Saturday, May 27, 2006

Yes, Virginia, there is a real Council, someplace

Talk about being "out of harmony with the larger chorus," as the famous quote from a Gulf of Alaska 'rationalizer' put it.

Some nice Pacific cod we were flying to Korea, until the big shore plant told the fishermen they might not be able to get home heating fuel if they persisted in marketing their own fish. And you thought the Mafia was bad.

Now it's the North Pacific Council's rockfish ratz intentions that are out of harmony. The 'chorus' is the most recent Magnuson-Stevens Act rhetoric from Congress, the Editor of National Fisherman, and anybody who has a remnant of social conscience left. The 'chorus' is saying fishermen are needed as much as fish are, and there needs to be a balance between them. They are talking about protections for fishermen and communities.

So how is it that the National Marine Fisheries Service just announces that this chorus is passe, and they want comments on how to 'fix what 'aint broken' in the Gulf of Alaska. Hoping to cut a better deal for the processors? What, like it was for the 900 crab fishermen that lost their jobs in the Bering Sea under this plan last fall? How again is that good? You just hear Federal and State fisheries managers in Alaska talking about "processor protections." Remember, there is no correlation between processor concerns and fishermen/community concerns, as this article well states.

Of course the people that greedily dumped untold millions into fish processing equipment in Alaska, whether catcher/processors or shore-based plants, want to protect and leverage their investments. The justifications used by the National Marine Fisheries Service in this 'protection racket' have already been proven erroneous. What is this, "telling the lie loud enough and long enough?" But if you are a staffer and told to get out a solicitation for public comment, what ya gonna do? You'll have to lie. Reminds me of the refrain from a song, "Bad boy, bad boy, what ya gonna do when they come for you?"

Boy, they sure shouldn't have put out that solicitation for comments on rockfish ratz right before a day of public testimony. The people that strategize to save fishing jobs and the communities, from the mega corporations and their politicians, probably won't be fooled by a day set aside for public 'venting.' The Council and the powers behind it will certainly be counting on business as usual the very next day. What they won't know is that someone may have videotaped the whole thing and sent Bill O'Rilley a copy for his "Most Outrageous News" segment on Fox News.

The following is a comment by the editor of 'National Fisherman' magazine. Remember, he has to live back East with all the compromising, so he takes on a compromising tone, ignoring the greater Council empowerment it would allow.

"By paying heed to the economic component of fisheries, H.R. 5018 allows fishermen and their communities to think about the future. And by demanding the implementation of scientifically determined catch levels, it assures the fish of a future as well."

The trouble with H.R. 5018 is that it INCREASES the power of the Fishery Management Councils, while humming along with the chorus. You think they are giving the fish to the processors fast now! Remember, Pombo was appointed to chair the House Resources Committee because he was the 'give-away-the-West' Congressman.

Actually my analogy is off. Most of the Congressional 'humming along with the public chorus' is just a cover for a background refrain that gets played exclusively where the public chorus thins out. And that would be places like Kodiak Island, or even Anchorage. The National media isn't looking in places like that and probably wouldn't go there because it's too windy. They did go to Pt. Barrow to film a couple of trapped whales, but they won't go to watch billions of dollars being stolen from fishermen and communities. Because all the while the hot-shots are humming what the public and the media hope to hear from them; "no problems, mate."

The problem was put very succinctly by a Native Elder of the Alaska Native Village of Kaktovik. "We've been trying for a year to develop communication with Shell that would give us a measure of confidence about their intentions and their ability to function safely in our homeland waters. They just keep working against us at every turn," Sonsalla said. "Instead of technical staff or people with authority, they send public affairs. Instead of true consultation with community leaders on substantive issues, they try to schedule superficial social gatherings where they can talk at us."

The North Pacific Fisheries Management Council is just a public affairs body for the heavy hitting politicians and fish companies that have this little mutual protection society going. They are the guys that rub elbows at the $2100 a plate functions in Washington D.C. Or, forget the plate, pass the 'processor quotas.' If you don't believe me just look at who chairs the NPFMC, a lobbyist for the big processors association! Bill O'Rilley will love that.

The Elders of Kaktovik just declared Shell Oil to be 'hostile.' The Scottish fishermen declared the Fisheries Minister and the fisheries agencies there 'hostile.' (But they might have been egged on by Mel Gibson yelling "FREEDOM" in the Scottish movie saga, "Braveheart.") I suppose that if the Federal and State government don't heed the public's call for caution in 'rationalizing' the Gulf of Alaska, we'll have to declare them 'hostile' as well.