Something fishy in the food supply pipeline…


The ingenious ways in which producers try to get around laws and regulations are on display in a customs dispute up in Maine.

A customs dispute at the U.S.-Canada border is threatening America’s supply of a key fish used for popular products such as fish sticks and fast food sandwiches.

The Alaska pollock has a complicated supply chain. After being caught as part of the largest commercial fishery in the U.S., the fish are transported by ship to New Brunswick, Canada, near the border with Maine. They are then loaded onto rail cars for a brief trip down 100 feet (30 meters) of track in Canada, before being put on trucks and crossing the border into the U.S.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has alleged that shippers are violating the Jones Act, which requires that goods shipped between U.S. ports be transported on U.S.-owned ships.

The agency has assessed more than $350 million in penalties to the shippers, records state. Two of the shipping companies have sued in federal court to stop the enforcement, which they characterized as heavy-handed, unexpected and unfair.

The dispute left 26 million pounds of fish in cold storage in Canada until a federal court judge issued an injunction on Sunday to let the seafood be shipped into the U.S. Members of the industry said they’re concerned about permanent disruption to the seafood supply chain if the disagreement continues.

There’s more at the link.

The fishing companies are trying to launch a smokescreen of “Oh, it’s for the good of all Americans, so you’ve got to let our fish through!”  That’s not true, of course.  They’re trying to evade the costly provisions of the Jones Act, which are quite specific, thereby saving themselves tens of millions of dollars.  They’ve been caught at it, so now they’re trying every wriggle and twist they can think of to get off the hook.

Customs, on the other hand, has been turning a blind eye to this for years;  they only recently cracked down on this particular situation.  There simply aren’t enough US-built and -flagged ships to transport all the cargoes needing to move between US ports, so companies have been employing such fig-leaf work-arounds for a long time.  They argue that they’re adhering to the letter of the law – and they are.  Customs argues that they’re violating the spirit of the law – and they are.

Meanwhile, the rest of us see how the deadweight of burdensome laws and regulations is affecting us, and we get more and more angry.  As Winston Churchill pointed out:

If you have ten thousand regulations you destroy all respect for the law.

The real problem lies with those who passed a law back in the days (1920) when there were plenty of US-flagged ships to do the fetching and carrying, and the volume of trade wasn’t so high.  The law has not kept pace with current reality on the seas, where US-flagged ships are largely conspicuous by their absence.  Even if the fishing companies wanted to fully comply with the law, they couldn’t, because they couldn’t find enough qualifying ships to handle their cargoes.

That’s what happens when pressure groups pass laws to their benefit, but bureaucrats don’t build in enough flexibility.  I reckon at least half the laws on the books in this country fall into that category.  President Trump was on the right track when he decreed that for every new regulation they implemented, government departments had to retire at least two old, outdated ones.  It’s a great pity that didn’t go on long enough, and that he couldn’t apply it to the laws themselves.

So, we may run out of fish sticks.  Oh, shuckydarn.  Having been almost force-fed the damn things through childhood, I’ll try to bear up manfully under the blow . . .  Meanwhile, the Canadians had better hope and pray they don’t suffer a power failure to the temperature-controlled warehouses containing those 26 million pounds of fish.  If they do, the problem will rapidly become aromatic rather than economic!



  1. Looks like Alaskan Pollock is a west coast fishery. How do they get the catch to Maine? Or are they fishing a different species off the east coast? BTW, Pollock makes a reasonable substitute for Haddock or Cod.

  2. Saw the Jones act rear its ugly head when people tried to ship relief supplies to Puerto Rico after the hurricanes and stupidity of rapacious Democrat Party officials there.

  3. Had fish sticks every Friday in grade and secondary school. Did not like them then, don't miss them now. One thing they can take off the shelf as far as I am concerned.

  4. Buttigieg is worse than useless. We are better off with him doing nothing, than with him doing his "job"

    Like most govt functionaries. He's a net drain on the economy

  5. Jones Act was written to protect the US ship building industry. US port to port in US made ships. Not just flagged. Without it China would decimate the US ship building industry by dumping/subsidizing excess building capacity here. Goodbye to another US industry or core competency, hello globalism and another dependency on China.


  6. US long liners for tuna and swordfish of the Grand Banks always had to notify Canadian Coast Guard and Customs when transiting the miles in Canadian water by radio.

    If the Canadians want to play rough, they will make all fishing vessels stop both coming and going for an inspection or make a big detour farther east before heading back north.

    Time is money.

  7. I for one welcome the effects of bureaucracy. The problems here are purely the result of a failure to protect the American Nation's interests in favor of financial gains for the FIRE barons.

    As Spin noted, shipbuilding is a vital industry, as are the ability to fab your own chips, manufacture your entire auto parts chain, be energy independent, and maintain all your own infrastructure.

    That used to be America. However, anywhere where the FIRE industry has touched it has consumed, and made its own regulations to aid and abet monopoly and oligopoly.

    Couple that with the Green mafia's own regulatory quest for destruction of America and you get the current crises.

    I'm completely for the application of consequences upon the citizenry that thought they could have their cake and eat it too.

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