Monday, March 13, 2006

Call to Action Kodiak style

As Com-Fish nears in Kodiak this week, Kodiak folks seem to be gearing up in a "mad as .... and not going to take it anymore" tone. And of course how can you blame them.

KAKN in Naknek. My "Passport Alaska" marketing director, Roberta Foster, went out to help run the radio station in about 1995.

Confidence in the Federal fisheries management process is at an all time low, if it's on the radar at all. Look at the flak NOAA - NMFS is getting over the king salmon debacle in California and Oregon.

The point that I make is that the Federal government and politicians (yes, even in Alaska) try things out of political pressure without having a clue what the results are going to be, except maybe to make a couple of wealthy supporters happy in the short term. Like giving the Klamath water to the farmers and watching the parasites bloom in the warm water in the river, or giving the crab to the processors and watching half the jobs go away and communities become battered. Like in assault and battery? Pretty much.

Some quotes here from a Kodiak reader, sent to explain "rationalization."
"Wherever men hold unequal power in society, they will strive to maintain it. They will use whatever means are convenient to that end and will seek to justify them by the most plausible arguments they are able to devise."
~Reinhold Neibuhr

"When plunder has become a way of life for a group of people living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it, and a moral code that glorifies it."
~Frederic Bastiat

The government design of the US was congruent to the veritable limitlessness of space and opportunity in North America [which also fit perfectly with the expansive nature of capitalism]. Good fit produces satisfying results. As we hit critical physical limits, the design collapses into corruption, destruction and inhumanity - not because corruption, destruction and inhumanity are either bad or good, but because they are what fits so beautifully with
overpopulation and exhausted resources.
~Pondurenga Das

"...the absentee-owned canned salmon industry was opposing all conservation measures proposed at various times by conscientious government officials who found themselves overwhelmed by political pressure and alternative threats which would put an end to their public career or blandishments with positions with the industry."
~Richard Cooley Politics and Conservatiion

And the message of the day, brought to you by concerned Kodiak residents;


Your support at Comfish, Kodiak is needed! Plan to attend the following events to alert fisheries policy makers and gubernatorial candidates of our concerns with Gulf of Alaska Groundfish Rationalization:

THURSDAY, MARCH 16th 4:00 to 6:00 pm Reception at the Fisheries Research Center on Near Island welcoming the candidates of the Gubernatorial Debate.

THURSDAY, MARCH 16th 7:00-9:00 pm Gubernatorial Candidates Debate at the Gerald C. Wilson High School Auditorium.

FRIDAY, MARCH 17th at 9:30-10:30 "ALASKANS FOR OPEN MARKETS" rally on the sidewalk in front of the high school. Dress in raingear if you please, bring the kids and announce to the State of Alaska that coastal Alaskans demand free markets for their fish.

FRIDAY, MARCH 17th at 10:30am-12:30pm Drama Pod Gulf of Alaska Groundfish Rationalization Forum: Solutions for State Water Fisheries with ADF&G Commisioner Mckie Campbell

SATURDAY, MARCH 18th- 10:30am-12:30pm Community Protections: Share the Voice and the Vision! This panel will include visitors from other regions who are encountering radical fisheries management changes. They will share their experiences and highlight how their communities are working together to find proactive ways to keep the fish coming to town.

The face of Alaska's fisheries is dramatically changing. Resource managers are developing programs to limit access to public fishery resources by assigning quotas based on individual fishing history - the more you caught in the past, the more you will be allocated to catch in the future. The stated purpose is to slow down the pace of fishing to improve conservation, increase safety and reduce excess fishing capacity for improved economic efficiency. However, program design determines the actual results- - the devil is in the details.

Most recently the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and the U.S. Congress established a quota program for Bering Sea crab that has had significant impact on our communities and fishing families. The program resulted in an extreme level of consolidation such that less than half the fleet is still fishing and about 900 skippers and crew lost their jobs. Those who do have jobs are working more and making less money. Safety and conservation benefits are in question. Fishermen are required to deliver 90% of their catch to specified processors, all but eliminating market competition. Crew jobs and other business activities in communities were sacrificed to achieve extreme economic efficiencies.

Instead of improving with each new limited access program, the economic effects are getting worse:

· Capital is leaving our communities through absentee control of the fisheries;
· Excessively high capital cost of entering fisheries is a barrier to the next generation of local fishermen;
· The need to hold quota in order to participate in a fishery diminishes the ability of an independent family operation from having access to a sufficiently diverse portfolio of fisheries;
· As local Alaskans drop out of fishing, the benefits of our fisheries become vested in fewer and fewer hands. The diversity of interests at the table is diminished, further guaranteeing that community and State interests will not be met over time.

The limited access program now under development for Gulf of Alaska groundfish is headed down a path similar to the flawed crab program.

What are some solutions?

This struggle is occurring at the regional level in which the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) is developing limited access quota program for Gulf of Alaska groundfish fisheries. It's also happening at the federal level where Congress is in the process of reauthorizing the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

Our vision for coastal communities is one in which --

· Independent fishing families support themselves through employment in Alaska's array of fisheries as vessel owners, skippers, crew and processing workers;
· There are viable opportunities for the next generation of fishermen to enter Alaska's fisheries and build a family business;
· There are open markets to deliver harvested catch, a positive economic environment for diverse processing operations and opportunities for entrepreneurial processing enterprises;
· The economic value of Alaska's fisheries remains in coastal communities to benefit local economies, including related businesses (such as marine suppliers, boat yards, welders and fuel distributors) and community infrastructure (such as transportation, schools and ports);
· Fishery resources are managed for long-term conservation and with minimal impact on the ecosystem that supports them.

Building on Alaska's rich fishing heritage, this is a vision for the working waterfronts that make our communities viable fishing towns.