Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Fisheries management 411 or 911?

Getting this ship up to the Northeast to help with stock assessments will help immensely in managing the New England fisheries that have been fraught with overfishing. Not to mention the enforcement aspects. Meanwhile the fishermen and politicians exert tremendous pressure to scrape the bottom.

This Herc was "tendering" salmon when I took this photo. To make fisheries management work, it will take a paradigm shift for a lot of people to look at whole different ways of doing things.

The bottom of the barrel and the bottom of the ocean are one and the same in this case. They seem to pooh-pooh what all this bottom trawling does to the ecosystem of the continental shelf to try keep the ball rolling for everyone. In Alaska, the Federal managers of the fisheries were forced by conservationists to protect the coral forests, a practice that one national fisheries editor scoffs at. The juveniles of many species live in these forests down on the bottom to keep from getting eaten prematurely. East Coasters can scoff at Alaskans wanting to protect fragile benthic ecosystems, because they certainly wiped out any such ecosystems they had a long time ago.

Under the watchful eye of Senator Ted Stevens and Alaska's Governor Frank Murkowski, the sea-whip forests that funcion the same way in the Gulf of Alaska, are slated to go the way of a clear cut forest. They are doing their best to make sure the large fishing corporations can deploy the most efficient equipment for the new harvesting and processing regime they have cooked up. Mega trawlers and "canyon buster" bottom trawls. And keep the little boys in the front yard and the fence locked.

I won't keep bashing Frank, because he's been voted out in the recent Alaska primary election. I was a holdout supporter of his for a long time, (at least not a detractor) since he ushered in the Regional Seafood Development Associations(RSDAs). One last (maybe) insight into how he makes appointments, favors big business, and fund(ed) his tenure in government can be seen in a recent Asia Sentinel article. It said: "Lee invested some of the money abroad for diplomatic purposes, including a US$120-million seafood factory in Alaska, in a goodwill gesture to then Senator Frank Murkowski. The factory later closed."

I've been to that fish processing plant in Anchorage. It never did run really, and it only cost maybe five million bucks to build. Where did the other $115 million go? Well, maybe this Lee guy just had a great time in Las Vegas. This was during Frank Murkowski's stint as U.S. Senator from Alaska.

On to more productive things. Business Week magazine did a story on individual transferable quotas recently. Considering that they look through a key-hole at the industry in doing an article, they didn't do half bad. They have to push and pull ideas around to fit a coffee break in Kansas though so you can't hang your hat on what they say.

A comment from a reader of theirs caught my eye. He said: "In the final analysis, poor state of fisheries management in many developing countries is mainly a social problem revealing lack of choices amongst coastal fishing communities. To fix their fisheries they have to fix their livelihood problems of lack of sufficient opportunities for employment and income in coastal communities."

Now that sounds like deja vu all over again to me. When I was the Fisheries Infrastructure Development Specialist for the State of Alaska, I did a year and a half of research that led do that same conclusion. Although I wasted a lot of time in satisfying Department whims. But in working with 26 coastal communities from Ketchikan to the Pribilof Islands, a common theme was that there was enough port space, but there wasn't enough shore jobs. How do you make more shore jobs that fit into the lifestyle of these communities? So, I wrote a White Paper on the "association" concept for Alaska, based on successful models like Florida Citrus Mutual and Blue Diamond Almonds.

It's simple. Just join the modern world. Do what every other producer group in the world is doing; forming producer "associations." (If you went to the Business Week article, the subtitle included: "A market-based approach could fill nets again.") That doesn't mean the gillnetters form an association to stick it to the seiners. It means they all join the same product development and marketing innovation group. And Frank and a lot of folks in Juneau finally saw that, and hence your Alaskan RSDAs were born.

Take a look at what those inveterate fish mongers, the Japanese have to say about fisheries management and production past the first stage. Mitsuri Kitamura, manager of Russia’s operations section for Tokyo-based Maruha Corporation, revealed that, “If Russia wants to manage its fish resources effectively, it should take further steps to organize its own processing.”

The fly in the ointment has been the big multi-national and Seattle seafood companies who don't want anybody else in the secondary processing game any more than they wanted to lose their fish traps at statehood. The fisheries management realm has been dominated by these folks to keep fishermen from realizing their dreams. Fishermen can't even insulate and refrigerate their fish holds because the big shot plant owner had to buy a $47 million dollar jet to fly around in. All the hundreds of salmon seiners in Alaska that went out of business in the last six years, because they couldn't chill their fish, could still be fishing if that one plane could have been used as collateral or higher fish prices. And there are more of these jets in the Alaska seafood industry.

But part of keeping the fishermen from forming ranks and joining the marketing game is flying politicians around in a fancy jet. Little do these couple of jet jockeys know that if they worked with the fishermen now, they wouldn't loose out completely later by wanting it all. I think the old processing family, the Brindels, saw the handwriting on the wall and sold out before they had to move over and make room for FISHERMEN.

I'll put it plainly for those that can and/or want to do something about the fisheries management situation: THE PIPES ARE CORRODED AND NEED REPLACING. The writer of the BW article got it wrong in the end. To resign yourself to ITQs just signs the death knell for the communities and future generations of fishermen. Privatization bleeds the region of the capital it needs to keep going. In future articles I'll start including ideas from a lot of smart folks that would replace the old clogged pipes, the current Council system and other lesser institutions of haggling and feet dragging.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Kodiak fisheries advisors in hot water.

It looks like fisheries advisors in Kodiak may be leading the fleet up there into the jaws of the ratz trap. Not that the City fathers couldn't have known of Joe Sullivan and maybe some of their attorney's mixed loyalties.

The culture of seafood processing in Alaska has remained under wraps due to the contrariness of it's business ethic. They push "fisheries advisors" on city and state government to keep their motives quiet.

I think the rational public would wonder why an honest, hardworking person can't be hired to get the City of Kodiak good information. From my vantage point I see a lot of good talent, it's just that they walk a narrow moral road.

Take a look at what the new champion of the rank and file fisherman had to say to the Kodiak City Council the other day.

“I know that we at the Alaska Jig Association are not informed, because like you, we also find it extremely difficult to obtain congressional documents needed to make the right decisions,” Dochtermann said.
Dochtermann said the rockfish program is neither a pilot program nor a demonstration program. “
It is intended to give the members of those associations superior rights and to set a precedence for their use of gulf rockfish for low valued purposes.”
Dochtermann was referring to the Data Bank and Alaska Draggers Association.

I know that the City government in Dutch Harbor has the same problem that Kodiak has. The big money interests just got people in posts of influence to grease the skids of privatization of the resources. Kind of like how the oil companies wanted to lock everyone else out in Governor Murkowski's much ballyhooed gas-line deal. Or State Farm Insurance altered damage reports to Katrina victims homes to get out of paying claims. The list goes on and on. Note to reader: if you see anything I talk about you think you can do anything about, feel free.

One document that I will endeavour to get to you in a link is a letter from a Kodiak fish processor that would get left out in the Gulf of Alaska Rockfish Pilot Program. Of course the big boys want to have the fish go to certain large processing plants. Anyone that is not a major player now could never become one. This is an excerpt:

....taking Sullivan to task for not informing the council.
“Sullivan completely left out the most important item currently facing Kodiak,” he said.
He said the Data Bank and Alaska Draggers have been lobbying Congressmen Don Young and Richard Pombo of California to extend the rockfish program from its current short-term two years to five years.
“This is no small oversight. It would guarantee the economic winners. This would harm our business and other employers in Kodiak,” Nikitenko said.

What a stink! Mr. Nikitenko also took the City Council to task for considering matching money from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Board, more Ted Stevens pork which went into this non-profit to help favored projects. The fish company guy has a good point. Why should a City and a Borough put any money toward funding a private label. Although it's not clear to me who owns the label. I hear also that the Chamber of Commerce is the force behind it. The whole thing doesn't look like free enterprise, hence a strike against it from the start. Now if the fishermen in Kodiak had formed a State sanctioned Regional Seafood Development Association with a brand, that would be different. Associations are 99.9 fine as far as capitalism goes. But they don't leave much room for politics, and that's no fun for a lot of folks.

And a bunch of Petersburg quota holders want to cash out at the public's expense, and make quota holders sell in the area they caught the fish in. Where would a St. Matthew fisherman sell his halibut, Russia? Apparently 98% of Petersburg fishermen didn't even know about it. That little ploy didn't even stink to the Kodiak folks and they were ready to go right along with it apparently.

The jury is really out on the Kodiak City Council. Someone on the Council, or the Mayor, needs to step up to the mike and say what's right is right and what's wrong is wrong. Maybe I should start a pool at the office and take bets.

The point of all this is that it points to the fallacy of governments hiring "fisheries advisors." There are innumerable folks that have the same knowledge of the fisheries, if not more, than Joe Sullivan, or Alan Austerman, the "fish czar" for the Governor. Ever notice how fisheries policies get crosswise with the public's best interests when you have a "fisheries advisor?" "It's not what's needed" as my father said as he turned down the job of being the state's first "fish czar." The "fish czars" in Juneau came shortly before all the privatizing of the resources started in the early '70s.

Kodiak's GOA Task Force comes close to what's needed, but that kind of thing can get stacked against the honest joe fisherman too. And the only reason Kodiak had to form that Task Force was due to the lack of leadership in Juneau. Anyway, some folks in leadership positions are going to feel the hot breath of the public as more and more people turn to the Internet for the "straight scoop." Look at what happened in the primaries. Not only did Sarah Palin trounce all the other Repubican candidates, she got more votes than all the Democratic candidates put together. It pays to be honest, and the converse is true.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Sen. Stevens fourth branch of government

As it looks like there is going to be a real white hatted federal cop for Alaska, a new Attorney General, the writer below has a load of buck shot that could help send Ted Stevens packing. Heavens knows Alaska is withering under his protection (racket).

Picture of one of half a dozen senine boats I've fished on. Doug Ware ran this one. All kinds of government and processor strategies have weeded out thousands of smaller operations like this one.

Great news about the election !
Other good news is that Ted Stevens just got another award and this one is even better than the ones he usually gets from industry groups that have laws and extra special earmarks pending in front of him. This one is from NOAA - which is heart warming since they are kind of his employees, (these are the guys who grovel in front of Ted to get funding, perks, and career postings.) I also love seeing our government being used so well, I wonder how many tax dollars were spent coming up with an "Exemplary Contributions to Science" award. Ted got his for his advocacy of science-based fishery management. No one has explained how circumventing the NOAA process by earmarking fish to a couple of companies and exempting friends from free enterprise competition is science based.

Some reports I read say what a great job the North Pacific Council does. Why then is it necessary for Ted to change existing laws thru middle of the night earmarks?
How arrogant is it for one man, who has corrupted the free enterprise system with all its normal checks and balances (thereby granting the already-biggest seafood company no competition), not to expect boat prices paid to go into free fall? Have the fees paid by Trident to his son gone up at the same rate?

I am really writing about the recent report you brought to the light, about Ted and one of the richest men in the world. Rupert Murdoch is the recipient of a lovely new gift from Ted, who changed the laws to require cable companys to carry local channels for free, while exempting the Satellite Broadcasters from this requirement. This clears up and dovetails into other news that my friends and I have been tracking, about Ted's $4 billion government giveaway of black boxes to convert digital TV back to analog signal by the year 2009.

Ted is trying to pass a law that makes taxpayers fund another boondogle. This is crazy for many reasons, so we figured there had to be a payoff of some kind to Ted or his family. It was too simple that the company (Motorola) which would make these black boxes for the government should make some huge windfall, and that Ben Stevens and Ted have stock in Motorola. Nor is it enough that employees of the Murdoch empire, such as the president of Fox News, sent $28,000 (peanuts) on June 6th 2006 to Steven's campaign fund. It had to be bigger, and less of a straight line.

I am sure the FCC hearing, scheduled for June 21st to vote on making the same requirement go for satellite tv, was blocked at the last minute by Ted. His office said it was not blocked but "delayed" so that Ted could "take it up some other time." According to reports in the news this was the first major setback for cable since 1994.

What motivates Ted even more than money is power, and the most powerful thing in the world for a guy with a lot of skeletons in his closet is a free pass from one of the the biggest news channels in the world, Fox News.

I have long been puzzled by the total lack of major news on the Ben and Ted story in Alaska. Even without the campaign money from the heads of this huge news channel, what large company would allow its employees to bite the hand that regulates them? Ted is Chairman of the Senate committee that regulates all broadcasters.

Ted was also Chairman of the Defense Appropriations Committee for years, and presided over some of the largest defence contracts ever awarded. Note that NBC is owned by G.E., recipient of many lucrative defense contracts.

This is Ted's M.O.: introduce a bill to regulate something that doesn't need regulating (for instance, his current proposal to regulate the internet) which results in either (or all) - payoffs to stop the regulations, payoffs to support the regulations, and increased his own power around the regulation."

Another commentator got it right when he asked why Alaskans elect such a person. That's not actually what the commentator called Ted when Ted wanted everyone to pay for Internet usage. There's a poll now showing how unpopular Frank and Ernie, I mean Tony, are. Now, we need a poll to show how unpopular Ted is. Then maybe he won't take such a condescending tone the next time he shows up in Alaska to do anything except fish with his big business buddies.

Folks, this is serious, Ted is leaving a comet trail of ruin to the free enterprise system and I don't know if it can even be fixed once these laws are in place. The whole system just adjusts; opponents are bankrupted and go away, recipients of Ted's "Appropriations Branch" become too powerful to stop. The Republicans are "losing face" big time. Voters could turn on the whole party, like they did on Governor Murkowski. The voters sure turned on the Republican Party in Alaska. The Party wanted Sarah Palin to win about as much as they wanted a new hole in the head, in spite of the fact she was Republican. The Party was just geared to aid and abett Ted Stevens is all.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Is the North Pacific Council following protocol?

Shawn Dochterman, a life-long Kodiak fisherman, wrote these letters to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who oversees the Council process of fisheries management in the 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone. There appears to be an attempt to just barrel ahead with giving the fish to big corporate interests, hence Shawn's frustration in not getting any answers on the legality of Council proceedings.

Another day off I took many years ago. The baby on my back is now a Sergeant in the Army. And yes, Southeast Alaska does have some cool beaches.

I was wondering if you're on vacation, as I didn't receive a response to my email (below) that I sent out to you a few weeks ago. I'd appreciate an answer to my questions as soon as you can get back to me. I hope you've had a nice summer in Juneau.
Thanks, Shawn"

"Hello Lauren,
It was great to be able to sit down and have a conversation about the council process. We talked about what protocol the chair of the NPFMC must follow. Since there was a minority report that was not received by the council, due to the chair's request (crab ratz), is this normal protocal? I would appreciate a timely answer, as I am working on the crab crewmen's request for our fair and equitable shares for BS/AI crab quotas. Is it not the council's job to facilitate FMP changes on things that do not adhere to the National Standards?

If the council recommended a (crab)plan that does not adhere to NS, would it not make them liable, even if Senator Stevens attached it as a rider to an appropriations bill in the US Congress? Of course I am looking for liability since the crewmwen were not even accounted for in crab rationalization. One last question, since the federal record requested that the council investigate ratz for BS/AI crab and GOA ratz, and do an Environmental Impact Statement, and then return the information to the Congress, why is it that they have not given the Congress their reports and let them handle it instead of one US Senator and the NPFMC?

It is clear that the Council was never given the authority to create a plan for either ratz.(Gulf of Alaska or Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands) I look forward to working with you in the future, as the legality of crab ratz, the rockfish pilot program and GOA ratz will be held in question by many fishermen and their associations and Alaska state municipalities.
Thank you very much,

There are a lot of things on my plate these days to write about, but I'm going picnicing and swimming at Umpqua Falls today and celebrate Sarah's win in the primaries. I have a lot of stuff like the above letter to get out and on the record in my Blog archives. We are working on a method to make White Papers from other researchers available too. That way the public can see other perspectives, other than the big money-funded economic reports that the Council and the State of Alaska have been using. It looks to me like the Council process has run out of the gas of legitimacy and some court should stop the NPFMC from meeting until some things are straightened out.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Candidate Binkley's attack dogs need some pepper spray

I won't lower myself to refute the fuzzy logic that was trying to promote John Binkley in the Juneau Empire recently. I wonder why a brother and sister would write these articles, and from a fish processing family too. Surely they know Sarah Palin is more resource oriented, having been a commercial fisherman and heavily involved in oil and gas issues.

Federal fisheries management in Alaska looks like this floating processor on St. Paul Island.

But maybe that's the key phrase: fish processing. There is no conjecture regarding the fish processing sector's support of anyone that will keep the resource flowing into their hands with the minimum of siphoning by those pesky fishermen and communities. Remember "processor quota shares" and "processor linkages" the recent "highly experienced" governors support? You got to get people in government that you can manipulate to keep this cancer growing. And now, the best way is to get someone from the middle of the taiga with no clue about the fishing business, since all that experience has caused the incumbent's EEG to flat-line.

The families I've mentioned so far, with the exception of Sarah's, have just stepped into businesses left to them by others. These people aren't representative of Alaskans, especially when they spin the truth. I was telling someone the other day how fishermen learn to be gut honest. They can't just spin a weather report and go charging off. That's the surest way to get caught in a blow.

Fuzzy logic may work on a lot of people in Juneau, but doesn't hold water with the fleet. I'm not saying the whole fleet is operating with every altruistic cylinder firing either. A lot of them want to lock in their average catch in the form of a title, so when they want to slow down or quit fishing, they can garner an enormous golden parachute. This just drains the harvesting sector of the capital it needs to upgrade the equipment and break into the market. It's worked out great for the processors who covet the exclusive right to market fish.

Bottom line? processors support the fuzzy logic candidates with no fish biz experience. The biggest leap forward Alaskans made was with a governor right out of Bristol Bay, Sarah's old stomping grounds. It was in the form of the Permanent Fund, Alaska's savings account, created by Governor Jay Hammond. And the poor guy has to constantly fight to protect it from being pilfered by the "experienced" governors. I maintain that the more experience you have in state government, the more insensitive to rank and file voter's needs you get. Hence term limits.

If Sarah's detractors had a clue, they would know that academia has shifted to management techniques that rely on input from many sources. You want a king, go to Saudia Arabia. Just don't get caught stealing anything or you'll have to learn to write with your toes.

Voters have a choice this Tuesday of electing a Republican candidate that wants to keep as much of the value of Alaska's resources in the state, or dirty tricks as usual. I wrote this in an e-mail recently:

"When you step back from all the rhetoric and take in the whole picture, there is this lone rainbow, and it is sitting right over Sarah. That's what I see. I haven't wanted to be too gushy about Sarah's campaign for the sake of all the readers, but the facts make me look like a real cheerleader I'm afraid. And it's easy when you see someone else get on the page you're on."

"Sarah has stepped onto the stage we were all sitting in front of for years. We were waiting for someone to show up on our stage, but the stage across the hall was the only one getting actors to show up. There were way more people in our audience than the audience across the hall, and to top it off we were forced to watch their play."

Friday, August 18, 2006

So you want to fly your fish somewhere

To fly your fish out of Alaska, you have to apply to be a "known shipper." That process takes four to six weeks, going through the Transportation Security Administration. That shouldn't be a problem unless you use a Damascus home address. You can print off your application here.

I guess I've been involved with a lot of different aircraft used to fly fish around in Alaska. This one made the trip from Kotzebue to Petersburg with a load of chums. Petersburg, AK to Medford, OR is almost exactly the same distance.

Follow the instructions on the Alaska Airlines PDF document. Most fishermen in Alaska have a P.O. Box instead of a physical address. That's due to the fact that there are no letter carriers in most coastal communities. So use your drivers license with the Box number address. On the surface it looks like you have to have your physical address on your bills. Alaska Airlines knows fishermen don't live in Post Office boxes. There is a street address in city hall for all the houses, so you might have to go there to get your street address for the sake of the TSA though.

This all takes determination, that's a fact. But the rewards are worth it if you don't blink. And don't let the local processor buffalo you like they did the cod fishermen we were helping in getting their cod to Korea once. You could sue the pants off a cannery that threatened to withold heating oil for your house. Then you have baggage handlers at the airports who think 50 lb wetlock boxes of fish are too heavy and will leave them in a cart for three days so the shipper gets the message not to send any more fish to that airport. That was Phoenix, and only one handler I talked to, so this isn't the rule I'm sure. And it wasn't Alaska Airlines.

One fisherman told me recently he just doesn't trust the system. Another, Shawn Dochtermann of Kodiak, said he always freezes his fish first to absorb all the hiccups in the system. The irony is that the major processors reserve the limited space available on the flights a lot of the time, so a fisherman can't send part of his load to market himself for the premium price. The fresh fish the major is shipping was the fisherman's property earlier in the day and now it's being used against him on the afternoon flight.

Market control by fishermen means also not taking this kind of abuse. Read that - start a Regional Seafood Development Association. Not to mention stopping the fisheries-political abuse as well.

I got on this vein because Shawn stopped in to visit me recently and couldn't stand the thought of the old "fish blogger" getting married this fall and having Kentucky Fried Chicken at the wedding. So he said he'll look for contributors, when he gets back to Kodiak, to supply fish for the festivities. I just hope he's a "known shipper." For you batchelorettes, I can confirm that he is a real "keeper."

This will be the first time I've been involved in a fish shipment in a long time, so I'm learning too. I'll pass on anything useful. You can buy a GPS tracker to put in the top box of a Igloo load. (It won't work if it gets burried in a pile of boxes.) Then have the consignee send it back Gold Streak on A.A. At this point I can't recommend a transfer of your fish from A.A. to another carrier, so make sure your consignee is in a town Alaska Air or a subsidiary like Horizon flies into. Check out the shippers credit application on too.

And you know that government agencies can't tell you anything because of liability issues. And the Airlines spin the risks. I asked if the cargo call center would put in writing what they were telling me today. Dead silence. I had to laugh and say I was just kidding. A station agent for a commuter airline here in Medford confirmed the risks of transfering to another carrier. And here's where to go for Air Cargo frequently asked questions.

I was going to end with a "Mission Impossible" slogan, but rather prefer that old saying "Don't despise the day of small beginnings." If you've voiced your desire to fly fish out of Alaska to two people, you've already bumped into at least one naysayer. Ignore them. But don't forget to fax your Air Bill to the buyer to get paid before the plane leaves.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Fish processing 1906 vs Fish processing 2006

Mark Stopha is starting a career in fish processing the new fashioned way; stepping off the boat to focus on production and marketing in a lean, collaborative way. He may be just in time. Powerful forces want to stop people like him from getting a toehold in the processing game through a clever play on the word "rationalization."

The ice machine and ice delivery system and hoist I used to buy fish with in Juneau in 1991. If the University would move out of the building behind, a lot of fishermen could do some great business. You'd have to pass a law to pry them out though.

"Rationalization" always needs quotation marks around it because the word is really being hijacked for use in the current fisheries management context that is not rational at all. It is being used nowadays to cover a range of dirty tricks to whittle down the numbers of fishermen and at the same time, make it unlawful for the remaining fishermen to market their catches themselves. This is the intent and effect of "rationalization," when you get through all the spin. It happened in the Bering Sea and now it is posed to happen for bottom-fish in the Gulf of Alaska in January 2007.

Think about how big the Gulf of Alaska is for a second. It starts at the U.S. - Canada boundary south of Ketchikan and runs out to the Aleutian Islands. A 200 mile wide strip ocean and all of the fertile continental shelf. "Rationalization" is the flip side of anit-trust. Alaska governors and Congressmen are abdicating free enterprise for guys like Mark Stopha to the big campaign contributors who want to process and market all the fish themselves. I'm not making this up. It IS a cancer that is spreading from parts almost unknown, into more populated areas and could spread all over the coasts of the U.S. via the new version of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Management and Conservation Act that is being worked on right now.

I only wanted to talk about what a great thing Mark is doing, but it just takes a second to remember that the Pacific Seafood Processors Association is hell-bent on nipping this kind of movement in the bud. That makes me mad as it should any red-blooded American. Give me a break, wars are fought for our freedoms, and politicians should be protecting them at home, while we divert our attention to our kids fighting on foreign soil. Not to sell our freedom to the highest bidder in an election cycle when we aren't looking.

My kid has been fighting overseas, like a lot of parents' kids, and he's going back to do it again, so while he's away, his right to start a fish processing business is on my watch. Not that he wants to go into seafood processing and marketing, but he's one of four skookum boys of mine that are fifth generation Alaskans that grew up around the fishing business. One of them MIGHT want to do what Mark is doing, just like you or I might.

Check out Mark's ad on AlaskaReport's home page. He's offering 50 cents a pound for pinks, where the big campaign contributors are only offering 10 cents a pound. Isn't there something wrong with this picture? This other mom and pop fisher/processor in Petersburg got $4.25 a pound for their sockeye. And fishermen wondered if the Regional Seafood Marketing Associations could get them more money for their fish! What if some fishermen developed a way to automatically pressure bleed their machine cleaned seine fish on board. Not much of a stretch. Mark would be looking for a hundred people to help him and a new plant in Juneau. Cool, huh. In a pink year like this in Southeast Alaska it would be right handy for making boat payments.

One of the problems Alaska has been having with traditional processors is that it hasn't been politically correct to paint them as anything but benefactors. In the early 1900s the cannery superintendent was like a land baron in the bay the cannery was in. He was the law of the land for everyone in the area. He fed everyone, gave them jobs, built them shacks and bunkhouses and provided boats and nets. He usually lived separately in a nice big "superintendent's house."

They had great influence on whether a town would spring up or not. Some canning companies didn't want a town to spring up. Whether they still do is up in the air it seems. Actions speak louder than words in this department. You be the judge. But on a positive note, they are doing a bang-up job of doing their part to consolidate all the wealth.

The other thing I don't like about this industry sector (60% Seattle owned and 20% Japanese on a labor basis), in it's current form, is their tendency to say, "you don lak da price, I break yo thumbs." Blackballing. These companies send representatives to all the fisheries meetings to watch who is saying what. Of course other of their representatives are running the meetings. The funny thing is, I don't see any gubernatorial candidate, except for Sarah Palin, speaking up specifically against this manipulation of Alaskans, and the detrimental effect it has on Alaska's economy. And of course State employees are afraid to speak up too. You look cross-eyed in the elevator of the State Office Building and you could find a pink slip on your desk the next day.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Halibut Bob

Maybe you can use this clip in an article, anonymously. He fishes for a major so can't have his name on it... and it doesn't fit with my pieces planned, but might be a great take off point for your regular stream of articles. Obviously he reads my stuff, and we email occasionally, but he is scared the processors will even find out he knows me. Typical.

Before halibut IFQs, these smaller halibut boats were common all over Alaska. This one hailed from Kake.
--------forwarded part of email note ---------
"FYI, my buddy's boat recently made a halibut delivery to Puget Sound and got about $1.25 a pound more on the fish ticket for their load. After paying for fuel and ice, it worked out to around $1 more a pound than Dutch
Harbor. Whatever happened to the 30 or 40 cent difference?

Is that the high premium that an outside company must pay to compete against the Alaska monopolists? And a direct result of those new crab monopolies? Our boat is just like everyone else's. If we don't give our halibut and black cod to the processor, we don't have other markets. If we delivered south, we'd lose our whole business. I feel robbed after finding out this is the new difference, after high fuel costs are covered.

Surely the antitrust people should use this as a reason to investigate more. With big companies having people inside the state agencies, they find out if we do a (private)direct marketing deal too. Alaska is just too closeknit. Maybe you guys can let the Department of Justice know that halibut premium is one way to measure how bad things are with the foreign processors, to show it exists.

Don't they need a way to measure how much the power of PQs gives these guys? These fishermen increased the total net value by about $45,000 for that one halibut load! A lot more fish will leave Alaska if people know this is the way to go. We can't get any direct marketing established because the big processors up there have a corner on it and won't do any custom work. Juneau will never get the ice and custom processing problems fixed. Thanks. Bye."

This is typical of what I get in my e-mail too. But it's also a classic argument for the Regional Seafood Development Associations. Basically, the fishermen in a region of Alaska pay one percent (or more if they want to move faster) to have someone work full bore to get that segment of the industry into the market. Right now they aren't in the market. The processors are. And that's the way they like it.

Would a percent or two add up to 45 grand on a load? Not hardly. And if they ever think their one percent is going down the drain, they just fire the Director. It's business, not government. And the RSDAs are their business. In fact, performance is so critical, the Director's pay needs to be tied directly to it. I'd bet if the wives knew their husbands were letting their fierce independence (read that; hard heads) stand in the way of getting what their fish is worth, they'd be furious.

And by the way, I wonder what happened to the public ice maker that was in Juneau when I ran a plant there. That was in 1991. We had to get it running ourselves since nobody else around could. Good thing I had Rick Carr on my team. If the University wasn't hogging the best spot on the waterfront, right by the icemaker and hoists, a sweet public cold storage could be built. I saw reference to a 1976 working waterfront Act today. Wonder if it applies.

Here's the reference:

Bayfront plans get coastal panel's OK San Diego Union Tribune - United States... restriction was unacceptable because it conflicted with the 1976 Coastal Act, which calls for preserving and enhancing commercial fishing facilities along the ...<" target=_blank>>

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Outrageous political speak

Dear Editor,
I keep seeing editorials touting Binkley in the Juneau paper. This one uses flawed logic in a couple of ways. One, it talks about using worn out terms like "integrity," like these attributes don't mean anything anymore.

What good has "experience in politics" been in ensuring the integrity of the pipeline?

It's the lack of integrity in government that has gotten Alaska behind the 8 ball so bad, or should I say the oligarch ball.

Two, the writer uses a worn out term to serve his own purpose: "the obvious choice." Binkley may be the obvious choice to the writer, who chooses to ignore integrity, probably because he doesn't have any himself and excuses the lack thereof in others. Lack of integrity is how we get a governor who gives away Alaska's resources just to get re-elected.

Three, the writer chooses to compare Binkley's legislative experience (6 years) to Sarah Palin's mayorial duties. It wasn't mentioned that she was active in oil and gas issues, which also represent dollar figures in the billions, and she represented all the mayors of Alaska to the Outside, while Binkley was being a businessman.

If Binkley supporters are not concerned about integrity, one could justifyably infer that the candidate might have a problematic shortage of the trait which needs to be downplayed. He certainly doesn't want to have audiences on the campaign trail even hear the name Sarah Palin. He does the political thing, stand on the platform the majority of voters are already on; change in Administration. But does he promise a change in direction? Not that I've heard.

John Enge
Central Point, Oregon

While I'm at it, I need to comment on candidate Eric Croft's letter in AlaskaReport. Good letter, from a good heart, but it's not Governorial, sorry. It really just echos the reftain that the Alaska street is already saying. What we have been saying on this website and my blog for a year. It may have worked in the past to co-opt the mood of the majority to get elected, but folks are more sophisticated now and they have information sources at their fingertips that wasn't there before.

It's a new day. Candidates will have to just be real. I'm afraid, (for all the other candidates sake) that Sarah is the only one who shines in this department. Some of the other candidates, like Tony, lay so low that nothing can shine out of the hole they hide their views in. Like it's enough to just let handlers make any statements. Guess what kind of governor that makes. One who lets the handlers make the decisions and appointments.

When you think of the concept "Team Alaska," just ask yourself this coming (August 22) primary, who is a good "fit" to make the team? Who is the best team player? Who is is obviously for Alaskans. Right out there with "Team Alaska" and not doing side deals as a priority, that they can't talk about. When you have nothing to hide, you are free to speak, and it looks to me like Sarah Palin is speaking up the most.

If you want to get a glimpse of the the cavalier way Alaskans have been treated by former (and current) governors, (and legislators by their silence), go to this regulatory watchdog web-site. My article on by-catch, and the Murkowski administration trying to get the Data Quality Act shelved, as regards the North Pacific Council, is featured as their Regulatory Action of the Week.

Protection from this Act in the Reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Management and Conservation Act would give Murkowski and Steven's campaign contributors legal cover to use phony studies to justify privatizing the fisheries resources for themselves. It seems incredible that some people would do this to Alaskans, but look at all the other craziness going on in the world. And look at how British Petroleum dummied up the reports on the pipeline and spill response equipment.

In sum, this election cycle in Alaska is really a referendum on integrity in government. Legislators with integrity might find smooth sailing as well. An economist in the current administration was explaining to me that if the rank and file fishermen and the communities want more economic multiplying going on, they just need to elect legislators who will do it. He says they have the power to do whatever is needed. That may be boiler-plate language to get the Guv. off the hook at present. Either that or it's the Texas two-step that both the Guv and the legislature use to point fingers at each other. That's how you get fouled pipelines that cost the state $6.5 million a day in lost revenues. Just peachy.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Everything you wanted to know about By-catch, but were afraid to ask the Council

"New Report Finds Federal Managers Fail to Measure or Reduce Wasteful Killing of Ocean Wildlife - Millions of Pounds of Fish Inadvertenly Caught and Go Unaccounted."

The Government has better charts than these, with the fish stocks pinpointed on them. Pretty hard for the pesky public to see them and put in their two bits on managing those stocks though.

This is the title of a Washington D.C. website report. They get fisheries issues kinda right if they try and this group seems to do that and have good intentions to boot. Although it should really read "billions" of pounds. Reporters like to understate things so it won't look like they are exaggerating right off.

The latest fiasco was in the Bering Sea when the by-catch was reported by the government like this. "The numbers caught us by surprise." Now what does that mean? The trawlers knew they were throwing over millions of pounds of the wrong fish. The observers were there too. Maybe the janitor at NMFS who overhears conversations in the restroom was surprised.

The last figure I have for by-catch of salmon by trawlers in the North Pacific is around 260,000 fish. And here the Oregon trollers are given an extra 12,000 fish to try save their season? The Feds allow the by-catch of a lot of bottom cruising king salmon and they killed off the Klamath River in a water diversion. If that isn't the old one-two punch, I don't know what is. King salmon feed on the bottom down to 100 fathoms, deeper than halibut fishermen go for halibut.

Here's a zinger for you. The Murkowski administration had someone testify before Congress that they wanted the Data Quality Act disqualified from pertinence to the Council process of fishery management of the North Pacific, or any U.S. Excusive Economic Zone. That way they can keep on putting the reports the big trawl companies don't like in the circular file. God forbid they should use quality data to manage the fisheries.

This by-catch report by NOAA states that one of the problems is the need for new technology to reduce by-catch. Remember that if the trawlers are turned loose in the Rockfish Pilot Program, they will be taking more halibut, black cod, salmon and other non-targeted species in their dash for Pacific ocean perch than Oregon and Washington probably catches of these species on purpose.

This report even mentions the use of pots/traps for rockfish. Why doesn't the NPFMC consider more "clean" ways of catching the different species. The Russians could have used giant crab boats to harvest their king crab, but they allowed thousands of small boats out there to spread the wealth. Everything in the Gulf of Alaska could be harvested the same way. The economic benefit to Alaska would be enormous and the by-catch of species that belongs to other fishermen would be zip.

Sure a couple of boats with connections wouldn't be able to scoop everything up, including the sea-whip forests where immature benthic organisms live, and go home in record, profitable time. And take a peek at Lee Crockett's testimony before Congress on Federal fisheries management. Talk about a cautionary tale. As he points out, the Councils, like the NPFMC, don't want your average pesky fisherman getting in the way of their plans.