Thursday, May 25, 2006

The real fish Czar, or the strip mining of Alaska's waters

"Portraying himself as an ocean champion, Richard Pombo, R-Calif, chair of the House Resources Committee, has introduced a bill, H.R. 5018, that will severely weaken current fisheries law and exacerbate a decaying management system.

Just putting fish on a plane to a public cold storage somewhere gives fishermen another couple bucks a pound. Or, if the processor does it, he makes the extra couple bucks.

Left to stand unchallenged, Pombo's bill will deep-six U.S. fisheries, and the next chance to undo the damage may not surface for another 10 years."

Adding credibility to this statement is the fact that Richard Pombo is a rancher. I see a lot of articles that Google Alerts sends me and I haven't seen one that shows that he has lived or worked around the ocean, or even "fed the fishes" on a charter outing. He got to his current position by leveraging his family name, that was plastered all over California on real estate signs. Not his name either, his father's. Then you get a "give-away-the-West" attitude going on in Washington D.C. and you have a recipe for disaster for the fisheries.

It appears Gov. Murkowski brought that mentality back with him like the black plague. Give away the oil for a pittance, take the fish away from fishermen and give it to big companies, many not even U.S. based, and give the minerals away and leave a polluted, marred landscape behind. I gave the mining industry the benefit of the doubt for awhile, not knowing much about mining, but reports of pollution at Red Dog sure burst my bubble.

But I know the oceans off Alaska are being strip-mined. I use this term because the most and largest fish processors, who make their own rules via the NPFMC, are Japanese owned. They are smart enough to not catch more than the ocean will keep on producing because they wiped out most of their own fish by overharvesting. BUT, they leave nothing behind in Alaska to show that the billions and billions of dollars worth of fish they and a couple of Seattle companies took, were ever even there. And the Murkowski administration is right in there helping them do it, in fact insisting to the public that "it just has to be." And Sen. Ted Stevens (R) Alaska, has said, "Tokyo is closer to Alaska than Washington is." So we should let the Japanese control Alaska's fisheries?

We'll be analyzing Alaska State Legislators' voting records one of these days pretty soon too. But readers have to know that if you get a delegation together from Alaska to go back to Washington D.C. to complain to your elected representative in the U.S. Senate, he won't give you the time of day. It's been tried. Unless you are on his side of the fence, in which case you won't be complaining, you'll be dropping off a couple pounds, or bucks, or marks, or yen. I think Lisa Minelli sang about that aptly in "Cabaret."

Speaking of movies, you have to check out the oldie about Alaska Statehood called "Ice Palace." That was my movie debut. I was cast the size of a mosquito on your TV screen. I was fishing trout off the big rock at Ness' Point in Petersburg in the scene where Robert Ryan knocked Richard Burton off the cannery dock and into the drink. However, I'm sure the director didn't know I was there, a hundred yards away.

The movie was based on the book by Edna Ferber, who had consulted with Alaska Rep. Ernest Greuning on the statehood issue. Statehood was a tough row to hoe because of the Seattle fish companies wanting to keep picking the low hanging fruit. Edna portrayed the Seattle contingent in the personality of "Czar" Kennedy, played by Richard Burton. The movie galvanized the nation in sympathy for Alaska when it came out in 1958. Alaska's freedom from the "fish czars" was granted the next year. Alaskans had fought to break their yoke for many decades.

Well, you might have seen this coming, but he's now called "Czar Bundrant." That's just a representation of the gigantic give-away of fish off Alaska's coasts to big non-resident interests, while the Alaskan fishermen and their towns struggle to survive in the harsh Alaskan wilderness. Just like before statehood. I'd bet someone in Kodiak would win the sign contest in the June 6 "Fishstock" festival, using that theme somehow. The only hope the Kodiak folks have of saving the fish in the Gulf of Alaska from going into the same black hole as the fish and crab in the Bering Sea is if their demonstration gets national attention. And the Republicans get blamed. Again, I don't think the Dems would play it any better if they had a chance.

And it's not just sea life, out beyond the lights of Dutch Harbor a thousand times, on a stormy night, that is being given away. It's also the salmon that coastal fishermen catch and sell for peanuts to the big canneries. I heard of a 8,000 pound lot of Southeast "private reserve" H & G sockeye sell for $4.25 a pound recently. That fisherman MIGHT have received $1.25 for his dressed sockeye at the dock. That one lot is equal to a whole summer's earnings for an average Southeast Alaska gillnetter.

All this only goes to show how wrong can be made to look like right if it comes with a government stamp; in this case an American Fisheries Act or NPFMC stamp. Don't get me wrong, I'm for free enterprise and democracy. It's just that government by big business is flat wrong, and I'm sure a majority of voters will agree with me next time around. And I'm less partisan all the time too. I'm looking for honest politicians. Which means I've got a job for a long time. LOL There is one candidate running for Governor of Alaska that speaks in terms of the Constitution instead of power politics. You can be sure big campaign money will go to the one that promises to go along with the "fish Czars" and the "oil Czars."