Friday, February 24, 2006

Sound bites in campaign shouldn't drive fisheries policy

It worries me when candidates say they are going to take money out of the general fund to support seafood marketing. It's just apple pie and motherhood stuff, but it could go aray.

A new microwave canning process will use 1/7th the power and a whole lot less fresh water than canning in steel cans. Ryan will probably sell it in modular form too.

The Legislature saw fit to create Regional Seafood Development Associations as a way to harness that vast pool of industry knowledge, the fishermen, for the overall benefit of themselves, the communities and the rest of the supply chain including the consumer.

The Legislature created them, they didn't adopt them. No red-headed step-children there. This is finally a means for the ten thousand odd fishermen to market themselves to the world. Alaska is many decades late in adopting this approach that has brought prosperity to all the other producers that use it. The only way to have healthy communities is to have healthy fishermen.

The processors have been the sole purveyors of marketing Alaska seafood to date, notwithstanding a State agency that helps them do this. The fleets are in serious decline under this structure. The RSDAs aren't a bandaid or "let's give this a whirl," they are highly evolved mechanisms that the entire rest of the world uses.

The gubernatorial candidate that stands up for the RSDAs, and fishermen, will sure get my vote, and probably a lot more. And if they can speak knowledgeably about what the immense struggle that is going on in the seafood industry now, well, they probably have a shoe in. "Processors," for the most part, are a non-resident thing. Alaska gave them their own state agency, ASMI, and even taxed Alaska resident fishermen for a long time to support them. The "processors" got their little thing going, now it's time to get the fishermen's thing going.

Candidates will have to be careful not to fall into the trap of using sound bites like, "seafood marketing monies," or they may get hoodwinked into going down a road that is not good for fishermen. If there is a sound bite to be used it's "what's good for fishermen is good for the communities." Monies might be earmarked for marketing and here the first thing that needs to be done is get the RSDAs on their feet organizationally. A pot of marketing money wouldn't do them any good if they didn't have the organization to use it wisely. Fishermen will thank the candidates to refrain from treating them casually by the use of seafood sound bites.

P.S. The B.B. permit holders have an RSDA organizational meeting on Monday.