Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Fisheries Associations: Part IV

If I download from my cranial files a post a day, I'll be happy. Don't know how long it will take, but it's something I feel strongly about. Like in, I'd paddle from Prince Rupert to Juneau in a cast iron bathtub it that's what it would take. I know there is a lot of passion in the fleet, my brother Arnold is a U.S. - Canada Salmon Treaty negotiator. But the harvesting sector needs to focus it's energy like a laser beam. This probably won't happen real soon, but it's a great thought. Words are powerful and good words are like planting seed, they do yield a crop of good things eventually. Be very careful of the flip side of "good words" though.

Today I want to make clear a chronology of events that I saw leading up to the Regional Fisheries Associations. I saw and did more than anyone else I know of. Not to say that someone else didn't have a passion for it like I did, I just don't know of anyone and I talked to everyone. Some state employees had to work to implement the rules established by the legislature and I'm sure some of these folks saw the light to an elevated extent, maybe one became the new "fisheries association evangelist." Well, here goes.

  • It started when the President of CFAB invited an ex-director of Florida Citrus Mutual to Anchorage to speak about primary producers taking back control of their product.
  • While at CFAB I talked to the NFPA about permitting the Norwegian seamer that will do 26 different size cans. The Director told me "keep your nose out of it, sonny." To use banking parlance, that raised a big red flag over the product development process in my mind.
  • When I was at the state DCED I tested a "small processor association" idea by getting a bunch together to brainstorm structural impediments. Out of that the Kake Cold Storage got running again.
  • While working with 26 different big and small communities on infrastructure development, I found that the chief concern was more jobs, not infrastructure. That led to my writing a paper on the association concept as pertains the fishing industry.
  • The City Manager of Cordova asked me what they could do to help jump-start the fishing industry in PWS, so I sent her a copy of my "associations white paper."
  • She gave it to their legislator who gave it to his aide to draft a bill to start the fisheries association. The aide only had one summer at a Cordova cannery under his belt and the bill failed in the Legislature.
  • The bill called for another tax on the fish, which I hadn't included in my paper Under Hickel, the association was shelved in lieu of giving ASMI another 1% tax.
  • When I left state service in 1991, I got minor support to pursue the idea from the Alaska Business Development Center, the Community Enterprise Development Corporation, and Prime Alaska Seafoods Inc.
  • I then started a newletter to interject the idea, along with other "intelligence," which of course I called the "Fisheries Intelligence Newsletter." My father financed it, but it was not a commercial success.
  • One subscriber to FIN, Ray Wadsworth, was a innovative boat builder and Alaska fisherman who eventually held up the idea at a meeting in Ballard that was called to discuss the super-low humpy prices that were being quoted by the processors.
  • A hot-shot negotiator with the Dallas Cowboys was hired to show the owners of the processing companies that they had to treat fishermen like the small business men that they are. The processors conceded to base the ex-vessel prices on the market price of the canned salmon. There was a lot of hoopla and misunderstanding that summer because there wasn't enough time to get a good state-wide organization going.
  • Ray Wadsworth was voted out as Chairman by the fishermen who put up the money for the negotiator and pursued only fish price negotiations until even that waned.
  • In the spring of 2003 I heard about the windfall fisheries development monies the state got and found that some low level fisheries staff were reviewing proposals to spend it.
  • I wrote the Governor, the Lt. Governor, and the state economic development folks a 15 page letter spelling a lot of this out and asking if they could have the Legislative Research Agency do a comparison of "the institute vs the association" as a way to develop appropriate products and effective marketing strategies designed for those products.
  • In March 2005 the law allowing fishermen to form regional associations that could tax themselves kicked into gear. Some regions had a head-start from prior endeavours, such as the Copper River fishermen.
  • Wrangell put in the proposal for a Southeast association just recently. They probably realized that many of the big Petersburg boats were Icicle stockholders and weren't going to take the lead on this. The Petersburg boats didn't "strike" like a lot of the boats did that first year, they just took the extra seven cents a pound that Icicle "matched." Albie Hofstad told me it saved their season that year.


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