: Seafood Processor Employment

Key Findings

Changes in the multispecies groundfish fishery may affect communities by influencing the amount of fish processed and/or sold in communities throughout the region. The number of seafood processors and markets has decreased in the Northeast, on the whole, since 2003. A relatively sharp drop in 2008 likely resulted from the recession and nationwide economic downturn. Since 2008, the number of seafood processors and markets increased through 2011 before declining again in 2012 and rebounding slightly in 2013. It is unknown what specific impacts the Northeast Multispecies Sector Program has had on seafood processing and marketing in the region, although the numbers of seafood processors and wholesale merchants have declined since 2009 while the number of seafood markets have increased from 2009 to 2013.

Interactive Charts

Metrics

This indicator shows changes in seafood processor employment as a component of local community effects of the implementation of the catch share program.

Analysis

Baseline: Before Catch Share Program

The number of seafood processors and markets declined during the project baseline, with an overall decrease of 8.4 percent between 2003 and 2009. While some data are confidential, the total number of employees for all seafood processors and markets declined 14.7 percent between 2003 and 2009. At the state level, New York had the highest number of seafood processors and markets during the project baseline, followed by Massachusetts and Maine. Isolating economic sectors, the number of seafood markets in the Northeast fell from 759 in 2003 to 730 in 2009, despite a slight increase in 2004. Wholesale seafood merchant businesses declined in the region from 787 in 2003 to 704 in 2009. Seafood processors decreased steadily from a high of 144 in 2003 to a low of 114 in 2009; the sharpest decreases during the project baseline occurred in Massachusetts and Maine, which lost 10 and 11 seafood processor businesses, respectively.

The counties with the largest total numbers of seafood processors and markets were in New York, including the counties of Kings, New York, Queens, and Suffolk. Kings County was the only county that consistently had more than 140 seafood processors and markets throughout the project baseline. While most counties maintained a steady number of seafood processors and markets, Kings County lost 11 percent between 2007 and 2008, and New York County experienced a 40 percent decline from 2003 to 2009. Fish and seafood markets were most prevalent in the New York counties of Kings, New York, and Queens. Wholesale seafood merchant businesses were most numerous in the counties of New York (New York), Kings (New York), and Suffolk (Massachusetts). While data on the numbers of employees are confidential for some areas and industries, the relationship between the number of seafood processor and market businesses and employees shows a slight decline over the project baseline years for each economic sector and for all economic sectors combined, suggesting that the average number of employees per business declined. The change between 2003 and 2009 was greatest for seafood processor entities.

During Catch Share Program 

Following implementation of the Northeast Multispecies Sector Program, the number of seafood processors and markets increased slightly from 2009 (1,548 businesses) through 2011 (1,589 businesses) before declining in 2012 (1,496 businesses) and rebounding in 2013 to a total of 1,549 businesses. While some data are confidential, the total numbers of employees for all seafood processors and markets show a similar trend, with 2013 numbers ending higher than those in 2009. At the state level, New York remained as the state with the most number of seafood processors and markets, followed by Massachusetts and Maine. Trends in individual states, counties, economic sectors, and individual years can be isolated by filtering the interactive charts. In general, the catch share program years showed variability with slight rebounds following economic downturns. Compared to project baseline years, the relationship between the number of establishments and number of employees across all of the included economic sectors decreased slightly after establishment of the Northeast Multispecies Sector Program, although this decrease is attributable only to a decrease in the average number of employees per seafood processing business; the average number of employees for seafood markets and merchant wholesale entities increased slightly from 2010 to 2013 compared to project baseline years. The available data could not be isolated to focus on the species and participants of the Northeast Multispecies Sector Program, but the metrics discussed here provide insights into changes in the region where commercial fishing is a key industry economically and socially.

Data Gaps and Limitations

We used data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual County Business Patterns tabulation. The data go back only to 2003 and do not cover the entire project baseline to 2002. The data are also based on North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes for those industries most closely associated with seafood processing and marketing. NAICS are somewhat broad, however, and include a wide range of businesses, regardless of their involvement in the processing/sale of catch from the multispecies groundfish fishery. We assumed that those counties near primary groundfish ports of landing are the most involved in processing, but the auction system and processor network in New England are complex, and groundfish may be processed far outside the county in which it is landed. Subsequent data from the National Marine Fisheries Service or independent surveying may be able to locate those areas where groundfish processing is most prevalent.

Information Sources

Gulf of Maine Research Institute. 2012. Sector Management in New England’s Groundfish Fishery: Dramatic Change Spurs Innovation. Available online: www.gmri.org/upload/files/Sector%20Review%20Report.pdf.

U.S. Census Bureau. U.S. Census Bureau. 2003 through 2013. Geography Area Series: County Business Patterns. Available online: factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml.

Updated: August 2015

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