Thursday, January 19, 2006

Coastal Communities & Crewmembers count too

Here's a suggestion for the Coastal Communities Coalition in Alaska for when the wrecking crew at the NPFMC gets done. "ShoreBank Enterprise Pacific focuses on building stronger rural communities by recognizing the interdependence of economic, environmental and community health."

I took this picture of the old cannery in Uganik Bay from a float plane. The foamy streak on the water is from the newer cannery up the bay canning humpies. Circa mid '80s.

I don't know if they are in Alaska, but they are active here in Oregon, trying to fix local economies after industry and government failed to get it right. It's just plain logical that crewmembers and community advocates should be factored in when hatching sweeping fisheries management plans. I also know it's human nature to give more credence to the high-liner fisherman than the low-liner. (Sometimes though it's a hot-shot crew that makes a boat successful and not just the captain's incredible genius.)

When I was going to Oregon State, someone did a project to see how much pain one person would inflict on another, when the other person was out of sight. For all the subjects, with the "shock controls," knew, there was a real person in the other room. For a couple of bucks you could get a person to almost "kill" another person. So much for individual Fisheries Management Council members looking out for individuals.

Ever since the Pacific Marine Expo in the fall, I've been meaning to read the documentary book on the salmon wars between United Seiners Association and the shore based fish processors. I've gotten to the part where Moe describes the meetings that called for a stand-down for lack of an acceptable contract for raw fish. She describes the fishermen's pecking order, even in such a homogenous group trying to accomplish the same thing. And the incredible animosity between them and the processors.

It's a crazy business, and often called the "fishing game," because maybe it resembles a game more than a profession. You know, with professionals and all. A regional vice president of a very large seafood company I worked for once, told me he didn't think the president of the company even knew he had a college degree. Anyway, you get some fishermen that have done well, and are operating like a "processor," and everyone seems to think they represent the rest of the fishermen's views. Not.

The book by Moe Bowstern (?), called "XTRA TUF No. 5. came out just last summer, documenting the life of USA from the first "strike" in 1997 until it's demise in recent years. Of course, Xtra Tufs are one brand of bubber shoe pacs that are standard gear for fishermen and are also known as the "Alaska tennis shoe." The title is appropriate. Only a real Alaska fisherman would call their book "Xtra Tuf." And like me she isn't making any money doing it, it's a calling that chooses you. But the book is a must-read for serious students. Call Micocosm Publishing at 503-249-3825.

Now I totally sympathize with fishermen, most of them anyway. Some are stockholders of big canning companies and those guys kinda support their company. Not that they get many dividends, it's mostly just the company's way to get cheap fish. Their company just keeps expanding and expanding with the profits, like the other big companies. And you have smaller groups of fishermen that invest in floaters, and they are out of the equation.

In the '80s a group of 26 or so seiners bought the Uganik Bay cannery, and then they went and struck their own plant! How smart was that? I flew out to that cannery a couple of times from the bank in Anchorage because I was the only one at the bank that knew canneries. I'll tell you, the bank was not too impressed at that degree of professionalism. But I always thought that there should be regular dialogue between all the parties, and there wasn't. Brainstorming and getting creative in the same room. Us at the bank never saw any of the fishermen.

Here's another article, by a Kodiak fisherman. Seems to me the Kodiak Daily Mirror is the only paper that I get news straight from the shoulder. Of course some papers don't want to join the conversation, just make a buck locally. Then in other parts, fishermen don't speak up much, for the rest of the world to hear anyway. And in many other cases, reporters lack the experience to get down to brass tacks, or they are afraid to offend certain advertisers.

Alaska fishermen, of all stripes, and community advocates need to, first of all, write to the NPFMC to head off this processor quota cancer. Who knows where it will stop. Don't get caught up in the piddling justifications, focus on what's right. Secondly, don't give fuel to

Just by using the term "rationalization" and now "ratz" in public documents, it's clear the NPFMC is scoffing at what is right. These terms don't mean anything. They have no definition anywhere. Let's stop using them.

There is a hidden agenda implicit in the use of these terms. The Exective Director of the Council should direct staff and Council members to discontinue using the terms and strike them from public documents. If they won't, it only goes to show they have been directed to pursue the underlying agenda. And that of course is putting their fingers on side of the scales that are occupied by the big money boys. They'll pull it off too, if good men do nothing.


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