McDonalds, Burger King, Poverty and Fresh Fish

As we remain in a wait and see state to learn if the BP oil leak has been stopped by pouring mud into the pipe to neutralize the pressure and stop the flow of oil, I find myself contemplating the very hard working poor along the Gulf Coast.

The shallow waters from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida is home to a class of fisherman who work incredibly hard to feed their families and make rent on their tin can in a local trailer park. These people, mostly men, get up at around 3:00 am and push their old john boats with their old outboard motors that are always in need of repair, into the water and they start fishing for what sport fishermen call “trash fish.” These species, ladyfish, jack kreval, hardhead cats, sail cats, lizard fish and others that are plentiful and, to most people, have no food value. These guys then take the trash fish to one of the local processing plants where such fishes are turned into a substance that is then shaped into the design of a McDonalds and Burger King fish sandwiches as well as frozen fish sticks and other “parts is parts” fish products. For these fish, these impoverished fishermen are paid between 25 and 50 cents per pound.

Back in the 1980s Ronald Reagan stated that many homeless people are so because they elect to be. He made similar statements about people in the class of working poor. While some minuscule portion of these subsistence fishermen do so by choice so they can live in and spend their time in our beautiful west Florida outdoors, most do so because it’s the only thing they know and they can eek out a meager living from this work.

I know a few of the guys who do this by choice and they are happy folks as they can catch all of the trash fish in the morning, drop off their load and get paid by the processing facilities and then go out fishing or hiking or hunting or any of a large number of sea related activities. I know these guys from fishing tournaments and other gatherings of those of us with a passion for the outdoors.

Sadly, those who would accept poverty to live in near absolute freedom are few. Most of these people do so out of need to keep their kids in shoes and pay rent on their trailer which especially precarious during hurricane season.

Now, the BP oil spill has already reached the shores of Louisiana and threatens Alabama and Mississippi soon and, maybe even parts of the Florida coast.

Crude oil and fresh fish do not go together in any sense of a productive manner. These trash fishermen already live in poverty and, now, may have even lost their single source of income which hardly kept them above water when things are going well.

These fishermen provide a lot of the fishy materials that go into the McDonalds and Burger King sandwiches. Now, those in Louisiana are waiting for the state to announce that it is safe to do their kind of fishing. The processing plants have stopped buying from Louisiana, Mississippi and the western edge of the Alabama coast. These poor buggers have, for a indeterminate amount of time, lost their access to the twenty five to fifty cents for their daily catch and they have no idea how they will buy food or pay rent.

These are good hard working people without whom we wouldn’t have fish sticks. I fear for these people as this country does a relatively poor job of working with the poor and these families are among the poorest and probably have no safety net.

So, maybe these are all part of Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queens” and the trailer parks are actually hiding subterranean mansions but I doubt it.

I don’t know if anyone has set up a charity for these people but, if so, I will be contributing and I hope you will too.


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I'm an accessibility advocate working on issues involving technology and people with print impairment. I'm a stoner, crackpot, hacker and all around decent fellow. I blog at this site and occasionally contribute to Skepchick. I'm a skeptic, atheist, humanist and all around left wing sort. You can follow this blog in your favorite RSS reader, and you can also view my Twitter profile (@gonz_blinko) and follow me there.

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