Soaring Imports of Japanese Scallops to the US

Japanese scallops

The recent GSMC meeting revealed an unexpected trend in the seafood industry: a significant increase in the import of Japanese scallops to the United States, contradicting previous predictions of a decline. Jamie Dwyer, Chief Business Officer of Northern Wind in New Bedford, Massachusetts, pointed out the difference between earlier interpretations of 2023 data and actual import volumes, specifically regarding Pacific scallops (Patinepecten yessoensis) from Hokkaido, Japan. This article examines the crucial factors contributing to the surge in Japanese scallop imports and its implications for the U.S. market.

Japanese Scallops: A Look at Increasing Imports

Contrary to previous reports of a decrease in U.S. imports of Japanese scallops in 2023, Dwyer highlighted a substantial increase in Pacific scallop production in Hokkaido during the last quarter, resulting in an overall import volume for 2023 that exceeds the previous year. October alone witnessed a significant influx of approximately 5.9 million pounds of Japanese scallops. Early estimates for November and December suggest a consistent pace, with about 4.5 million pounds imported each month, indicating a total increase of approximately 109%.

Changes in Global Seafood Markets

The rise in the U.S.’s importation of Japanese scallops can be attributed to several factors. One key driver is China’s blockade of Japanese seafood in response to concerns about the Fukushima nuclear reactor’s water discharge, which significantly shifted Japan’s largest scallop market. Additionally, the implementation of new fishing regulations under Framework Adjustment 36 predicted a decrease in domestic production of Atlantic scallops (Placopecten magellanicus), paving the way for increased imports of Japanese scallops.

Analyzing the Data

The data from October 2023 highlights the shift in scallop imports; the U.S. imported 2,549 tons of scallops, valued at $46.5 million—an increase of 109% in volume and 122% in value compared to the same period in the previous year. Japan, as the leading exporter, contributed 1,037 tons worth $20.3 million, marking significant growth of 406% in volume and 359% in value year-on-year.

Peter Handy, CEO and President of Bristol Seafood, and Irene Ketelaar Moon, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, had anticipated this growing trend of Japanese scallop imports. Their projections align with the actual increases recorded in the months following October, confirming their positive outlook for the U.S. scallop market.

Future Trends and Consumer Value

Despite the impressive growth in import volume, Handy remains cautious about future trends, citing factors such as domestic production shifts, currency exchange rates, and increasing U.S. demand for scallops as influential. While Japanese scallops are competitively priced compared to domestic Atlantic scallops—providing value for U.S. consumers—Dwyer anticipates that the price gap may narrow due to exchange rate fluctuations and rising interest rates. Nevertheless, Japanese scallops remain a valuable option for American consumers, combining size, quality, and affordability.

The significant increase in the import of Japanese scallops to the U.S. represents a pivotal development in the seafood industry, driven by changes in global seafood trade dynamics and production. As the market continues to evolve, stakeholders, from producers to consumers, are likely to see further changes in the importation landscape, keeping Japanese scallops firmly on the radar as a sought-after commodity in the U.S. seafood market.


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