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Note: Dollar values are adjusted for inflation to 2020 dollars.
Value of Commercial Seafood Landings
More than 100 species are caught or harvested by Rhode Island fishermen, but 14 species account for the majority of pounds and sales. In 2022, shortfin and longfin squid accounted for 53.2% (31.5 million pounds) of pounds landed and 38.4% ($41.2 million) of the value of sales. Across New England fisheries, an observed decline in pounds caught has been primarily driven by a decrease in Atlantic herring catch due to historic overfishing, changing environmental conditions, and new regulations. This trend is also evident for Rhode Island fishermen, although total sales have been steady since 2007.
Value per Pound of Rhode Island Commercial Fisheries Landings
Although squid, skate, hake, and others are the most commonly caught species by Rhode Island fishermen, Eastern oysters ($36.89 per pound) are, by far, the most valuable species. In 2020, they accounted for 0.1% of harvested pounds but 3.8% of the value of sales. Soft clams ($14.69), channeled whelk ($9.95), and Northern Quahog clams ($9.91) also have high per pound values.
Rhode Island Aquaculture Production
Eastern oysters, the most valuable seafood species harvested by Rhode Island fishermen, account for about 98% of all Rhode Island aquaculture production. Rhode Island has experienced steady growth in its aquaculture industry over the past 20 years, from 54 acres in 2002, to 374 acres in 2022. Aquaculture sales were $448,000 in 2002 and over $6.1 million in 2019, but dipped dramatically in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic since most Eastern oysters are served in restaurants. Sales subsequently rebounded in 2022 and 2023.
Data sources: Coastal Resources Management Council.
Gross Sales of Rhode Island’s Seafood and Fisheries Sector, 2016
Dr. Thomas Sproul (University of Rhode Island) estimated nearly $600 million in sales from Rhode Island’s seafood and fisheries sector in 2016. Wholesalers (e.g., importers and exporters, brokers) generated 45.7% ($274 million) in sales, followed by commercial fishing (16.4%, $98.5 million) and service and supply businesses (e.g., nets, commercial tackle and gear, boat and equipment maintenance).
Employment in Rhode Island’s Seafood and Fisheries Sector, 2016
Dr. Thomas Sproul (University of Rhode Island) estimated a little more than 3,100 jobs in Rhode Island’s seafood and fisheries sector in 2016. Commercial fishing accounted for more than half of seafood and fisheries employment (1,711 jobs), followed by wholesalers (20%, 617 jobs), and processors (7%, 215 jobs).
Data sources: Dr. Thomas Sproul and Clayton Michaud, 2019, The Economic Impact of Rhode Island’s Fisheries and Seafood Sectors.
Businesses in Rhode Island’s Seafood and Fisheries Sector, 2016
Rhode Island’s seafood and commercial fishing industry is made up of more than 400 businesses that employ over 3,000 people and generate over half a billion dollars in gross sales annually for the state. This combined impact shapes the character of this region we so fondly call the Ocean State.