Saturday, May 06, 2006

Hunting the noble crab rats: Part III

"The Executive is doing exactly what we expected. As the people opposing the ............expose one restriction after another, ..........tries to deflect attention from what are very serious points.

A rational person seeking a birds-eye view of the fishing industry, wouldn't just look straight down with a telescope to focus on the "privatization" tree.

But this time people in coastal areas are ready for them, and every statement and proposal will be analysed very closely. The minister should be protecting the public and bringing forward proposals that will help coastal communities to survive. He is plainly not doing that, so the people have to protect themselves because they have lost faith in the Executive and its advisory groups.”

This sounds like Alaska, but is actually Scotland. We need to do some catching up on the details of why our favorite crab rats are really in this genus and specie, and "analyse every statement and proposal" like the Scots. One of the all-time favorites is of course, Dr. Matulich, of Western Washing State University, the Darth Vader of the crab rats. A reader contributed this case, in a larger treatise on Dr. Matulich's work, for classification purposes.

"For example: Icicle spokesmen have used their investment in processing barges, which they purchased to process Bristol Bay crab, herring and salmon, as an example of assets rendered useless in the Halibut/Sablefish fishery under IFQ's. Dr. Matulich cannot tell if a bad investment was originally made to process Halibut or not, he does not even ask the question let alone attempt to verify the truth of the answer." Obviously it's ridiculous to think the barges had any connection to halibut.

Another aspect of the problem comes from an unlikely direction: fishermen's groups. We keep hearing about United Fishermen of Alaska being in the processors pocket, but here's another one for you regarding the failed buyout attempt by Trident. "Thom Wischer, chairman of United Salmon Association in Kodiak, an organization of salmon fishermen, said today there was not much buzz among fishermen when the acquisition was announced because fishermen expected the status quo to be maintained for at least one fishing season.
“There was a lot of, ‘Gee, I wonder what’s going to happen,’” he said.
With the news that the sale is off, he said he expected similar curiosity but little reaction from fishermen.
“I don’t think there was any great apprehension,” Wischer said."

Not much buzz, my foot! Why does he think the merger was called off anyway? Fishermen told their story to the Department of Justice, that's how. This Thom guy must either be really dense and have his head in the sand, in which case he's about as useful to fishermen as barnacles. Or he is playing along with Trident's downplaying of the event and thereby seeking to join the ranks of the nobility. Bruce Schactler ditched the heart and soul of the "association concept" a long time ago as it's leader, now this guy is trying to complete the "linkage" to processors, as a favor to fishermen!

Speaking of "linkage" to processors, notice that the term isn't used much anymore due to it's negative conotation of making serfs out of fishermen. Now the hip term is "regional fisheries associations." "Rationalization" is even being downplayed if my antennae is serving me correctly. Too easy to be called a rat for bandying the term around. These terms are about "privatization" of the public fish resources. The proponents are still fishing for a term that will work to sugar coat the posion, so they can get it down the patient before he gags, spits it out and it can't do it's work.

My contention is that MSA reauthorization "crab rats" are using "regional fisheries associations" now because of how close it sounds to Regional Seafood Development Associations. The RSDAs are taking root peacefully in Alaska, were formed by the State Legislature, and being better understood all the time as a very positive step to help fishermen. So, along comes the crab rats to co-opt the name to make stealing from the poor and giving to the rich sound warm and fuzzy.

"Regional fisheries associations" refers to the fact that there are regional federal fisheries management councils to manage the fish resources of the United States, not regions IN those regions, like the RSDAs are in Alaska. And the use of the term "association" is just way bad. "Associations" in this country are groups of people that come together of their own accord to used their collective resources to better themselves individually. Even darkest Africa is forming all kinds of Associations to further the lot of human beings that engage in the same activity. Not so with RFAs. They would force many human beings to serve one human being, with that blueprint duplicated a number of times in a federal fishery management region.

Another point of order: Laine Welsh should know better than reprint something like this statement: While crab fishermen have an injury rate of nearly 100 percent, they can also support their families for an entire year through just a few months of work," an article said. She lives in Kodiak and hears how crewmen make about one fourth of what they did before privatization of the crab resources in the Bering Sea. Trident will want to hire her too at that rate.

Another reader provides more ammunition in our quest for that other elusive crab rat, John Iani, the attorney/executive director of another high-faluti'n sounding slush fund to lobby for fish "privatization." John was the one who testified before the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council that there wasn't any "consolidation" going on in the processing sector. We listed fifteen or twenty processors who have gone away in a previous blog/column. Guys like this can be made to say anything, since they don't stand for anything and may not know anything about the industry either. Here's ANOTHER list of (24) processors who have gone away.

Speedwell, Clipperton, Double Star, Royal Aeutian, Northland, Polar Ice, Teddy, Alaska Star, Sea Producer, Denali, Yukon, Nicolle N, Polar Bear, Omnisea, City of San Diego, Theresa Lee, Nothern Alaskan, Yardarm Knot, Alaska Shell, All Alaskan (1), All Alaskan (2), Tempest, Woodbine, Mokuhana.

I didn't see the Nelco II on these lists I was sent. It was probably renamed after I was rushed down to East Anchorage Cove on Unimak Island to show them how to tell bright dogs and sockeye apart in 1970. The good news is that the used floater lots are full, for those hundreds of seiners who got blackballed by the processors. Just form a REAL association, get a USDA pack loan based on YOUR fish, and go shopping for a floater. Remember, the processors get their pack loans in the spring based on FISHERMEN'S fish, and then they turn around and do them in.

The processors whine about needing protection through "privatization" of the fish stocks. If they had done a good job of product development and marketing all along they wouldn't need politicians to jerk away free enterprise and capitalism in the seafood industry. Remember, society will be better served with a strong fishing sector than a strong processing sector by a factor of at least ten. That proof is coming from a University (not near you) soon. Alaska's Governor Murkowski shouln't only be stopped from doing any more damage on oil issues, he should be locked out of his office so he won't ruin the rest of coastal Alaska, and that goes for other crab ratz politicians we all know.