Front Cover
 Back Cover

Title: Florida Fish Marketing Survey
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/FS00000046/00001
 Material Information
Title: Florida Fish Marketing Survey
Series Title: Florida Fish Marketing Survey
Physical Description: Book
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Bibliographic ID: FS00000046
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Florida State University
Holding Location: Florida State University
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Resource Identifier: ltqf - AAA0492

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
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        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
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        Page 25
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        Page 32
        Page 33
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        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
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        Page 42
    Back Cover
        Page 43
        Page 44
Full Text

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YEAR 1934


..................... 1987

VESSELS OPERATED................. .............964

Motor Boats...
5 to 20 tons..
21 to 40 ..


. ............
.o....... .....

Engine ..............

$ 528,536.85
$ 939,506.76

Equipment, Upkeep and Repair.... ............

License and Taxes...................

Operating Expense....

. ..... . ..

$ 352,056.79

......... 178,533.22
........ 6,407.48
$ 536,997.49

Value of Sales
$ 977,311.71

34,305,512 Lbs.
.... ... ... .....

Direct Sales.......
Through Brokers....


Gear in Use

Gillnet ...
Hand Line..
Oyster .....

Care of Catch

Catch Iced on Boats..............................232...24%
Catch Not Iced on Boats..........................732....76%


... 40


... 39
... 1


(2 )


Railroad ...................
Truck .....................
Water .....................
Other ................ .




Black Bass

Black Fish ........
Blue Fish .........
Blue Runner .......
Bream ,...........
Catfish ...........
King Fish .........
Mullet ...........
Pompano ...........
Red Fish ........
Sea Bass .........
Shad .............
Sheepshead ........
Snapper, Red ......
Snook ............
Spanish Mackerel ..
Sea Trout ........
Others ............



. a.

2,74816 44


32,016,815 Lbs.





..... .. ..... .. ... ..... .. ..... ... .....
.............. ... ......... ...........

........... . . .9****

34,305,512 Lbs.


2,288,697 Lbs.

..... .... e. e.. ..



( 3 )



Buildings and Land ..................
Equipment ........... .................

56,176,647 Lbs.
Independent Fishermen ................
Dealer Financed Boats................
Truckers...... .....................
Brokers.......... ....... ...........

........ $ 403,996.40
....... 681,502,93


Spoilage and Waste
1,851,055 Lbs.

Type of Purchase Transaction

Outright Purchases .........................
Upon Landing ................................
After Sale ............. ....................
Other............................. .......... ..

Terms of Purchase

Cash.............................. .........
Credit............... ......................

Type of Product Purchases

Round Whole Fish........
Beheaded and Eviserated.
Shrimp .................
Smoked Fish.............





Direct Sales....
Through Brokers.


Terms of Sale


.. ........ ..... .


.............. ... 163

( 4 )
Shipments 4)
Shipments to,

Wholesaler or Processor.............
Chain.............. ..............
Trucker................ .... .. ........
Hotel, Restaurant and Cafe ...........
Other ................. ...............



Terms of Shipment

F.O.B. Shipping Point.....................
Transportation Paid.......................
Other .......... .... .... ...............


Transportation Method

Railroad .......................
Other.................. ..........

54,325,592 Lbs.

TRUCK OPERATORS INTERVIEWED ................., ......... 28

AVERAGE LOAD................
Average Miles per Trip....
Average Hours per Trip....

........ 96

Type Truck

Open Body.........
Closed Body........
Refrigerated Body.

. .... ..... . ....
. ....... ......... .
. ........... . ....

Method of Lo:adin

., ............o .... .

Bulk. ........ ....

CITIES CANVASSED ON SANITATIN ........................

Sanitary Inspection

Special Sanitary Requirements ...........
Regular Food Inspection .................
Health Certificate Required ..............
Inspection Cards Issued................
Regularity of Inspection
Monthly ..............................





Black Bass............
Blue Fish............
Blue Runner..........
Bottom Fish ..........
Hard Tail............
Jack Fish............
Jew Fish..............
King Fish.............
Red Bass..............
Red Fish..............
Sea Bass .............
Sea Trout............
Speckle Trout.........
Spanish Mackerel......
Spots..... ...........
Trout........... ......





....... .





. ..... .....


11,516,483 Lbs.

54,325,592 Lbs.


....efe t .... goe


. .. .........
.. . .. ... .. .

( 6 )




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.


(7 )


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
general headings.

( 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

80 degrees.

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.


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

into consideration.

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.


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

this business.

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 )


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

wholesale distribution.

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

and supplies.

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

several hours.

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

excessive weight.

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

( 19)

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.


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

of packing.

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

than highways.

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.


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

apparently decreasing.

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

( 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

outlets described.

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.


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

(32 )

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.

(35 )


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

considerable extent.

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-

ments, etc.

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-

food industry.

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.




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