How Big is the Fishing Industry in the US?

The United States is among the leading fish and fishery exporters in the world. The fishing industry generates many employment opportunities, and millions of Americans rely on the fishing industry as a source of food.

But exactly how big is the fishing industry in the US? In 2023, the fishing industry in the United States was valued at around 11.5 billion dollars. The US fishing industry market continues to recover after the coronavirus pandemic. The global fishing market is expected to grow by 2026, and the US fishing industry is expected to follow global trends.

Keep reading to learn more about the market size of the fishing industry in the United States. This article will also tell you about the employment opportunities in the fishing industry and the challenges this industry faces because of climate change and overfishing. 

Is Fishing the Biggest Industry?

Is Fishing the Biggest Industry

Fishing isn’t the biggest industry in the United States. The fishing industry in the United States is the 15th-ranked Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, and Hunting industry by market size. The commercial fishing industry is the 507th largest industry in the US. 

The market size or measured revenue of the fishing industry is 11.5 billion dollars in 2023. For comparison, the commercial banking industry, one of the most profitable industries in the United States, has a market size of 963.4 billion dollars in 2023. 

Although the fishing industry market isn’t the biggest, the economic impacts of commercial and recreational fishing remain strong. 

IBISWorld estimates there are 70,981 employees in the fishing industry in the United States. These employees primarily catch finfish, shellfish, and various marine products for commercial sale with little to no alteration or further processing. 

This report excludes aquaculture, and people who realize most of their revenue through fish processing are also excluded. 

There are 10,417 people employed in the Fish and Seafood aquaculture industry in the United States in 2023. The number of people employed in this industry in the United States increased by 1.3% on average during the five years (from 2017 to 2023.)

In 2019 the fishing industry in the United States generated a total of 1.8 million jobs, 255 billion dollars in sales, and 117 billion dollars in value-added impacts. Of those 1.8 million jobs, 1.2 million were commercial fishing jobs, and 553,000 were recreational fishing jobs.

In the same year, the fishing industry generated 165 billion dollars from commercial sales, 89 billion dollars from recreational sales, 68 billion dollars in commercial value-added, and 50 billion dollars in recreational value-added. 

Opportunities in the Fishing Industry

The fishing industry comprises companies, businesses, and operations that process fishing products and focus on fishing. Some of these companies make fishing boats or create fishing equipment, while other businesses prepare and process fish products. 

The fishing industry generates various employment opportunities. Jobs in the fishing industry include commercial and recreational fishing, the production of fishing products and equipment, fishing gear sales, and recreational fishing services. 

Commercial fishing professionals work as part of a crew on a fishing ship. Fishing equipment producers manufacture, test, and design fishing equipment such as fishing rods, nets, traps, and artificial bait. Vendors market and sell these products to professional fishermen or recreational anglers in retail stores. 

Fishing guides and outfitters organize fishing trips for recreational fishermen. People employed as natural resource officers ensure that professional and recreational fishermen follow the state fishing rules and regulations. 

People seeking employment in the fishing industry can get a job in fisheries or start their own business as a fisherman. If you’d like to pursue a career in the fishing industry, figure out what roles, jobs, and positions interest you. 

Challenges in the Fishing Industry

The increased demand for seafood has put the aquatic ecosystems and the global seafood supply at risk. But it’s not just the overfishing and natural predators affecting the seafood supply. Climate change and ocean acidification also have a part in the fishing industry’s future.

Many fisheries will experience a decline because of climate change, overfishing, marine ecosystem destruction, and ocean acidification. The high CO2 emissions change the chemistry of the atmosphere and also alter the chemistry of the ocean, affecting its ability to support marine life.

Moving forward, the fishing industry will face the following challenges:

  • The high CO2 emission will change the temperature, acidity, and oxygen levels in oceans.
  • Climate change will affect the ocean’s ecosystem, from phytoplankton to large predators. 
  • Fishing already applies significant pressure on marine ecosystems and influences the international community’s ability to reach its sustainability goals.
  • Aquaculture is developing quickly and has the potential to surpass the marine capture fish supply. However, the long-term ecological impact of aquaculture isn’t fully understood. 
  • The effect of climate change interacts with the existing habitat destruction and overfishing problems. These issues are caused by excess fishing fleets, market expansion, and coastal developments.
  • Climate change has already affected the global seafood supply. It is expected that climate change has an even greater impact on the global seafood supply considering the current CO2 emission trends.
  • The further development and implementation of international fishing laws and a comprehensive international network for ocean governance are necessary for the future to keep sustainable fisheries running. 


Although not the biggest industry in the United States, the fishing industry offers numerous employment opportunities and generates enormous profits. This industry created 1.8 million jobs in communities across the country.

Despite the numerous challenges it faces, the fishing industry is expected to grow and experience an increase in revenue and profitability. Climate change and overfishing pose the biggest threat to the global seafood supply. These issues could slow the fishing industry’s growth if not addressed adequately and promptly.