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When it comes to metric tons, you're talking commerce

I read your Oregon Outdoors story a few months ago about ocean fishing and rockfish. You mentioned how fish quotas are measured in metric tons. What’s a metric ton, exactly? I know I could probably look this up online, but it’s kind of your fault that I am thinking about this, so maybe you should do the Googling.

— Jeff, email submission

Well, Jeff, we at Since You Asked Central are here to please. A metric ton is 1,000 kilograms, and it’s something that you and other Americans would likely know 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.

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, fisheries 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 advises the U.S. Department of Commerce, which adopts the quotas.

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

And you won’t get all that just by asking Alexa.

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 youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.