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Q. Suppose a cargo of those frozen fish were to come from St. John, New Brunswick, in a car?-A. When the weather is not too warm you can keep them all winter. Q. Do you keep them in refrigerators?-A. Not in the winter time.
Q. In the summer they have to be transported in refrigerator cars?-A. Yes; going West they generally go in refrigerator cars.
Q. So that a cargo of fish might arrive here in Boston in the summer and be distributed all over the country?-A. Yes.
Q. And be preserved for a considerable time?-A. Yes. There is no trouble about keeping fish after they are once frozen; they will continue to keep as long as they can be kept from thawing.
Q. Do most of the vessels take ice?-A. Yes; but the ice does not freeze the fish, it only serves to keep them.
Q. What do you do with them after you get them in the Boston market?-A. We take them out and put them in ice boxes and immediately ship them to the parties who order them.
Q. And you can send them all over the country?-A. Not in the summer time. It costs more to ship them in the summer than in the winter.
Q. What is the average time that they are kept fresh in the summer, from the time they are taken up to the time they are consumed?-A. I should say about six days from the time they are taken from the water—that is, averaging right through, all
kinds of fish.
Q. Then it is six days after they are taken before the consumer gets them?-A. Yes; on the average.
Q. In the winter how long is the average?-A. That depends on the state of the fish. Sometimes fish are caught in extremely cold weather and the weather freezes them; such fish you can keep a long time. Fish that are brought in in ice in the winter will not keep any longer than in the summer.
Q. Suppose a cargo of halibut, frozen, comes into Gloucester?-A. They do not come in frozen. You can not freeze halibut with any advantage; that has been tried. We have Q. Suppose a cargo of frozen hake comes to Gloucester?-A. We may take frozen hake and put them into a freezer, but no hake are handled from Boston. had cargo after cargo from the Grand Banks in the middle of January and we had to keep them until the middle of March before they were cleared out.
Q. You spoke of supplying the West as far as Kansas City with fresh fish. What time is consumed from the time those fish are taken out until they are consumed in Kansas City?-A. Probably ten days.
Q. They can by their freezing processes keep the fish for months and months before they send them out?-A. Yes.
Q. And supply the market as they please with frozen fish?-A. Yes.
EXTENT OF FRESH FISHING INTERESTS.
Q. Have you any idea as to the extent of the fresh-fish market in this country?— A. No, sir; I can not give you any reliable information except as to our own market. We handle here in Boston about 60,000,000 pounds per annum; that includes all kinds of fresh fish.
CURING OF FRESH FISH AFTER LANDING.
Q. Your idea is that that item of our tariff law which says "fish fresh for immediate consumption" ought not to apply to any of these frozen fish?-A. Yes. I do not see why frozen fish can not go on the list as cured fish, as well as salt fish. are certainly cured for preservation, are they not? They are not cured for immediate consumption.
Q. Suppose a cargo of halibut comes into Gloucester fresh, and is shipped from Gloucester fresh to Boston; is there anything to prevent those fish being cured in Boston?
The WITNESS. You mean foreign fish, from Nova Scotia?
Senator FRYE. Yes.
A. Well, no, sir; there is nothing that I know of. I did hear this summer of a Nova Scotia vessel coming in, and they had to pay duties, but I am not sufficiently versed in that matter to give any accurate information about it.
Q. Is there any way, under the present tariff law, which admits free of duty fish fresh for immediate consumption, by which you can prevent the landing of fresh fish and their subsequent curing?—A. I do not know any possible way. Take this case: We had shipped to us from Halifax on last Monday's steamer between 113,000 and 114,000 mackerel; they were bought at Halifax by telegraph. We buy mackerel according to their lengths, those from 13 inches up being considered large. They We ordered them, and they were telegraphed that the fish were from 11 to 13.
shipped. When they arrived we found that there were 370 barrels of those fish that would not measure 10 inches. Those fish could not be kept 48 hours after they arrived here unless there was something done with them. What was the consequence? Those fish were canned. Then we had more large mackerel than we could sell fresh. What were we going to do with them? They cost us a high price, and we could not afford to lose them. We bought them for immediate consumption, but the market would not take them. There were more fish than we expected, and we were obliged to salt those fish or throw them away. A man will not throw fish away if he can save them, and so we salted them. I think that is a good illustration of how that law can be evaded.
FISH, FRESH, FOR IMMEDIATE CONSUMPTION.
Then, again, how can they make a man responsible for fish bought for immediate consumption when he can not sell them at all? How can the law compel payment of duty in such a case? The object of this law, as we look upon it, is not to compel the American people to pay duties, but it is to make the people who ship the stock here pay them. Is not that the construction of the law? The fish come here for immediate consumption, and we have either got to be at a loss by throwing them away, or salt them, and it seems to me that under such circumstances it would be pretty hard if we were compelled to pay duty on them.
Q. Have you any idea what proportion of fish, the year round, brought in fresh for immediate consumption are really subsequently canned or cured?-A. No, sir; I could not give you any direct information. I know of many lots, and there are many lots going to other places. There must be quite a large percentage that are subsequently cured.
Q. Do you know of anything which prevents a Canadian coming into port with a cargo of fresh fish admitted free and the whole cargo being cured subsequently?— A. No, sir; I do not know of any law now existing that can compel a dealer in Gloucester who buys a cargo of fresh fish from a Canadian vessel and can not use them fresh from salting them; nor do I know of any law that can compel the payment of duty, if the vessel is allowed to enter and sell her fish, by the man who buys the fish.
EFFECT OF DUTY UPON THE CONSUMER.
Q. You spoke about the price not being changed by the duty. You were in business before the treaty of 1870, were in business during the existence of the treaty, and have been in business since it expired?-A. Yes.
Q. Did it have any effect upon the price to the consumer?-A. No, sir; not a particle.
PROPORTION OF DUTY PAID BY FOREIGNERS AND BY AMERICANS.
By Senator EDMUNDS:
Q. What proportion of this fish duty while in operation do you think falls on the foreigner, and what proportion on the buyer from the ship?
The WITNESS. The fresh fish, you mean?
Senator EDMUNDS. Yes.
A. I do not think there is any falls on either. I do not think there has been any duty paid on fresh fish. So, I say, that is where the law worked badly.
Q. Take the salt fish.-A. With reference to salt fish, I don't see how the duty has made one cent's difference to the consumer.
Q. That is what you stated. But suppose there is a duty of half a dollar a hundred, who pays that half dollar? Does it come out of the profits of the wholesale dealer or of the man that brings them in?-A. It comes out of the foreigner who brings them in, because he has to pay the duty before he lands, and then he has to sell his fish at the market price here.
Q. You can not see that part of it would be a contribution that the dealer makes and the other part would be a contribution made by the fishermen?-A. Well, I don't see how that can be. I don't see how the dealer can contribute.
Q. Does not the man who brings in the fish say to himself: "Now that I have got to pay half a dollar a hundred on these fish, I must charge the dealer a quarter of a dollar a hundred more than I otherwise would?"-A. I don't think that would hold water. I never saw a fisherman that wouldn't ask all that he could get, duty or no duty.
Q. Do you know whether the wholesale dealers in salt fish have paid any more, on the average, since the duty revived than before?-A. I think they have bought them for a great deal less. I think the duties that the Canadian people will pay on the fish they take out of their own people.
PRICE OF CODFISH AS AFFECTED BY THE TREATY OF 1873.
Q. What was the average price of codfish at wholesale during the existence of the treaty of 1873?-A. I can't give you the exact figures; but Georges codfish ran all the way from $3.75 to $7 per quintal, and Bank fish in the same proportion, only a little less; they don't bring quite as much.
Q. Since the treaty terminated how was it?-A. Since the treaty terminated fish have never been so low as they have been in the last three years, on account of the market being glutted all the time; there has been more than could be consumed. Georges codfish have sold as low as $3.25, and Bank at $2.75, and I have known them to sell as low as $1.25.
Q. You say the market has been glutted?-A. Yes; there has been either less demand or more fish, I don't know which. I think the demand for salt fish has fallen off a great deal, from the fact that the canning business has increased and the facilities for shipping fresh fish have increased. Of course there are only about so many fish consumed of all kinds, and whichever kind increases the other kinds will be decreased to that extent in the quantity sold. It is my opinion that the increase in canning fresh fish has been detrimental to the sale of salt fish and has decreased the quantity that would otherwise have been salted.
EXPORTATION OF FRESH FISH TO CANADA.
By Senator FRYE:
Q. During the winter months of last year how large a sale of fresh fish did you make in the Canadas?-A. I should say about 38 tons per week.
Q. How large during the summer months?-A. In the summer months I should say about 10 tons, or 20,000 pounds, a week.
Q. On all that you pay a duty of how much?-A. They pay the duty.
Q. There is a duty?-A. Yes, sir; of about 50 cents a hundred on fresh fish.
Q. When you send it there you pay the duty?-A. No, sir; they pay their own duty.
Q. That duty is 50 cents a hundred?-A. Fifty cents a hundred.
By Senator SAULSBURY:
Q. Is that an import duty?-A. It is an export.
Q. If you export them they are subject to the Canadian duty, are they not?-A. We never had to pay it; they have always paid their own duties. We telegraph the price of our markets in the morning, and they know that they have got to pay half a cent duty on it when they buy. We ship at that price, and they pay their own duties.
By Senator FRYE:
Q. But there is a duty on all fresh fish shipped to Canada, under their tariff law?— A. Yes; a duty of 50 cents per hundred pounds.
Q. Of course that exportation is all to the Upper Canadas?-A. Montreal and Quebec.
Q. Do you send there any cured fish? A. Very little; once in a while just a little; not enough to take any account of. I think you will find that at times they send some from Gloucester, and I rather think from Portland also. If I am not greatly mistaken, John Leverton sent some considerable quantity of salt fish there.
Q. There is pending before Congress a proposition to make a close time on mackerel, from March, I think, until the middle of June or first of July?-A. The 1st day of June.
Q. You have had pretty large experience in dealing with mackerel. What is your opinion of that proposition?-A. I think it would redound to the benefit of the fishermen, the dealers, the vessel owners and all, more than most anything that could be done, from the fact that the mackerel caught in the spring are of very inferior grades. They are caught from the time they start from the Gulf Stream and are destroyed by the seines. The schools are broken up, so that the fish are driven off, and by the time the fish reach their destination they are to a large extent unfit for food, and they only cumber the ground, as you may say, and take the place of nice stock that could be sold if they were not in the market. A close time would also
give the mackerel a chance to get back on their old spawning ground where they used to spawn years ago. I can not find any one who disagrees with me on all these points, with the exception of two or three parties in New York. This testimony is going to be confidential, I understand, but I would not like to make any more statements, on account of New York, for I deal very heavily in New York. Mr. Blackford, who is one of the fish commissioners in New York, is a large retail dealer, and very much interested about getting the first fish of the season. Then there are two or three firms that sell on commission, to whom the largest part of the fleet always consign their cargoes for that market, and they sell for 12 per cent commission, so that of course all the fish they can handle is for their pecuniary benefit.
Q. What time do you say the mackerel spawn?-A. As far as I can learn, from about the middle of April to the end of May.
Q. And you would interdict fishing during the whole spawning season?-A. Yes; I think such a measure would be of great benefit. The mackerel begin to get in good order and become healthy about the 1st of June. I do not think any fish is so healthy in the spawning season as afterwards. Then, if we could have close time, it would make the market better, the people would be better pleased with the fish they buy, and there would be more general satisfaction.
Q. So your opinion is very decidely that both consumer and fisherman would be benefited by a close season?-A. Yes; that is my idea, because the fish are not good in the spring. I have known millions to be taken in the spring, and I have known thousands of them to be carted through the streets so nearly decomposed that their entrails were hanging out. This practice is something that we here have been talking against for years and years. The fact is just this, and anybody can see it: They never used to think of going south any further than No Man's Land for mackerel, and then about the time they had got through spawning; but one would become a little more energetic than another and go farther south, and that has been kept up until they have gone south of Cape Hatteras, and of course the further south the poorer the fish are. In consequence of going so far south the percentage of large fish taken has been reduced from 56 down to 6. The percentage of large fish in our catches of mackerel the last two years has not been far from 6 per cent, while in 1868 and 1869 it was 56 per cent.
Q. You charge that reduction to taking them in the spawning season?—A. Yes; I can not think of any other reason for it.
Q. Do you know what is the general feeling in regard to that proposition among the men who are dealing in fish and among the fishermen themselves?-A. I can tell you in regard to our folks here. We have an association, called the Fresh Fish Association, of which I am chairman. I called a meeting of that association last spring for the express purpose of getting the voice of the people on that question. We took a vote on it, and the vote was unanimous in favor of having a close season to the first of June, and there were forty-three firms represented in the meeting.
By Senator SAULSBURY:
Q. You speak of the fishermen here. What is the opinion of the fishermen who are engaged, not in the same line of fishing that yours are, but who are engaged principally in the summer fisheries along the coast?-A. As far as I know I have not yet found a fisherman of any grade, with one exception, who was not in favor of a close season, and he was a Nova Scotiaman, one of those men who want to get ahead of everybody else. But the cod-fishermen, the halibut, and blue-fishermen, and all the New York fishermen, are in favor of a close season, because it helps them more, and by having it these poor mackerel are kept out of the market, and they have a better chance. I saw a report that some New York gentlemen had stated before some committee of Congress that New York vessels were largely engaged in the spring-mackerel catching. That is entirely erroneous; New York has not one; all those vessels are from Gloucester, Portland, Cape Cod, and Boston.
By Senator EDMUNDS:
Q. That you know positively, from your business?-A. Yes; they have not got a mackerel boat in their New York fleet.
PRICES OF THE EARLY CATCH OF MACKEREL.
By Senator SAULSBURY:
Q. What is the difference in price to the consumer between those fish caught in the spring and those which are caught by your fishers here in the regular season?-A. There is no difference in the price to the retailers. I have seen thousands and thousands sold in New York where the same price was charged to the retailers.
By Senator EDMUNDS:
Q. I understand you to say that you are familiar with the New York market. Have you spent a good deal of time there? A. Yes; I have spent ten consecutive springs there, and bought for dealers here, including myself. I am as well acquainted in Fulton Market as in Boston, I think.
By Senator SAULSBURY:
Q. Your opinion is that the spring catching does not make fish cheaper to the consumer at any season?-A. Not at all. If, as I said before, the retail dealers would rise and fall with the market as the wholesalers do, it might make a difference, but where they have a stated price it can not.
By Senator EDMUNDS:
Q. And they do have that?—A. Yes. Go to our market to-day and inquire the price of mackerel, and you will find that they are from three to five times as high as we sell them. I can not find any fault with that. A retailer has got to get considerably more than he pays for them in order to live; he has to dress them and get them up for sale, and then he can only sell an uncertain quantity.
Q. He must provide for losses every day?-A. Yes.
By Senator Saulsbury:
METHOD OF SHIPPING.
Q. Mackerel always reach the country in barrels. Are they put up in this market in that shape, or is that done by the dealers to whom you make your consignments? -A. They are put up by the dealers to whom we sell. Country dealers are generally supplied with barrels and half barrels. They will order cod, mackerel, halibut, and bluefish all in one package, and then they are put up in barrels. We ship 90 per cent of our stock in cases, about 500 pounds to the case, because we ship altogether by wholesale. The fish are put up iced in boxes and shipped as freight. We use in our store from 35 to 50 tons of ice per week during the summer season in which to pack those fish.
TESTIMONY OF CHARLES W. WRIGHTINGTON.
BOSTON, MASS., September 30, 1886.
CHARLES W. WRIGHTINGTON sworn and examined: The WITNESS. I want to say at the beginning that I come here very reluctantly, but under special pressure on the part of Mr. Merritt. I have felt in my mind that it is perfectly useless for me to attempt to influence the thing the other way, for it has seemed to me just as if the whole trend was in a direction against reciprocity, whereas I am in favor of it. We sent on a committee from Boston to Washington, but it seemed to me as if it were a useless thing to do, in consideration of the way that committee were met at Washington. So that I have found myself just in that position where it would seem that the only way out was to have some difficulty or some trouble come up, and then it would find its own solution. I certainly am in favor of doing justice to all people who are interested in vessels; but it has seemed to me all the time that if they were to be protected they ought to be protected in some other way, if any other way could be devised. If I were interested in vessels I suppose I should say that because other people are protected I ought to be protected. By Senator EDMUNDS:
Q. Will you be good enough to tell us where you live?-A. I live in Brookline, Mass. Q. And you are in business in Boston?-A. Yes, sir.
Q. What is your age?-A. I am 47.
Q. What is your occupation?-A. In the wholesale fish and canned-goods business. Q. Salt or fresh fish?-A. Salt.
Q. What classes of fish do you deal in?-A. Every variety of salt-water fish.
Q. And canned fish?-A. Yes. Of course those are fresh fish, and the others are cured fish. I deal in no fresh fish except canned fresh fish.
Q. Where do your supplies come from mostly?-A. The bulk of what we use are domestic fish.
S. Doc. 231, pt 5—41