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Sixty-Two Percent of U.S. Seafood Processing Workers are Foreign-Born, New Study Shows

New York, NY – Today, New American Economy released a research brief on the critical behind-the-scenes role that immigrants play in the seafood industry, a sector of the economy that more than 200,000 American workers and contributes $38.5 billion to the country’s annual gross domestic product.

The brief utilizes the American Community Survey to estimate the contributions of immigrants in the fishing and seafood processing industries, which generated $9.3 billion in revenue in 2015.  It shows that foreign-born workers make up a large share of the American seafood processing workforce, with nearly sixty-three percent of butchers and fish processing workers and almost half of all hand packers and packagers born outside the United States.

In many ways, the American seafood industry could not function without the contributions of immigrant workers. By filling out the seafood processing industry, immigrants strengthen the commercial fishing industry, which provided more than 45,000 jobs to American workers in 2015.

The report, Sea to Table: The Role of Foreign-Born Workers in Seafood Processing Industry, finds:

  • The seafood industry employs more than 200,000 American workers and contributes $38.5 billion to the country’s gross domestic product each year.
  • Despite not making up a large share of the commercial fishing industry (14.2 percent), foreign-born workers make up a disproportionate share (62.8 percent)of a key specialty on which the commercial fishing industry vitally depends: seafood processing.
  • In 2015, U.S. seafood processors generated $9.3 billion in revenue.
  • Almost half of hand packers and packagers are foreign-born, as are the “other food processing workers” — a category that includes fishcake makers, fish-egg processors, and seafood can fillers.
  • The workers performing jobs as packaging and filling machine operators; janitors and building cleaners; food batch-makers; and cleaners of vehicles and equipment were largely immigrant.

Read the brief.

This brief is the first in a series from NAE that will examine the role of immigrants in the American seafood industry.

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