Saturday, May 20, 2006

Board of Fish and Valdez meeting, or gillnetters beware

The name 'Trevor McCabe' comes up all the time like a bad penny. Here's two sad stories that have his name written all over them.

Right before Limited Entry in the salmon fisheries, Whitney-Fidalgo Seafoods owned like 102 boats. Their seiners had the distinctive yellow seine skiffs.

The one below is from a Cordova writer. The other one was a letter to the Anchorage Daily News the other day from a Seward writer. Here's an excerpt:

"We humble Seward residents thank those who let the rich get richer. Hail to our politically connected citizens of Seward. Hail to our few rich, powerful citizens. May they become ever richer. Let money slated to go to the city of Seward be redirected to fill their pockets ("Land deal opens SeaLife Center, Seward rift," April 23). Praise to the corridor that will redirect our visitors to a new downtown subdistrict lined by governmental agencies and our most powerful and rich businesses. Bow to those who promised not to compete with existing local businesses but have already opened their own gift shop, with plans to compete in other niches. Praise the wonderful opportunity that has been given to them to expand at our expense." They promise they won't take advantage of their political and governmental connections any longer, then whamo, they clean you out again.

I worked all over Prince William Sound ram-rodding herring operations in the '70s. Some of my fondest memories working in the fish business are from there. For example, I had to charter a Beaver from Cordova to Valdez to get to a job, but on the way the pilot circled a school of herring and directed a fisherman by radio to make the set blind, like they do. Only in Alaska.

The story below is from a PWS gillnetter, demonstrating the jeopardy they and the gillnetters in Southeast Alaska are in. Thankfully, the gillnetters in Bristol Bay saw fit to band together in at least a single voice in Juneau. I had heard from the mouth of a North Pacific Council member, awhile back now, that seiners should be used in Bristol Bay. The seiners have the power in S.E. and don't like the gillnetters at all. Too bad more gillnetters there don't see it coming. At this point it's not about quality or marketing.

To John Enge,
Find enclosed attachments concerning our Press Release, Letter concerning the Valdez mtg., recordings, and the Letter of Complaint we sent to Governor Murkowski in Janurary. We feel that the outcome of the BOF mtg. in Valdez was predetermined in advance. These are some of the reasons why the mtg. went the way it did. We have still not been given a "cleaned up" copy of the recordings.

I have been working to uncover the relationships on the BOF and to determine why the Valdez mtg. was stacked against the drift gillnet fishermen. This is what I have come up with. Jeremiah Campbell's name was put forward by the BOF chair Art Nelson last summer when Ed Dersham resigned his seat. At the Valdez mtg. Jeremiah supported the PWS allocation revision, which gave the seine fleet access and opportunity in the Esther chum fishery, and ignored the drift gillnet views.

Trevor McCabe and Jeremiah Campbell (40% each, Ezra Campbell 20%) own Alaska Northern Outfitters LLC (Commercial charter business based in Seward), which in turn owns 100% of Northern Explorer LLC, which owns the M/V Mary J (100' fish tender purchased last summer). Ed Rasmuson (Wells Fargo Executive, NPFMC member) is their banker.

This tender received a contract to buy 2006 PWS salmon from the seine fleet after the Valdez mtg. Trevor McCabe purchased a PWS & a Cook Inlet salmon seine permit in 2005. Nelson & McCabe are owners in Point Bluff LLC (real estate on the other side of a 'Bridge to Nowhere'). Nelson, McCabe & Campbell are owners in Alaska Halibut Championship together. McCabe & Steve Zelener own Worldwide Alaska Seafood LLC together, and they are also partners in Lake-Aire Alaska LLC. McCabe & Nelson are both past Executive Directors of At-Sea Processors Association, a trade organization representing US/Flag catcher/processor vessels and the Seattle based companies that own them.(consortiums that benefited immensely when deeded annual fish harvests under the American Fisheries Act that Trevor authored as Sen. Ted Stevens fisheries aide.)

There seems to me a conflict of interest with Nelson & Campbell. Campbell worked closely with Fred Bouse at the Valdez mtg. Nelson, Campbell & Bouse voted against the drift gillnet views on every proposal. TheCDFU(Cordova District Fishermen United) Gillnet Division has had its members write over 50 letters & emails to the Governor to not re-appoint Campbell to his seat, which expires on June 30th. We also sent a complaint letter to the Governor concerning Bouse's conduct at the mtg. Nelson left the Valdez meeting one day early (he had a CDQ client mtg. in Anchorage) and turned the meeting over to Mel Morris (vice chair) who had his hands full at the end.

When Art Nelson was promoted to the BOF chair in the fall of 2003 he told the drift gillnet representatives the PWS allocation plan would be revised and everything would be on the table (along with permit participation). We now have a processor controlled market in PWS. Out of 265 seine permits only 100 have fished during the last five years. PWS processors will not let any other seine fishermen have a market. This way they can control the fishermen. No seine fishermen can talk price or complain about anything. If they do they are told that they no longer have a market for their fish. They have become "corporate" fishermen with no voice.

This is why Seward Fisheries (Seine processor owned by Icicle Seafoods) had John Woodruff (Icicle VP) and Tim Schmidt (Seward Fisheries Fleet Manager) at the Valdez mtg. They lobbied very heavily for the seine fleet to have more access and opportunity on the Esther (hatchery) chums. Mel Morris (BOF member, chair of BOF PWS Allocation Commitee during the last three years) went to school with Emil "Beaver" Nelson, a 30 year PWS seine fisherman, who along with Leroy & Tim Cabana (also PWS seine fishermen), led the charge to take fish away from the drift gillnet fleet. Mel Morris also has had a prior business relationship with Icicle Seafoods.

Virgil Umpenhour (former BOF member) made a comment at the end of the Valdez mtg. that "his relationship with Robin Samuelson finally paid off." Robert Heyano's name was put forward to the Governor for appointment to the BOF last year. Samuelson & Heyano have been friends for many years (fellow BB fishermen & BOD on the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation (BBEDC) and Heyano voted against the drift gillnet fleet on every proposal at the Valdez mtg. Trevor McCabe is the federal lobbyist on record for the BBEDC and the Southeast Alaska Seiners Association.

The Esther chum fishery was originally designated for the explicit access by the drift gillnet fleet when the PWS allocation plan was presented to ADF&G in 1991. This was supposed to be the drift gillnet share of PWSAC hatchery raised fish. The seine fleet had already been receiving the majority of the hatchery fish prior to the Esther hatchery coming on line starting in 1987. This was our payback for the 2% (enhancement tax) of our gross revenues for all of our fish going to PWSAC.

Governor Murkowski is moving to put Jeremiah Campbell's name forward to be on the Board of Fisheries for three more years. We can not let this happen!!!
Write, call or send a POM (at your local LIO) today!