What do they do and should they work together ?
Deep-sea fishermen and wholesale fish merchants are related roles within the fish products sector. One catches the fish and the other sells it. So far, so simple. Isn’t it? Not really... This apparent simplicity glosses over the difficulties fishermen have bringing in fresh goods and those fish merchants experience identifying the best batches.
Published June 18, 2019
Let’s be clear: fishermen and wholesale fish merchants operate at opposite ends of the fishing production chain and have different viewpoints.
For deep-sea, inshore and offshore fishermen, the prices that can be achieved for a catch are rarely enough to compensate for the day or week just spent at sea...
Close your eyes and imagine what it’s like: awoken by the light of dawn, you pull on an outfit that hasn't necessarily had time to dry out before spending hours on the after deck of a trawler, seiner, longliner or creelfishing boat. You track the species you're after, juggling heavy dredges, nets that cut your fingers to shreds, stubborn creel traps and sharp hooks. Things move fast. Very fast. Almost as soon as the fishing gear has been emptied, you have to put it back in the water. The working environment is noisy, cold and wet. You have to shout to be heard and the boat’s rolling motion sends you flying into the many obstacles on deck. To sort the catch, you have to take up uncomfortable positions to find some kind of balance. You spend your limited free time stacking boxes to make room. Everything smells of fish, engine oil and zero-rated diesel. And if your heart is in your mouth, you can count on an intrepid clown of a colleague opening you a tin of sardines.
Life in the fish trade is barely any rosier. You also have to get up well before sunrise and drive your refrigerated truck around the various fish auctions you attend. Winter and summer alike, the temperature in your “office” is always six degrees: the average temperature for auction rooms. Wrapped up in warm clothes and boots, you meet the competitors who are actually there (purchases are increasingly made remotely online) and identify the best batches. Your role is to assess fish quality, making sure it looks good and has bright eyes just by looking: there is never a tasting opportunity. It’s not easy. Things are even harder because the trade is unique in that all wholesale fish merchants have the same customers and suppliers. So, poker faces are required, although you will have your hand on a transmitter in your pocket in the hope of avoiding drawing your fellow merchants’ attention to what you’re doing and of walking away with THE batch you want at the best price.
It's no surprise that not all fishermen and buyers get along too well when you consider that fishermen have no way to influence fish prices and buyers decide whether or not to bid for a batch at reverse auctions. However, each has much to gain by having a good knowledge of what the other does. By being aware of wholesale merchants’ expectations, fishermen can offer them the best possible catch. As for merchants, they can focus on acquiring goods caught by boats that respect the fish.
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