The future of the catching industry

By Jacob Betts For The Cordova Times

As we roll through late July and into August, it looks like this year’s fishing season is going to be a little more bust than boom … and it couldn’t happen at a better time. There is no denying that fishermen want to catch lots and lots of fish, and get paid lots and lots of money to do it. Maybe in the future they can change their profession from fisherman to catchermen.

The problem is what to do with all those fish once they are caught? The laws of supply and demand would state that for every fish caught, there has to be somebody to eat it, and therein lies the rub. People are not exactly tearing down the shelves of the local supermarket to eat canned pink salmon.

The fishing industry does not start at the hook, like many fishermen believe, it starts at the fork.

If there is nobody to eat your catch, then who is going to pay you to catch it? The current industry is immensely flush with product right now, especially after the record season of 2015. To put it simply, there are more hooks than there are forks.

There are many solutions to this problem, marketing to increase consumerism is the top priority of most major companies. Research and development is another good tool to help find new ways to package a product, but value added also means cost invested. Another tool to increase consumerism is to lower the cost of the product on the shelf, when you see a good deal on steak at the local market are you not encouraged to buy? Lowering the cost to the consumer though, means lowering the cost down the entire supply chain.

I think most fishermen would be astonished to learn just how many people handle their catch before it lands on the fork. There are the tenders, hundreds of processors, freight companies that handle it multiple times, warehouse managers, salesman and buyers. There is also another freight company to transport to the buyers warehouse and their warehouse employees, not to forget the people stocking the shelves in the supermarket and then finally to the consumer.

That’s a lot of people handling the catch, and every one of them wants to get paid for doing it, just like people want to get paid for catching it. So, when the price is dropped to benefit the consumer and move product, everyone involved in the supply chain will feel the pinch, all the way to the hook.

The good news is that there’s a cure for all this, and that is a slow fishing season every now and then to help clear inventory and scare buyers into restocking in fear of a shortage. This does relate to a poor season financially for the fisherman, but also to every person along the supply chain as well.

For the seasoned fisherman, saving during the flush years to carry them through the lean ones is a practice well employed. The same could be said for the processors, who help steady the swings in the market and keep the forks just as full as the hooks in hope of finding a balance to the entire system.

That’s the key to the entire fishery, keeping a balance. Fisherman will complain that the processors are not paying enough and manipulating the market, processors will complain that shipping rates and tariffs are too excessive, as is the over-regulation and ever ballooning minimum wage.

The shipping and transport companies will complain about fuel cost and labor disputes while warehouse managers are paying more than ever in taxes and utilities. The poor lad stocking shelves in Arkansas can complain about is how minimum wage is too low and that he should move to Alaska and go commercial fishing.
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The one thing we don’t want, is the person with the fork to complain at all, because our entire economy is based on forks. So even though we would all like to be catchermen, being fishermen is what will secure our future’s success.