Tuesday, June 25, 2013


6/25/2013 Merchant Marine Interests


File:Wrangell Commercial Fishing Boats.JPG
Public domain  photo by James Crippen of commercial fishing boats unloading at Wrangell Harbor, Alaska

 Commercial fishing makes a significant contribution to the economy of the United States. It probably makes a much greater contribution that anyone can document. In the smaller near coastal fisheries dominated by smaller boats, and short seasons, and casual labor; fishmongers carry and deal in cash. For urban scum looking for a new happy hunting ground we don't suggest that you start roaming the nearest fishing docks. The fish mongers we know in this trade carry firearms, have concealed carry permits, and training. They also don't wear distinctive garb that says " fish monger".  Its probably best for you to stick to mugging the apparently unarmed. We know several fishmongers who have killed assailants and none who have become victims. 

 Our point in mentioning the smaller more seasonal trades is simply that we know the real impact of commercial fishing is far larger than the available official statistics. For example the U.S. Coast Guard and the various states report 78,093 commercial fishing vessels registered in the United States yet the department of labor records only 32,000 crewman jobs. Clearly many commercial fishermen are working only for shares, a percentage of the revenue from the catch. For some of these shares fishermen the take home pay from a single successful trip can rival a  half year of pay for a college trained professional. But an unsuccessful trip means a brutal period of work and difficult living conditions that can last for up to a month for no compensation at all. By comparison there are apparently 32,000 commercial fishermen working as corporate employees at an average of $12.30 an hour or about $25,592 a year. Unlike naval or Coast Guard service no high school diploma is required for entry into commercial fishing, unlike the Merchant Marine there are no physicals, background checks, or written examinations involved. This probably has a lot to do with commercial fishermen, when corporately employed being value at roughly $25, 592 a year while the average Merchant Marine wages exclusive of the unlimited tonnage officer realm is $46, 610. 

 So how do these figures translate into revival value for the U.S. Merchant Marine, and just what is revival value anyway?  Revival value is any measurable contribution that non merchant marine maritime activity may have relative to the ability of the Merchant Marine to recover from its constantly fluctuating economic state. In our earlier report on the health of the U.S. Merchant Marine's militarily important blue water trade we noted how this maritime segment boomed in war time and shrank down to remnant levels in times of relative peace. This is a natural result of the inescapable fact that the United States, a uniquely maritime dependent nation has no comprehensive maritime policy , never has had such, and given the ineptitude of both Congress and the Administration is not likely to have such a policy anytime soon. In previous reports and posts we have described the revival value of America's "Jones Act", or legally protected domestic trades to the rapid reconstitution of an ocean going military sea lift force when the balloon goes up. Unfortunately we also had to note that at least one segment of the Jones Act fleet had ceased to exist due to governmental neglect and the the rest of the system is under attack from various elements ranging from complaints of extra continental States and U.S. Territories and inexplicable attacks from Senator John McCain. With the proven centuries long ineptitude of the United States Government at evolving and carrying out a comprehensive maritime policy we have had to rely on the astounding "revival power" of the sea lift fleet that is the result of the totality of effort of the entire U.S. maritime sector. 

 The most obvious contributor of course, is the Jones Act Fleet, but other sectors contribute as well. Commercial fishing is an important contributor. America's 78,000 registered commercial fishing vessels range in size from under 16 feet to over 265 feet. That alone represents some serious sales of marine engines, electronic navigation gear, marine cordage, and hardware when the blue water merchant trade or military transport dries up as it does after each "break out". Additionally 78,000 hulls keep a variety of ship building and repair trades employed including professionals like naval architects, and craftsmen like marine draftsmen, mould loftsmen, marine carpenters, electricians, and welders. Often larger commercial fishing and fish processing boats use the same "second tier" ship yards as towing vessels, offshore service craft , other commercial utility craft. Unfortunately those 32,000 job holding professional fishermen and the thousands of part time or seasonal fishermen don't represent any sort of manpower reserve. Most of the fleet is under 200 gross registered tons and no Merchant Marine licenses or certificates are usually required. So that is the extent of the commercial fishing fleet's contribution to blue water Merchant Marine revive-ability but not the sum total of their contribution to the nation. 

 America's commercial fishing fleet landed  4, 476, 801.9 metric tons or 9,869,557,391 pounds of high quality protein in 2011 the last year for which full statistics were available. This catch was estimated in 2011 to have a value of $5, 342,572,968. Obviously the government has faulty statistics on this industry because over five billion dollars worth of product was not produced by 32,000 employees making $12.50 an hour.But regardless one thing we do have faith in when it comes to government is its ability to get into a workingman's pocket. We are sure more than $2.5 billion found its way into governmental coffers if not through income tax through fuel taxes, license fees and sales taxes. 

 Educational Needs Of The Commercial Fisherman                      


  1. Thank you for an informative piece. I always wondered about these boats and from this angle, they look much larger than the dot they appear as on TV and the public television specials featuring them.

    1. Thank you for your comment. In terms of helping keep the merchant marine industrial base alive we think the bigger the better, but even the 30 footers start on a draftsman's table, have templates cut somewhere, involve the purchase of deck fittings steering gear, engines, etc. every little bit helps to keep the Merchant Marine industrial base alive when a nation has no coherent maritime policy.

      Johnas Presbyter, Editor

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