If The Old Way Is Not Working Try Something Different
There is no one reason why South Carolinians should produce and consume more locally produced seafood: however there are many reasons that cumulatively present a compelling reason to do so. First two important questions must be addressed. Can increased production of local seafood be accomplished economically and are we willing to accept the challenge to recover lost ground and grow our seafood industry?
Ninety-one percent of all seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported. The U.S. seafood trade deficit is about $12 billion. It is easy for Americans to buy any form of a multitude of different types of seafood in their local markets, mostly from other countries.
South Carolina’s almost 40 percent reduction in seafood revenue is proof enough that something is amiss. The reasons for our decreased local production are well-known and often cited. Much has been published on potential but there seems to be an unexplained barrier to action. The present strategy of managing and regulating South Carolina’s seafood industry was formulated prior to the explosive growth of world production in aquaculture resulting in ever increasing seafood imports. A serious review of the state’s strategy for managing and regulating our seafood industry should be considered.
Two very important facts must be considered when addressing the supply and demand functions that determine the efficacy of a successful effort to gain ground on foreign imports. The world population continues to grow geometrically and seafood harvested from the oceans has been static at about 92 million metric tons since the late 1980s. Couple this with the potential increase in per capita consumption of seafood and the void created by the increased demand is evident. Under these conditions aquaculture is the vehicle to increased seafood production.
Today 89 percent of all aquaculture produced is in Asia and China alone produces 63 percent of the world’s aquaculture. The main reasons for this disparity is that these countries with high aquaculture production have a tremendous cheap-labor pool and lower environmental standards. It is evident that neither the United States nor South Carolina can compete in the arena of cheap labor. To cope in this international seafood market we must be innovative and concentrate on our strengths.
A sizable segment of the South Carolina population demands quality and is willing to pay a premium for local seafood products. The main obstacle to satisfying this market is the lack of a facility to process and value-add to our seafood to produce the forms desired by the consumers. This begs the question, “Do we produce enough seafood to justify a local processing facility?” and “If we have a local processing plant, would that lead to higher production?” But circular reasoning will not solve our problems.
To grow and compete in this international seafood market we must increase production. While wild- caught seafood production will increase some in the future as our stocks recover, the obvious answer is to increase both fresh and saltwater aquaculture. This production plus wild-caught must then be processed, value added, quality controlled and sold locally. This model allows for maximum benefit for the people of South Carolina by increasing jobs in the web of activity created by increased production.