Picturesque beaches, balmy weather and thrilling theme parks aren’t the only things that lure travelers to Florida – the Sunshine State is also known for its fresh seafood, which is sold locally and shipped around the world. Many consumers may not think of seafood when they think of agriculture, but seafood and aquaculture are both sectors that play a huge role in Florida’s economy.
In fact, Florida ranked among the top 12 states in 2012 for fresh seafood production, with more than 93 million pounds harvested and a dockside value of more than $205 million. Florida’s seafood industry contributes an estimated $24 billion to the U.S. economy annually.
“Florida’s seafood industry is diverse,” says Martin May, chief of the bureau of seafood and aquaculture marketing for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “Commercially, we harvest more than 60 edible species. Florida’s commercial fishermen work hard in adverse conditions to provide the public with a good quality, tasty product.”
To ensure American consumers have access to seafood well into the future, Florida’s commercial seafood industry is regulated by both the state and federal governments. Florida fishermen are required to follow federal and state laws when harvesting seafood, so they don’t interfere with a species’ ability to reproduce and be available for future generations.
“Florida fishermen catch more than 84 percent of the nation’s supply of grouper, pompano, mullet, stone crab, pink shrimp, spiny lobsters and Spanish mackerel,” May says. “100 percent of spiny lobster and 97 percent of stone crab are harvested in Florida, and Florida has 347 seafood processing plants.”
The top 10 seafood species by volume harvested are shrimp, mullet, grouper, blue crab, snapper, spiny lobster, king mackerel, oysters, Spanish mackerel and stone crab claws.
All that seafood creates a lot of jobs for Floridians. “In 2012, Florida’s seafood industry generated more than 82,000 jobs in a variety of sectors,” May says. “They include commercial harvesting, seafood processing, import/export distribution, retail and wholesale.”