The continuing Deepwater Horizon blowout and oil spill in the Gulf region has recently cast an ominous shadow over the U.S. seafood market. But as aFisheries of the United States reportindicates, U.S. demand for seafood (and related packaging) has been softening for some time.

According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration figures from 2008 (the most current data available), U.S. per capita consumption of seafood dipped to 16 pounds from 16.3 pounds in 2007. That's also the lowest annual consumption rate since 2002 when Americans each consumed 15.6 pounds annually.

The report also points out that in 2008, Americans shelled out $69.8 billion on seafood last year-a slight increase of about $1.4 billion in 2007's spending. That amount was overwhelmingly spent in the foodservice sector, representing two-thirds or $46.8 billion of the total, while retail seafood purchases represented $22.7 billion of sales. Industrial seafood products comprised the remaining $389.4 million.

In 2008, total U.S. seafood landings accounted for 6.6 billion pounds, down dramatically from 2007 when U.S. fisheries landed 7.5 billion pounds of seafood. Over the years, the U.S. seafood supply has included a significant volume of imports. For example, in 2008, imports comprised 88.3% of total U.S. seafood supply, up from 86.2% in 2007, 87.1% in 2006 and 86.3% in 2005.

In 2008, U.S. exports declined to 5.3 billion pounds from 5.8 billion pounds the year prior.