Tons of reasons to use metric tons at sea

Thanks for doing the article on the new rockfish season and limits. I'm glad to see people are back on the ocean fishing again. But I gotta ask, what is a metric ton, and why do they use metric tons instead of regular tons when it comes to quotas? I guess I could probably Google the answer, but it's your fault that I'm even thinking about this, so perhaps you at Since You Asked Central should take the lead here.

— Matt, Medford


Well, Matt, we at Since You Asked Central are here to please, a veritable Siri of sorts to answer the ponderables that either our readers can't find answers to themselves or they're just not interested in finding themselves.

A metric ton is 1,000 kilograms, and it's something that you and other Americans would likely know, Matt, if President Gerald Ford had his way.

If you're too young to know this, Ford in 1975 signed the Metric Conversion Act that declared the metric system "the preferred system of weights and measures for United States trade and commerce" but permitted the use of United States customary units in all activities.

So we went metric without actually going metric. Like disco back then was music without actually being music.

So the regular, good-old American ton is 2,000 pounds, while the metric ton, when converted to pounds, equals 2,204.6 pounds. And that's not to be confused with the long ton, or imperial ton, a unit of measurement in the United Kingdom that tips the Toledos at 2,240 pounds.

While the regular ton (sometimes called the "short ton" so as not to be confused with the long ton or the metric ton) is alive and well on U.S. soil. But in the ocean, fishery managers use metric tons because it's all part of American commerce.

Quotas for, in this case, black rockfish, are crafted by the Pacific Fishery Management Council. The council happens to advise the U.S. Department of Commerce, which technically adopts the quotas.

So it's commerce, Matt, pure commerce that puts metric tons in the Mail Tribune whenever fish quotas surface.

And you won't get all that just by asking Siri.

— Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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