FLORIDA WORKS PROGRESS ADMINISTRATION
RIDA-WORKS-PRO GR E S S -AD IN I S TRAT ON
E. A. PYNCHON
W. A. MICMLILEN, JR.
L. S. RICKiRD
ASST. ADM INISTRATOR
VWILLIAI L. VWILSON
JULIA MAY SAMiPLEY
ASST. RESEARCH COORDINATOR
E. J. MARQUIS, JR.
ARTHUR F. SWAIN
CONSERVATION DEPARTiET STATE OF FLORIDA
FLORIDA WORKS PROGRESS ADMINISTRATION
E. A. PYNCHON, ADMINISTRATOR
SURVEY OF FISHING INDUSTRY
STATE OF FLORIDA
COMMERCIAL FISHERMEN INTERVIEWED
VESSELS OPERATED................. .............964
5 to 20 tons..
21 to 40 ..
Equipment, Upkeep and Repair.... ............
License and Taxes...................
. ..... . ..
Value of Sales
.... ... ... .....
Gear in Use
Care of Catch
Catch Iced on Boats..............................232...24%
Catch Not Iced on Boats..........................732....76%
Other ................ .
SPECIES OF CATCH
Black Fish ........
Blue Fish .........
Blue Runner .......
King Fish .........
Red Fish ........
Sea Bass .........
Snapper, Red ......
Spanish Mackerel ..
Sea Trout ........
..... .. ..... .. ... ..... .. ..... ... .....
.............. ... ......... ...........
........... . . .9****
..... .... e. e.. ..
( 3 )
WHOLESALER AND PROCESSOR SURVEYED.....
Buildings and Land ..................
Equipment ........... .................
Independent Fishermen ................
Dealer Financed Boats................
Brokers.......... ....... ...........
........ $ 403,996.40
Spoilage and Waste
Type of Purchase Transaction
Outright Purchases .........................
Upon Landing ................................
After Sale ............. ....................
Other............................. .......... ..
Terms of Purchase
Type of Product Purchases
Round Whole Fish........
Beheaded and Eviserated.
Terms of Sale
.. ........ ..... .
.............. ... 163
( 4 )
Wholesaler or Processor.............
Trucker................ .... .. ........
Hotel, Restaurant and Cafe ...........
Other ................. ...............
Terms of Shipment
F.O.B. Shipping Point.....................
Other .......... .... .... ...............
TRUCK OPERATORS INTERVIEWED ................., ......... 28
Average Miles per Trip....
Average Hours per Trip....
. .... ..... . ....
. ....... ......... .
. ........... . ....
Method of Lo:adin
., ............o .... .
Bulk. ........ ....
CITIES CANVASSED ON SANITATIN ........................
Special Sanitary Requirements ...........
Regular Food Inspection .................
Health Certificate Required ..............
Inspection Cards Issued................
Regularity of Inspection
SPECIES OF SHIPMENTS
Bottom Fish ..........
Sea Bass .............
SHE IE 11~ FSH
. ..... .....
....efe t .... goe
. .. .........
.. . .. ... .. .
( 6 )
OCCURANCE OF COASTAL AND INLAND COiLERCIAL FLORIDA FISH
BASED ON MOST RELIABLE CO--ERCIAL INFORMATION
BASED ON MOST RELIABLE COMMERCIAL ]NFO ,ALTION
On coast entire year: On East Coast, heaviest October to
May with heavy run of fish April-May: On West Coast, Cedar
Keys south October to November, reappearing in May and grad-
ually increasing; 1 lb. fish.
On East Coast, November to May with light scattering schools
balance of year: On West Coast, September and May; off shore
balance of year, coming occasionally from St. Marks to coast
On East Coast, same as Spanish Mackerel; On West Coast, April
through June, Cedar Keys west.
On coast entire year (closed season June
15"D), to JuLy S5th.)
On coast entire year. On East Coast, heaviest in winter, off
beach, Cane Canaverel south. On West Coast, heaviest from
Pinellas county south, heaviest ca'te. A-oril through Juno.
(Closed season December 1st, to Jaruary 20th, except Okaloosa
County.) On East Coast, New Smyrna to Jupiter, all year with
heaviest production September-October. On West Coast entire
year with heaviest production Sarasota south, September-
January to April, in St. Johns River and off Mayport.
Year round, St. Johns River and Lake Okeechobee.
On coast entire year.
PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS RELATED TO THE SURVEY PROPER
It is felt that the value of the survey as provided in the
regular project may be increased by noting personal obser-
vations made during the period of the principal work.
Various phases of the industry will be considered under
( 8 )
This covers operations from the one man boat used for run-
around gill nets, to the seagoing vessels out 3 or 4 days
for red snappers. The boat in most common use is handled
by two men. The boat is open with no provisions for carry-
ing fish other than an open compartment; a few larger boats
carry ice when they expect to be out 2 days or more. Fish-
ing in most cases is with gill nets or lines; shining or stop
net fishing is carried on in a few counties,
In gill netting, the heaviest catches are made during the dark
night; with favorable weather, the boats go out before dark
and fish until daylight. A catch is frequently made before
dark; these fish are carried on the bottom of a load which
may be four feet deep, for 12 hours or more where the sea and
air temperatures are over 70 degrees. In one observation,
the fish carried 5 hours on the bottom of a load that event-
ually reached a depth of 2 feet, rose in temperature from
74 degrees to 80 degrees. Unfortunately, weather conditions
during the period of observation were such that no gill net
boat remained at sea for the normal period of a whole night.
The fact that fish rose 6 degrees in temperature oven under
a moderate load and during a limited period is evidence that
under conditions of all night fishing, heavy loads and higher
temperatures, the rise of temperature might well be such as
to bring the first caught fish to a temperature well above
In the Canadian Fisherman for September 1935, it is shown
that fish maintained at 60 degrees for several hours deter-
iorate seriously. In Bureau of Fisheries Tech. Inv. No. 1.,
It is shown that fish maintained at 80 degrees for 4 hours
have materially deteriorated. It is evident that many
Florida fish have begun to decompose before they are landed
even if alive when taken from the nets. It is known that
some fish remain droned in the nets for some time before
hauling and that the fish which obviously have begun to
decompose are landed. However, it is believed that fish
which are decomposed to such an extent that the skin is
broken are rejected at the wharf.
It should be taken into consideration that a fish living
under normal conditions in water over 70 degrees does not
decompose, but a dead fish at the same temperature is
subject to rapid decomposition.
From the publications mentioned above, it is shown that
fish kept at a temperature approaching 32 degrees have
high resistance to decomposition. It is therefore obvious
that fish boats operating in Florida waters should be
fitted with iced cargo compartments and that all fish
should be iced immediately after each catch.
It is not unreasonable to suggest that before a license
is issued for operation of a boat, evidence of approved
equipment for the icing of fish be offered in the license
On February 16th, 1936 at 8:00 P.M. about 200 lbs. of blue
fish were landed in a fish house at Ft. Pierce and loft
without ice until the following morning. This case is no
exception. It is reported as nothing uncommon for fish to
( 10 )
be on the floor for 10 hours or more with only limited ic-
ing or sometimes none at all.
What is believed to be a unique feature of Florida inshore
fishing is the attempt to make a fixed price to fishermen
for market fish of one species during one season, irrespec-
tive of the sale price in consuming markets. Yfith no regu-
lation placed upon the care of fish before delivery to the whole-
sale-shippers, whose houses may be at varying distances
from fishing grounds, the quality of stocks at different
points is subject to considerable general variation. From
the information available, the quality of one species land-
ed at two East Coast points varies so much that the fish
from one point almost invariably sell for more than those
from the other point Welost Coast fish of the same species
are said to sell at an average price below those from any
East Coast point due not to the quality of the fish as
taken from nets, but to the quality in the barrels. Those
price variations appear to occur from the absence of ice
upon the boats and the varying periods olapsing before
stocks are iced. The desirability of early icing was recog-
nized by a former prominent wholesaler who claimed that
every hour fish woro carried without ice reduced by one day
the period during which the fish would keep in a condition
such that they could be sold at a profit.
The general principle outside of Florida for payment for
market fish to the fishing vessel or boat is from receipts
of auctions or open bids, the fisherman's net receipts
varying with the price that stocks bring in the wholesale
( 11 )
distributing centers. The wide variation in volume of
catches naturally produces a corresponding variation in
the volume of stock throw upon the market. With consumer
demands much more constant than production volume, it
naturally follows that a market flooded with a perishable
commodity is going to be depressed. If the shore whole-
saler is paying the fisherman a fixed price and receiving
a variable price, it naturally follows that the wholesaler
must absorb heavy losses at times, unless he can stop his
fishermen from working in time to prevent losses. If the
fishermen are tied up, it is obvious that their income
Many fishermen argue that they cannot pay expenses if fish
are sold below a price which they fix at that which the
wholesaler can afford to pay when catches are small and
hence distributing prices are high. The inability of the
wholesaler to pay this arbitrarily fixed price in the face
of a loaded market is a primary cause of the repeated strikes
which have occurred in the fish industry of Florida.
It is obviously impossible for Florida wet fish to be auc-
tioned at any one point nor is it roasonablo to pay the
same price for stocks of one species varying in quality. A
possible solution of the problem of payments to fishermen
appears to be a division of the wholosalors' not receipts
in fixed proportions to the wholesalers and to the fishermen.
This would allow fishing to continue except in extreme cases,
the point of cut-off being the price at which the fishermen
ceases to make a reasonable not profit by delivering capacity
_i : I
( 12 )
loads. It would naturally be advisable to give assurance
to all parties concerned that receipts are divided accord-
ing to the ratio which may be agreed to.
THE INSHORE FISIERMAN
Many inshore fishermen are steady, hard-working men, but
apparently many others have an income limited by personal
habits. Some admit that net receipts are dissipated after
their own clothing and food are paid for. In some cases,
intoxication further limits working ability; in fact, fish-
ing is not followed as long as money remains for liquor.
The net receipts are reduced by advances obtained from
wholesalers' by the family of the fisherman. During slack
seasons, the custom is for the wholesaler to maintain the
family if there is confidence that the fisherman will work
when the business is active. Families maintained in this
way do not appear on relief rolls. Where the wholesaler
does not have sufficient confidence in such a fisherman to
warrant credit for weeks or months, the family must seek
other sources for support. Records of such families with
detail of personal histories may be found with the Florida
State Welfare Board.
Any constructive effort made for improvement of conditions
of fishermen or for relief monies might take the above
In practically every fishing center there are fishemcon
who own their boats, goar, homes, an automobile and other
necessities and comforts. Their families arc well pro-
vided for. In contrast, many men in the same community
fishing the same type of gear on the same grounds and
dealing with the same wholesaler, are constantly on the
verge of poverty.
It is unusual to find a Florida fisherman who supplements
his income by working a vegetable garden or keeping any
kind of live stock.
THE OFFSHORE FISHERMTI
From such information as is available, most of the officers
of offshore vessels arc efficient men. The crews to a
considerable extent are roustabouts who work only when
penniless. After a vessel lands and the crew is paid off
for the trip, much of the cash received is dissipated,
largely for liquor; when the cash is gone, the fisherman
returns for work. There are doubtless exceptions to this
rule but not many.
It is recognized that with this class of help, provisions
must be made for shore leave in order to keep vessels
running. But it does not appear necessary to have men of
this type determine the layout of work, a claim which has
boon made by some wholesalers.
This is limited to schooners out over four days; with the
exception of one vessel, all operations are in the Gulf
of Mexico. All fishing is by lines and the principal
species taken are snappers and groupers.
These vessels all carry ice, and fish are supposed to be
packed in ice as soon as possible after catching. At the
present time it is customary to remove the stomachs of
snappers before icing, but groupers are brought in round.
( 14 )
Although as many as 20 vessels may be owned and operated
by one concern, each vessel fishes as an independent unit.
The custom is for the vessel to remain at sea as long as
warranted by ice and food supplies. Possibly three weeks
may be the average time for a vessel to be out of port,
which means that some fish have been caught for 18 days
when the vessel docks.
Complaints are not infrequent that some snappers are in
poor condition when landed. At the larger dealers they
are carefully inspected and culls are removed from stock.
One positive complaint is made that a considerable pro-
portion of red snappers supplied after landing are soured
by partially decomposed vicera. This inexcusable detorio-
ration in quality of fish results in loss to everyone in
It has been suggested to operators handling a fleet that
fish be transferred within 2 days after catching to fast
run boats for regular delivery to the shore of fish not
over 4 days old. The dealers' objection to this practice
is that fishermen insist on shore leave once a month.
It has been pointed out that the run boat could bring in
men in turn; no adverse criticism is made to this proposal.
Anyone familiar with modern fishing principles can recog-
nize the need for technical improvements in the offshore
fisheries of Florida. It is within reason that health
authorities may in no distant time require certain changes
in the business,
( 15 )
THE IJIOLESALE HANDLING OF FISH
There are three general classes of this business. Many
wholesale concerns are old establishments operated on
approved principles. A second type is often started by
a fisherman or other party with limited capital and
equipment and often with little or no knowledge of market-
ing. A third type of business combines both fishing and
Most wholesalers (shore shippers) are financially involved
with the nominally independent men fishing for them since
they finance the fishermen with more or less equipment
The handling of fish at wholesale places varies somewhat
in detail, but in general the fish are weighed as unloaded
fran the boat and thrown upon a floor, a little ice piled
Over the stock in some cases. Another practice after fish
are partly visceratedis to dump them into iced sea water
before packing. The actual time that fish may be on the
floor of the wholesaler varies from a few m-inutes to
A reported practice especially among smaller and less
experienced houses is to send a truck for ice after fish
are unloaded from boats. It is claimed that several hours
often elapse before fish are chilled.
%he shipment of most Florida fish is in barrels or in bulk.
In the packing of king mackerel, the backbone of the fish
jl sometimes broken in order to force the fish into the
( 16 )
bB l. In all cases observed, fish are thrown sides up
Sthe barrel, thus exposing the softer abdomen to damage
fom sharp ice. A common practice is to load the barrel
: that the top fish are flush with the rim, then pile
Sasu much ice as possible and pound this down until it is
flush with the rim. It is evident that damage to fish
Cannot be avoided. Indifference to the condition of
stock is explained by the attitude of some wholesalers
i ho state that they are not interested in what becomes
of stock after it is marketed.
SBulk shipments are often packed by shovelling the fish
upon a coarse ice bottom, with similar ice in the middle
and the top of the heap. In both barrel and bulk ship-
ments the bottom of the load is subjected to needlessly
Barrel packing is slightly cheaper than box packing but
the principal excuse offered by the trade for barrel
shipment is that barrels are easier to handle. Apparently
no consideration whatever is given to the quality of the
fish as received at distant points; neither is consideration
given to the fact that the consumer supports the industry.
There would appear to be no practical reason why fish
should be exposed to atmospheric temperature at the whole-
sale house longer than the time required to transfer the
stock from the fish boat through the weighing operation
and to storage. One wholesale house now has tanks of
iced sea water where fish are held between unloading and
packing. However, these tanks are of limited capacity
( 17 )
and any stocks above moderate volume are piled on the floor.
Iahre is no reason to believe that the storing of fish in
leed sea water during the handling period would be detriment-
*I to quality.
Ain alternate practice with some disadvantages and no special
advantages as compared with the above, would be for the stock
during the handling period to be stored in a wet cooler.
the present principle of licensing wholesalers appears to be
for the collection of revenue only. There is no reason why
the wholesale fish business should not be put upon the basis
of other lines of food, a condition for license being, equip-
ment for and maintainance of improved handling of stocks
with minimum recognized standards of sanitation. It pight
further be required of a wholesaler applying for license
that he contract to accept only fish properly chilled on
Complaints are made by the wholesalers who have operated
for several years, that many troubles of the industry are
due to newly established concerns with a wholesale license
bu with insufficient capital, equipment or experience to
KidlV and maintain a business. A particular complaint is
that these concerns can be beaten down by buyers with
flae statements of market conditions with the result
that they sell at prices below those generally prevailing.
Wth no cost systems, many of these concerns soon exhaust
their limited capital and close up, but meantime business
Si taken from the established houses who might have
h9tdled the stock at a reasonable profit. Other reports
( 18 )
state that as a result of insufficient capital and lack of
profit at the price of sales, the inexperienced concern
cuts the quality of stocks with the result that consumers
condemn all seafood for considerable periods.
The issuing of licenses on principles other than for rev-
enue purposes only should reduce trade disturbances such
as the above.
The general sanitary conditions in some wholesale houses
is unfavorable. There is no reason why reasonable sani-
tary standards should not be established and maintainance
required by health authorities. It is understood that
under present conditions, health officers have no general
jurisdiction over conditions at fish houses. Based on the
experience with oystermen, health officials can be given
jurisdiction over fish houses by rubber stamping the
license with the words "State Board of Health regulations
must be complied with".
The physical problems of truck distribution are discussed
in a later section of this paper. The immediate consider-
ation of this phase of the industry is that of business
methods and practice.
The fish trucker may be considered as a man trucking fish
for purposes other than transportation only. Business
methods and detail vary from the responsible operator
with good equipment and established business to the ir-
responsible fly-by-night who operates on limited capital
and no business scruples, cheating both those from whom
he buys and those to whom he sells. Buying the cheapest
stocks and then sometimes not paying for them, he can sell
at almost any price and make money for a limited period.
Not only does he disrupt the relationship between fisher-
men and wholesaler, but also between wholesaler and re-
tailer and consumer. While such a trucker naturally has
a limited business life, a similar character takes his
place after he disappears. This condition continued from
year to year doubtless has produced much injury to the
The responsible trucker has probably opened up new outlets
for fish. Apparently most fish trucked out of Florida
go to states immediately north. From the information
available, it appears as if consumption of Florida fish
in this territory has materially decreased during the
period of trucking activity but whether the two possible
facts are related cannot be stated with any assurance.
In one instance, a trucker unable to dispose of his load
stated that his ordinary trade had spent all available
cash for watermelons and he could not sell half his load
at any price. It is more than possible that some decrease
in fish consumption during recent years in the south-
eastern states is due to economic conditions rather than
to changes in methods of distribution.
That the trucker is not the only out-throat (contrary to
the claim of many wholesalers) is evidenced by one case
noted where a wholesaler sold a trucker a load of fish,
then loaded one of his own trucks with similar stock and
covered the trucker's route at prices below which the
( 20 )
Aucker could afford to sell.
PACKING AND TRANSPORTATION OF FISH
A high percentage of Florida fish (exclusive of bulk ship-
ints) is packed in barrels. The standard barrel carries
00 Ibs. of stock with about 100 lbs. of ice. New barrels
are generally used.
No other section of the country is known where the barrel
package formerly in general use has not been replaced by
boxes for nearly all shipments. Furthermore, the Florida
practice is to lay fish on their sides becausee it is the
easier way) rather than backs up. This subjects the stock
to the greatest possible bruising. Stock in the lower
part oi the barrel is subjected to a weight of over 200 lbs.
which applied by sharp lumps of ice is bound to crush
tILru:']l the abdomen of the fish. Even if the skin is not
brc':ern, crushed and distorted internal structure of -he
fish hastens decomposition. The distance betwoon Florida
and many of the consuming markets should warrant bhe most
careful packing, but the fact is that in the face of this
handicap, the obsolete barrel packing continues generally.
One progressive concern is shipping a certain proportion of
its stock in boxes and a few are used by other shippers.
The barrel packing is doubtless responsible for some of the
inland complaints against Florida fish. At the present time,
a practice too colon -with Isny wholesale shippers is to see
how many barrels per hour can be packed, little or no con-
sideration being given to the quality of the stock delivered
to the consumer.
In contrast to Florida packing, attention is called to
practice around the Great Lakes where the flat shipping
box is in almost universal use. Fish are packed backs up
to a depth seldom over 8 inches, with fine ice in bottom,
top and scattered through stock. As far as known, no lake
fish have been reported as crushed or bruised when received
at consumers points. In territory supplied by both the Lakes
and Florida, the comparative appearance of the Southern
stocks is sometimes unfavorable; the Florida stock may sell
at a disadvantage due strictly to antiquated handling methods
with inexcusably low returns to the Florida industry.
The cost of the 100 lb. box is approximately 1/12 / per lb.
of fish more than the barrel. The cost of packing fish
backs up in boxss instead of shovelling or throwing them
into barrels cannot be estimated, but should not be excess-
ive. It is believed that the total additional cost of this
improved packing would be more than offset by advance in
sales price. Consideration should be given to the ratio of
net weight of stock to the gross volume of load. This is
of special importance in trucking. It is believed that
packing in boxes rather than in barrels allows over one
third greater net weight of stock in a given gross space.
The type of box in limited use in Florida is superior to
that generally found in the North sir-co it is provided
with vwi;n -ei:forcements that also servc for hijnging and
clamping the ccver. The wholesaler re'eires the box
assembled but flat. Folding into form for use is easily
and quickly done. The box is non-returnable insuring a
clean package, and the hinged top allows re-icing to be
( 22 )
nade quickly and easily. The clean new box provides an
excellent opportunity for advertising. The wholesalers'
principal objection to the box package is that it is not
as easily handled as the barrel. It is claimed that one
man can handle a barrel holding 200 lbs. of fish while
two men are required for a 100 lb. box. This might have
some substance in fact if no consideration is given to the
modern box truck which would allow one man to handle at
least 2 boxes, There is some demand in retail stores
for a 50 lb. box of fish. There is nothing to prevent
the use of such a package; the increased cost over the
100 lb. box is about 1/12/ per pound of fish.
The bulk shipment of fish is generally less favorable
than barrel shipments when quality of delivered stock is
considered. Practice varies from dumping fish upon coarse
ice in which it is torn, bruised and crushed to a method
producing less damage, where the fish are laid in the ice
in regular rows at an angle of 45 degrees from the horizontal,
heads being uppermost and towards the ends of the car or
Any ice in contact with the packaged fish should be crushed
to a size that will allow a ball to be formed in the hand.
This costs a trifle more than coarse ice but is an almost
positive assurance against ice-bruised fish. The hand ice
chipper should be used only in emergency since the product
always contains large sharp chunks.
Transportation of fish by carlot freight and by express
appears to be as satisfactory as present packages allow.
( 23 )
The pounding of rail shipments in barrels doubtless increases
injury to stock in the bottom of the barrel, but this
damage can be charged only to the wholesaler and his methods
Steamer shipments are reported to arrive in better condition
than rail shipments due undoubtedly to less injurious vi-
brations. A transportation method developed in the past
ten years is the auto truck. Considered solely from the
viewpoint of transportation, the truck provides speed and
flexibility of stock movements often superior to other
transportation methods, especially for short and moderate
hauls. Not only can the truck pick up stocks at inaccess-
ible points but it can likewise provide speedy delivery to
consumer markets off lines of public carriers. It has in
this way extended fish consumption to camps and communities
which before had only limited facilities for procuring sea-
food. Apart from business considerations, the objections
to most trucks are related to packing methods. The damage
to fish due to bulk and barrel shipments by rail applies
also to trucks; it is possible that damages from vibration
are worse since rails will be in better average condition
It is known that icing on trucks is sometime deficient and
that the proportion of stocks condemned by health officials
is higher for truck shipments than for rail or boat ship-
ments. It is not unreasonable to suppose that the propot-
tion of stale but edible stocks from trucks is proportion-
ately high. This condition is doubtless influenced to some
extent by the fact that some truck loads of fish are made
( 2h )
up from shore stocks which are otherwise unsalable.,
Limitations of the survey proper prevented any statistical
report on the retail problem but many observations have been
made of retail outlets throughout Florida; since possibly
80% of the fish produced must pass through these stores if
the industry is to continue operations, the importance of
the retail business cannot be overemphasized.
The quality of retail outlets varies from those which might
be classed as almost perfect to those that are vile. One
wonders how any fish can be moved under conditions such as
noted in one city during the summer of 1935. Except for one
chain store that kept a can of red snapper fillets behind
meat stocks, it was impossible to buy fish anywhere near the
center of the city under surroundings that approached clean-
liness. The one exclusive fish market, had at all times a
stench that was apparent within a hundred feet. The store !
was dark and the effect of any original painting had been
lost. Fish which may have been of excellent quality, were
in covered cases and fairly well iced, but quality of stock
was blanketed by the fish-smeared overalls of the manager
and the flies buzzing around foul fish barrels upon the
sidewalk. Fish vas handled as a side line by one other store
which had nothing to attract trade. Contacts made with
several householders revealed that none of them bought fish
since they stated that there was no clean store selling it.
Conditions had somewhat improved in November 1935, when a
new chain store operating under attractive conditions, was
displaying a good line of fish in a well iced covered case.
( 25 )
The principal criticism of the average seafood market noted
is the general lack of anything to attract the trade.
While competitive business seek to initiate contact with
the consumer, the attitude of most fish dealers is extreme-
ly indifferent. Apparently they assume that people must buy
their stocks. This assumption is believed to be false, and
may account for the apparent decrease in volume of stocks
moved by the industry in general.
It should be noted that the apparent indifference of the
ordinary fish retailer to his potential trade is matched by
similar indifference of most of the wholesale shippers to the
retail outlets. The statement of one of the largest whole-
salers that "he was not concerned with the fish after it
cleared his place and he got his money" is in sharp contrast
to the persistent and extensive sales efforts of meat packers
to not only contact and educate the retailers, but carry on
extensive advertising campaigns to contact the domestic
When comparison is made between meat packers and fish produc-
ers in their relationships to the retail trade outlets, con-
sideration must be given to the fact that a very high percent-
age of the meat industry is controlled by a very few producers
while production (wholesale-shipper-sales) of fish is scat-
tered through thousands of concerns, none of which turn out
more than a minor fraction of the stock. The typical fish
wholesaler is trying to do a national business on village
principles. Associations of producers have been formed re-
peatedly,but their accomplishments have been limited.
( 26 )
The above conditions are not peculiar to Florida, but exist
in varying degree throughout the world. In some instances,
progressive governments have recognized the situation and
have taken steps to meet the sales resistance peculiar to the
industry. During the past few years, the Government organi-
zation of the business in parts of Canada has been of material
aid in building business, especially by developing quality
products. Germany has a unique aid to industry in the form
of Government owned trucks which travel through the country
displaying and selling fish of high quality while demonstrators
and lecturers tell various groups, including school children,
of the health value of seafood. The demonstrator-sales truck
is constantly replenished with high grade stock and the profit
from sales is reported to pay the cost of operation. One can
only conjecture what the advertising value of such a program
would be to the Florida fisheries especially during the tourist
season. Organizations of such demonstration work in Florida
requires initiative and capital. At the present time, the
only practical source of either is the State Government.
One might reason that sales from a unit such as suggested would
blanket sales by established local businesses. It is possible
that some of the latter vould be depressed and even put out of
business with benefit to both the industry and community but
from observations of somlewhat similar conditions, the consumer
purchase stimulus resulting from such a demonstration would
be very favorably reflected in high class markets. It might
result in the establishment of at least one first class sea-
food market in every one of Florida's largest cities, a con-
dition non-existant at present.
( 27 )
Bureau of Fisheries memorandum "Retailing of Fish" available
without cost, describes the best retailing practices observed
in seafood markets including many features of sales appeal,
including window displays. Many retailers have stated that
one of their handicaps in development of business was the lack
of fundamental knowledge of fish cookery in the home. At the
request of many progressive dealers and to assist them in over-
coming this trade resistance, the Bureau of Fisheries has pre-
pared a low cost publication, "Practical Fish Cookery", which
may be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents, 3ovorn-
ment Printing Office, Washington D. C. In this publication
there is provided plenty of space which the dealer may use for
The present licensing of seafood markets appears to exist for
revenue purposes only. TWhat has been said on this subject
under wholesalers, may be applied in principle to retailers.
Certain minimum sanitary standards might be required before
license to carry on the business is granted; it is believed
that local health officers would cooperate fully in seeing
that standards were maintained after once being in.tn.llod.
As an example of the slack conditions permitted around sea-
food markets, attention may be called to several cities
( not in Florida ) where local laws require that retailed
meat must be wrapped in clean butcher paper ( or equal ).
However, local authorities rule that fish is not meat; the
result is that fish is wrapped in newspaper of unknown history
while the land meat which is much more resistant to spoilage
is wrapped in clean fresh paper. In a few cities, a similar
condition exists concerning the display of foods in retail
stores. The law says that meat must be displayed under glass
I I I I I I I I I I I I ,
( 28 )
but fish ( the outlaw ) may be kept in tho open wvhre the
flies add to its attractiveness.
The opinion is advanced that the retail sale of fish should
receive serious attention from both conservation and health
authorities as well as from producers. Improvement in re-
tailing should promote health and increase consumption.
THE THOLESALE CONSUMER
Under this heading may be included the public eating places,
institutions, camps, etc. where food is bought for resale or
distribution in a cooked form; this important item was ex-
eluded from the survey proper.
A characteristic of wholesale consumer purchase is that the
buyer is at least of a semi-professional type, with son knowl-
edge of actual quality of products and of where preferred
stocks may be obtained. These qualities appear in the con-
sumption of seafood in the fact that not infrequently the fish
served in a public eating house are from stocks superior to
those available to domestic consumers in the same city; the
refrigeration of perishables in the restaurant or cafe is
generally better than in the average home.
It is believed also that the average cooking of seafood in the
public eating place is superior to the average domestic cooking.
Then again the patron of the public eating place does not have
the problem of cleaning fish, which should not exist in the
home but is often required there as a result of the indifference
of many retailers.
The change in social conditions during the past generation may
( 29 )
influence the division of seafood consumption between the whole-
sale and domestic outlets. During this period there has been a
great increase in the employment of women outside the home,
together with the decrease in time which the average home-
maker spends in the kitchen. In many apartment houses, the
kitchen has shrunk to the dimensions of a large closet with
corresponding reductions in cooking operations. These changes
promote the use of canned or other easily prepared foods.
They are believed to have no small influence in the apparent
transfer of a proportion of seafood consumption from the home
to the public eating place.
The above combination of conditions has resulted in what appears
to be a steady increase in the movement of seafood stocks through
the wholesale consumer although total sales of the industry are
While the movement of seafood through the public eating house
is apparently increasing, the prices charged for the food appear
in many places to be too high. Some managers have admitted
that they tried to increase the sale of seafood since their profits
were double those of corresponding land-meat orders and as their
business was growing, they could see no reason for reduction
of prices. This is a desirable condition for the eating place
but is of limited benefit to the seafood industry.
There is a great need for popular priced outlets for Florida
fish such as those now existing for products of northern
fisheries. Three typos of such businesses ray serve to illus-
trate the principle. In one midwestern city, nearly 2,000,000
Ibs. of a northern fish are consumed annually through fish
frys where 15 cents buys over one third pound of perfectly
I I I I I I I I I
( 50 )
cooked fish, with a sauce, a cup full of potato salad and two
slices of bread. In another city there is a substantial
business in a 5 cent fish sandwich, sold in lunch rooms
connected with seafood markets. The fish is all of good
quality, cut into slices from odd shapes from slicing large
fish. A round fish roll incloses the fish which may be in
from one to three pieces. In several northern cities one may
find fish and chip shops where a fillet of good fish
weighing about 1/3 pound is deep fried after being dipped in
batter, and sold with potato chips and broad for 20 cents.
This type of business approaches the highly organized and
extensive "fish and chips outlets in England where through
the serving of good food at popular prices, the consumption
of fish per capital just about equals the entire per capital
consumption in the United States, including canned, prepared,
frozen and fresh fish. Bureau of Fisheries Fishing Circular
No. 11 Some Unusual Markets for Fish and Shellfish des-
cribes other businesses similar to the foregoing.
As far as known, Florida fish has never appeared in any out-
let of consequence that may be compared with the above busi-
nesses. A few roadside eating places in Florida offer fish
sandwiches but the volume of business is negligible. In the
territory to which the lower cost fish of Florida go, there
is no known business which can be compared with the northern
If, through progressive action there could be established
attractive roadside shops along the lines of tourist travel
in Florida where a specialty could be made of seafoods, not
( 31 )
bnly would considerable immediate impetus be given the in-
dustry, but the tourist would be given a taste for Florida
fish that would bo reflected in purchases after his return
A type of combined sales and publicity that as far as known
has never boon developed in Florida is the fish fry at county
fairs which occur at successive dates throughout the State.
One never visits a carnival or fair without seeing plenty of
people consuming meat products at lunch stands. The outdoor
atmosphere induces in many people an appetite for fish, but
this food is not available on the grounds.
In certain sections of the country, a seafood dinner is a
feature at outdoor gatherings. For serving large numbers
of people, professional chefs ship the cooking equipment re-
quired to the gathering place and have charge of operations.
It is reported that on certain "farmer's picnics held in
Ohio, a carload of fish may be consumed on the spot or carried
to the homo. Local or private parties of this nature are not
uncommon in Florida, but apparently no effort has been made
to develop this potential outlet for fish stocks.
THE DOMESTIC CONSUMER
Although consideration of all consumers was excluded from the
survey, some observations related to domestic consumption have
been made that may servo to round out a basis for general judge-
ment of the present conditions in the industry.
The homomkers are the source of 80% of the income of the sea-
food producers but as far as known, only one Florida operator
has given any evidence of recognizing this fact. It is true
that certain agencies of the State Government have issued plac-
ards and leaflets urging people to eat more Florida seafood "
but the producers have failed to follow up this limited effort
by placing an the market, stocks which when delivered to
the home are of a quality high enough to induce the homemaker
to follow the advice of the State agencies.
A striking fact developed by many inquiries is that not one
Florida fisherman has been found who will eat his own fish
which is sold in the markets, yet he expects other people to
support him by buying food that he will not eat. Unless this
condition is corrected, there can be only limited advances in
the production of Florida seafood and a further decrease would
not be improbable. lVny homemakers are taking the fisherman's
attitude toward his product, and will continue to do so until
improved stocks are available.
Contact with the trade and with consumers reveals that there
are two distinctly different classes of domestic buyers which
for convenience may be designated as quality consumers and
quantity consumers. Representatives of each class will be found
in nearly every community. The quality consumer, as might be
implied, shops for food of as good a grade as can be found at
a price within the means available. If one type of food is
desired but no offerings are available, other food is purchased.
Such a buyer naturally trades with a retailer where the premises,
personnel and service are comparable with the food sought. One
can hardly imagine such a buyer dealing with the average fish
market found in Florida, even if she found the stocks offered
were of uniformly high quality. The average quality buyer has
sufficient funds for the purchase of good food but personal
( 33 )
contacts rith many such people in certain cities of Florida re-
veal that they will not buy seafood as sold at present, or if
occasional purchases are made, the food is seldom of a quality
that induces repeated purchases. In some localities, intell-
igent seafood retailers who will not accept any stock other
than the best, and who see that their consumer trade is similar-
ly served, enjoy a steady patronage from homemakers who have
money to purchase quality foods. The opinion is advanced that
there is a very great unsaturated local demand for Florida sea-
food of high quality. It is believed that general business
conditions have limited effect on seafood purchases by quality
The socalled quant-ty consumer represents a problem entirely
different from the former class. Many people of limited neans
but active appetites while not unmindful of the better grades
of food sold under modern conditions are, or have to be satis-
fied with poor and mediocre purchases. Homemakers of this class
will buy seafood from almost any market or from peddlers. If
they have money, they will buy rather heavily as they are gen-
erally people whose physical activities require more than the
average quantity of protein. In boom times, their purchases
bring prosperity to the fish industry but in times of depres-
sion, those people often have only limited means and their pur-
chases sink to a low level. It should be considered in this
connection, that with many of these people idle or employed
only part time, the home demand for fish is supplied by one of
the family from a neighboring lake, canal or other water. The
limited allowance for protein food goes for the purchase of land
( 34 )
It is recognized as a fact among the fish producers of Florida
that active sales of the lower priced fish is coincident with
harvest time in States immediately north. The southern laborer
out of work gets his fish from nearby waters instead of buy-
ing Florida fish.
It may be seen from comparison of the above divisions of domes-
tic consumers and the quality of many Florida fish, that the
producers have apparently given little consideration to the
more stable and profitable quality trade, allowing the business
to center on the quantity trade which in times of depression
such as the past few years, lacks money to buy food fish.
In view of the fact that the Survey covers conditions in the
industry only through wholesale distribution, means should be
provided for obtaining information concerning conditions in
retail distribution and wholesale and domestic con sumption.
It is possible that work of this nature could be carried on
in the vicinity of colleges as a feature of economic courses.
This would give sampling in several cities, and would at least
show trends in the line of distribution not covered by the survey.
Available information indicates that 9ge of Florida wet fish
are consumed within 12 days after leaving the shore. Prelim-
inary investigation of the ton principal species indicates
that if fish are properly iced immediately after removal from
the nets, and stored in ice, deterioration is retarded to such
an extent that the softest species left in the round are of
nearly sea-fresh flavor and general appearance after storage
for two weeks, and at the end of three weeks compare favorably
with many of the same species now in the markets. It is recom-
mended that this investigation be continued so as to secure
indisputable facts since there is a promise of a decided im-
provement in quality of commercial stocks. This improved
method of handling fish may materially help in smoothing out
the trade disturbances now encountered by the occurance of gluts.
The Survey has disclosed that fish are iced upon relatively few
boats. A thorough study should be made of insulated iced cargo
compartments and their use by a practical and intelligent fish-
erman with mechanical ability and appreciation of the necessity
for improving stocks. Due to the great variation in boat and
( 36 )
vessel construction and operation, this would be work of
Observation has shown that sanitary conditions and the han-
dling of fish in some wholesale establishments are in need of
extensive improvements. A study should be made to develop a
basis for the correction of such existing conditions as are
The feasibility of grading Florida seafood for both size and
quality should be considered. Fish is our only important food
where grading is virtually unknown. Adoption of grading in
other food industries has resulted in benefit to practically
everyone since grading tends to raise average quality and to
eliminate waste; as in other food industries, grading, if
adopted, should be under governmental control and supported
by uoisa collected from the industry.
A study should be made of the movement of fish from the net
to the consumer. This should include observations of stock
as handled on fish boats with the prices paid the fisherman;
handling at the shipping house, and price at which stock is
sold; conditions of transportation to inland wholesaler, his
selling price and conditions of reshipment to retailer; trans-
portation to the retailer with costs; conditions at the retail
store and prices charged domestic consumers; condition of fish
at the house and the homemakers' reaction to the industry.
The above work should be duplicated ( preferably at the same
time ) by stock iced in fish boats and handled by the most
approved methods including box shipments. The foregoing
work would be modified, as when fish is shipped from shore
( 37 )
wholesaler to retailer or wholesale consumer; from inland
wholesaler to wholesale consumer; truck, rail, and boat ship-
Possibly sharks are the greatest deterrent to expansion of the
fish industry of Florida and a cause of present high losses to
fishermen. While these creatures often abound off the coast
and are sometimes present in such numbers as to make fishing
prohibitive, apparently no commercial shark fishery in Florida
waters has ever been operated at a profit due to the erratic
movements of these fish. It is believed that persistent fish-
ing will drive them from any locality. Serious consideration
might be given to the feasibility of establishing as a conser-
vation measure a mobile State operated shark fishery which
would be supported to a considerable extent by the sale of
products. The present market value of these products would
be materially increased if shark liver oil or the oil from
the livers of certain species of sharks can be shown to have
medicinal or feeding value; this is not an unreasonable possi-
An educational service for commercial fishermen might be of
value if properly organized and operated. Paper work would
be of little value unless the simplest language was used and
then as a supplement to talks ( not lectures ). A properly
trained man with actual commercial fishing experience could
raise the standard of the commercial fishermons' operations
by group talks during the slack season.
A seafood Industrial Bureau added to the State Conservation
Department could render valuable aid to the Indistry. This
( 38 )
set-up might be headed by placing in charge a man of the widest
possible scientific and commercial experience in the seafood
industry. Other workers would include a biologist responsible
for the study of seafood life in its various phases, a tech-
nologist to assist the trade in the handling of stocks from the
time of capture to when they leave the shore, a market special-
ist to personally contact consuming markets ( no direct selling
and a publicity agent who would collect, interpret and distribute
market reports and other information of value to the industry.
This Bureau might supply assistance and supervision for special
Conservation Department investigations associated with the sea-
For effective advertising purposes, it is recommended that con-
sideration be given to the operation of one or more sales-demon-
stration trucks after the German practice. It would probably
be practical to operate those only from October 1st. to May 1st.
The principle of a fixed price to fishermen during one season
for fish of a given species irrespective of size, quality or
market demands, appears to be detrimental to the industry in
general. It is recommended that consideration be given to the
principle of paying fishermen for their catch by allowing them
a proportionate part of the wholesalers net receipts.
The present principle of Conservation Department licenses is
for the collection of revenue only; in order that standards
in the industry may be improved, it is recommended that licenses
be issued and retained only when certain conditions of sanita-
tion and stock handling are complied with. This vould eliminate
or correct certain objectionable features of the present industry.
( 39 )
The State Board of Health should be given full jurisdiction
in all phases of the industry.
Many conservation laws are enacted without consulting either
scientific or commercial agencies. It is believed that good
would result from obtaining criticism of proposed laws or
changes in existing laws by a committee ( not necessarily
assembled ) composed of one fisherman, one wholesaler, a rep-
resentative of sport fishermen, one biologist and one technol-
In order to provide additional revenue for the activities
outlined, it rould not be unreasonable to collect a nominal
tax for a salt water sport fishing license. A portion of the
revenue from this source could be used for bulletins and in-
formation service to salt water sport fishermen. A farther
benefit to sport fishing in salt water would result from
prohibition of commercial fishing within a specified distance
of bridges or other stands utilized by sport fishermen. If
necessary, additional revenue could be collected in connection
with grading fee&i., as is now done in the citrus industry.