Sunday, April 16, 2006

Fishery Councils should stick with resource management

"Science is only one part of the equation," Piavis said. "Who gets the fish . . . is a whole other equation."

A sweet set-up on the Yukon River. Our low-man-on-the-totem pole gubernatorial candidate has spent the last 18 years running speed boats on an Interior river.

I don't think anyone intended for the system of Regional Federal Fishery Management Councils to be the economic adjudicators of the sea coasts. There is no liason with the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the States' Departments of Economic Development, the States' Chamber of Commerces, Municipal Leagues, County and Borough Governments, City Economic Development Offices, etc.

But the Councils are now making do or die decisions regarding the economic welfare of the sea ports, and hence the welfare of Coastal United States. And in the case of the North Pacific Council, those decisions lean hard in favor of large scale foreign commercial interests. The rest are interests from the next state over. And since they could, these interests dominate the actual make-up of the Council through direct and indirect hire, policical influence and good 'ol brow-beating.

These Councils are appointed under the Magnuson-Stevens Act for their experience in the industry, and it matters not that they have put their allegiences on the shelf. Although I heard that at the last Council meeting in Anchorage, some folks made the Council repeat the Pledge of Allegiance [to the Flag of the Unites States of America.]

The first allegience to go by the wayside is to the economic welfare of small Coastal Communities. There are complicating factors such as some coastal communities swimming cross-current to other communities. Communities are fighting each other for no other reason than there is becoming a climate in Federal fisheries management of everyone trying to grab as much as they can. This grab-fest started when allocations of living resources were deeded to the foreign owners of the piles of steel and concrete on Alaska's coasts.

Nobody will ever get as much as the Japanese-owned bottomfish and crab plants already have received. So, it's hire the most lobbyists you can afford and go fishing at the Council. The Magnuson-Stevens Act, and Sen. Stevens getting conflict-of-interest thrown out, has set the stage for utter chaos. I was reminded of this by reading about the new oil tax structure Murkowski proposed. There would be no clear number to attach a tax TO.

Remember those old "Spy vs Spy" cartoons in the "Sunday funnies" during the Cold War? That's what it's like in the fishing industry, and that's what it looks like for the oil industry. Future public servants in Alaska can look forward to a life of the most bitter fights you can imagine if the fishing industry is any indication. How can we expect young people to be interested in working for major corporate players either, that are globally adroit, but socially challenged.

If the Marine Advisory Program in the U.S. was smart, it would offer training in corporate ethics in the seafood business, instead of trying to get kids to "fit in." What's that going to get us? And if somebody was smart, they would make Regional Fisheries Management Councilors recuse themselves when there is a conflict of interest. It's a bad law that allows special interests to deal themselves in for hundreds of millions of dollars out of the economies of coastal communities. But public pressure can change that. And we wonder why other countries don't respect our government and do things that only hurts the public. They are getting their pay check.

One thing the NPFMC has going for it is that it doesn't tell their Scientific and Statistical Committee to take their science and shove it like they do on the East Coast. (The Japanese do know their fish biology.) But the same special interests dominate the Advisory Panel too, so what original advice could they possibly have?

The new Governor in Alaska will be able to demonstrate a love for Alaskans over Japanese and Seattle business tycoons. Most media just plays the game and sure didn't get it right with Murkowski. We promise to get to the bottom of things before the race this fall. We know one thing, the guy that had to take cues to say "no" to ratz in Kodiak and the Goober debates is "out." And, that's NOT the rest of the story.