Thursday, August 04, 2005

Fishing Industry Resturcturing

This working group of the Alaska State Board of Fisheries has a tough row to hoe, let me tell you. They are trying to figure out how to even take proposals. Some restructuring may not go down too well with some, and I can see that they'll have to read the fine print in the Alaska State Constitution already.

I'm not going to make any proposals here by any means, and won't even comment on ones I've seen. I just want to help spread the word that they are fishing for ideas. Here's one link to information on the process.

Fishermen will have a lot of homework when they get back from fishing this season. The Regional Associations will be organizing, the Restructuring Panel will go back to work, some brick and mortar infrastructure projects will want to start fast tracking.

I'm reminded of days gone by when I'd hear about the planets about to line up. What that meant I never could figure out, but maybe there was some significance. I can more easily imagine that if all these goings on in the seafood industry lined up there might be some good things come of it. It's going to take a lot of participation to accomplish that though. I read a quote today that went something like this, "Either get in front and pull, get behind and push, or stand to the side."

I know one thing though, that if projects don't line up with the others, they won't be lined up. Simple enough. I think the thing to remember is that by lining up, a synergy develops that is greater than the sum. With the right teamwork in the industry, it should be able to shoot fish to consumers like out of a particle accelerator.

Here's another link to the Restructuring Panel that might be helpful too. (Click here) And one I found on the continuing, on-going, ever-present resturcturing by the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council resides here.

In Alaska it's common in "discovery" groups to collate all the information and just leave it as such. What's not common is for someone, who may be the Chairman of the discovery group or a Legislator, to actually run with the ball. It seems to take a disaster, like the ex-vessel value of the salmon fisheries to drop to one fourth of a decent value for anyone to take action. There are risks in taking action as I found out working at the State.

When I wrote my Small Processors Association white paper, and even demonstrated how it could work, I was ejected like a spent cartridge from a semi-automatic. Taking a stand is no way to get you kids through college. Not taking a stand is no way to run a railroad either.

On matters of science, I'm heartened that the NPFMC is elevating the status of the scientists. One report the State of Alaska put together in the 80s was called the Delphi Project. It was a compendium survey sheets that industry and government collaborated on. Some of the questions had to do with such things as the carrying capacity of the North Pacific. Most of us didn't have a clue on these questions. I was at CFAB at the time and the President of the bank got Bob Waldrop, representing the Board, and me, representing the staff, to fill out the report. I feigned vision problems, which in my first job looking at printed matter all day wasn't a stretch. But Bob, mostly, whipped throught that and as a later President of the bank said, it was just a compendium of guesses.

Man, I don't like to be guessing, and I don't think guess work has any place in developing programs and controls. And I don't think minor interests, whether from an industry sector, or government sector, has the depth to design something for the industry as a whole. By numbers, which in a Democratic system is the supreme commandment, fishermen and the small processors that they evolve into, need to be the ones that pull the strings.

I'm not talking about any particular project, such as the Board of Fisheries Restructuring Panel, at this point, but in general. I do think that when the Regional Seafood Development Associations get on their feet, and with professional managers, these folks will be where the rubber meets the road. They will be able to make the connection between resource management and the market-place. They will have their feet in both ponds. And of necessity, because keeping an Association alive is a 12 month a year job, the managers will have to be trained and experienced managers first, know processing and marketing second, and the fisheries third.

These managers will easily be able to make decisions because they will be the focal points of information from the public sector, the private sector, and academia. They will represent the interests of 99 % of the number of business people in the primary and secondary processing sectors. (Remember that crew members are independent contractors.) The plant workers are in a category by themselves, and the way things are going now, will all be working with green cards.


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