More American boats for post-war foreign fisheries

From the Commercial Fisheries Review, May, 1950, Vol. 12, No. 5, 64-65.

From the Commercial Fisheries Review, May, 1950, Vol. 12, No. 5, 64-65.

As we have noted, a number of fishing boats were either built or reconditioned shortly after World War II and shipped to various foreign countries.  In 1949, the U.S. Army bought 12 motor trawlers for the Germany fishing industry and a report in the Commercial Fisheries Review (May of 1950, 12 (5), 64-65) gives some insight into how good intentions can lead to bad outcomes.

The war left the European agriculture in a shambles, especially in Germany and Russia. Coupled with the devastation, the winters in 1945 and 1946 were very harsh.  A drought in 1946 resulted in one of the poorest grain harvests in a century through much of Europe. It’s no wonder that post-war policy makers focused on increasing the harvest from the sea.

This resulted in a rush to build boats. Building boats is easy, but soon you will have too many boats. These particular boats were built under the GARIOA program, or Government and Relief in Occupied Areas, which focused on providing food to Japan, Germany, and Austria, between 1945 and 1950. These 12 twelve boats come very late in the program.

According to the CFR, by the time the boats arrived, about June of 1949, “the German food situation has greatly improved,” and there an oversupply of fish. Iced fish intended for humans went to fish meal factories “for lack of other purchasers,” 65 of the fleet of 234 trawlers were laid up. Total capacity is up, because 50 of the 180 vessels in the fleet the previous year have been replaced by vessels with more capacity.

The CFR does not say where the boats were built, but they were smaller than the vessels normally used by the German fleet. The median size of a new German trawler was 540 gross tons; the American trawlers were from 200 to 340 tons.  During their first six months of operation, the American trawlers landed fish worth $602,312. The cost of converting the trawlers to meet German requirements was $221, 340, while another $99,960 was spent to get the boats to Germany. The report does not mince words on the efficacy of the program:

“In short, the 12 trawlers sent to German under the GARIOA appropriation have been useful to date in supplying fish to an already well-supplied German market. In is problematical if the 3 smaller trawlers will be in operation long enough to repay Deutsche-mark transport and conversion costs. The earning capacity of the trawlers in Germany is too small to permit the vessels to be sold in Germany for more than 50 percent of their procurement costs.”


About finleyc

I'm a writer and a historian of science. I'm interested in the intersection of science and policy in the oceans, and especially around fishing.
This entry was posted in boat building, Cold War, Environmental History, Fisheries economics, fisheries science, Fishing, History of Science, History of Technology, Japanese fishing, Marine Policy, Maritime History, Overfishing, Pacific Fishing History Project, Soviet environmental history, Soviet fishing, Soviet history', World History and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to More American boats for post-war foreign fisheries

  1. Pingback: More American boats for post-war foreign fisheries | Gaia Gazette

  2. Ingo says:

    Hi Carmel:
    Nice piece and many thanks for bringing this to the attention of an audience probably not too familiar with the specifics of post WW II West-German trawling history.
    Anyhow, one small clarification:
    Up to the end of 1949 West-German built trawlers were restricted by the Potsdam regulations to a maximum size of 400BRT. The 540 tons you’ve mentioned are probably either the pre-war average or the average immediately after the end of the restrictions. Doesn’t change the main line of the story, but still seems to be somewhat important.
    Based on a variety of interviews I did with former German trawler-men one of the main factors for low acceptance of the US ships were their diesel engines instead of advanced steam-technology which was standard on German trawlers.


    • finleyc says:

      Thank you for the clarification, Ingo. I had never heard of this Potsdam decision about the size of fishing boats. The American boats did have diesel engines. It is interesting that this happened so late after the war, 1949, when the German fishing industry was certainly in recovery. I wish the article had more information about where the boats were built. And the politics behind the financing on this, it was a very expensive little project.


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