Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Setnetters Unite

"Alaska's fisheries will always survive at a very inefficient level due the abundance of resources and sound management. The economics, however, are insane.

Cabin cruisers like this one made up a good chunk of the almost one thousand handtrollers who disappeared due to political tampering.

One only has to chronicle Bristol Bay for that reality. I started in 1970 and there were three times as many processors as there are today. The product is no better now, and might be worse, due to the insane capital stuffing on those 32 foot shoe boxes that need as many fish as they can get and will tow their nets and fish for hours.

In 1989 there were 388 purse seiners making a living in Kodiak. This summer the number was less than 100. No rationalization--and no hue and cry over the hundreds of crew that lost jobs--why is that not on your blog as a consequence of inaction???"

Now there's a statement and a half. I have mentioned the loss of boats from the salmon fisheries a number of times. The rest of the state has lost similar sized chunks of their fleet. I'll put it really simply at first then go into what little detail the space here allows and folks have the patience to read. First, the processors main focus is to compete with each other for product. That means they are dedicated to putting each other out of business. Consolidation is a polite name for it. Where is the social conscience in it when a weaker competitor is the only fish processing plant in a town and all the jobs are lost in a price war.

My great grandparents came to Petersburg about the time the plant there succumed to such a fate. The guy they named Petersburg after killed himself over the financial loss and dashed dreams. Fortunately there weren't any permanent residents at the time to have their dreams dashed too. So Rasmus and Anna Enge became the first permanent white settlers there. Like they say in real estate, location, location, location. The plant in Petersburg got going again and never slowed down because of it's location on a shipping lane, next to an active tidewater glacier, lots of all kinds of fish, and great timber for building. A lot of other areas in the state that had canneries didn't have such a strategic location. They were really vulnerable to all kinds of vagaries of the seafood business world.

I, too, made my debut in Bristol Bay in 1970. I worked as a tallyman on the Ugashik II, a power scow that we had resurrected with a lot of oakum and a couple of gas engines. Some new big fiberglass gillnetters joined the fleet that year, the first big year in awhile and the first year that sockeye were paid for by the pound instead of the fish. A whopping 25 cents a pound. But it was good money back then. Then limited entry hit the fleet.

That was the first of the privatization schemes, or as it is sugar coated now - "rationalization." I've mentioned that many economists have and are still decrying going in this direction. I would like to be able to explain it better myself, maybe by first reading the book "Salmon Wars" by Dennis Brown, a former top Canadian fisheries policy advisor. They got into limited entry before we did. In general it seems to suck money out of the industry as fishermen sell not only their boats, but the permit to fish too, which is often of equal value.

So, all of a sudden, it takes twice as much for a new kid to get into the business. Then when keeping the fish cold on board becomes an issue, a lot of the boats don't have the wherewithall to upgrade, which was a chief cause of the demise of all those boats you mentioned. Farmed salmon got blamed for a lot of bum advice from economists, and action by legislators who only had access to the big processors' point of view.

Well, let me try to get to a point. We're probably not going to be able to reverse privatization, but maybe stop it where it is. I don't think many people would think "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away" applies to their limited entry permit or quota share. But fishermen do have a chance to create a mechanism whereby they can maximize the benefit of the products to themselves. Then maybe they can get some of those 288 permits back in action in Kodiak and watch the town start to hop once again. And enough capital will stay in the regions, irregardless of the flight of capital that privatization causes, to have more infrastructure and more shore jobs. That mechanism is called the Regional Seafood Development Associations.


Thanks for the info. I will just keep posting articles and probably once it has a little content, I will put it in the magazine and connect it to my web site. Pretty impressive numbers on your Alaskan web site. That’s a lot of cold fishermen that need a hot soak and a good vacation.

By the way, do you want to do something one a discount for fisherman visiting from Alaska ? During the off season, we could give them a 20% discount on weekends and 30% discount on weekdays. That would be Nov. 1 to May 31st, excluding Holidays, 3 day weekends, and Valentines day.

Is that something you could write about in you blog? All they would have to do is ask for the Alaska Fisherman’s special. A good article on the Hot mineral water might sound pretty good to an old salt who is out in on the briny in below zero weather. How long could something like that stay up, or would it have to be repeated every so often. We could keep track of the results and get you some soaking time in our hot water. I have heard lots of stories similar to yours about improved skin condition.

Take care,"

Duane Smith
Lithia Springs Resort
Ashland Magazine
Ashland, Oregon

There, you have it, you fishermen just show your limited entry card to get a nice discount at the mineral springs in Ashland. Bring the wife, a bottle of Ice Wine, some local pears and settle in. It's really great. Treat your girl to a professional massage and you won't be thinking about losing those skates of gear for awhile.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

John Finley endorses Dan Ogg for the Kodiak House seat

Some things bear repeating, like this letter from a Kodiak fisherman and a long-time "voice crying in the wilderness" about social injustice in the fishing industry.

The plant in Pelican didn't need "linkages" or an "allocation" to get started again. Just plain old free enterprise. (This was almost my birthplace.)

(I also like to put stuff like this in my blog archives.) There are John Finleys all over in the ports. They are trying to make some money catching fish too. I just think current politics has fostered an army of new fishermen who the old halibut longliners called the "mad ones." That's a recipe for privatization that all Americans cringe about.

I don't go for giving away the fish into perpetuity. I just think it has the potential to hinder free enterprise to a point that the communities are no longer necessary. Technology in fishing vessels is getting that they mainly just need gas stations all over. And the Gulf of Alaska "Groundfish Pilot Program" won't really be a pilot program, but a way to get a boulder rolling down the mountain. How would you ever stop halibut IFQs(quotas) now for example? It's poor policy and pure greed that would encourage control of the marine resources by a few, instead of being owned by the public as it's always been.

How does government qualify as a referee for an industry it doesn't understand. Government's true role should be in making the stakeholders collaborate and not cop out and take sides. Government should replace a lawmaker, like NPFMC Chairwoman and processor's lobbyist Stephanie Madsen, who said to a representative for independent fishermen, "Don't you ever get tired of losing?"

Unfortunately, the big corporations and government in the seafood industry will need to be made to retrench to their inherent roles. The processors process the fishermen's fish, and the government makes sure the public's interests are protected. It's really very simple. Too many politicians have bit on the processors line of: you gotta protect us to protect the shore jobs. If you buy that I've got these deeds to Lunar landscape I'll sell you.

The Magnuson-Stevens Act said that fisheries management in the EEZ would be done by industry with the help of government. It's evolved into some nightmare of power and money grabbing. It all is a replacement for collaboration between stakeholders, but then when has the processing/government sector ever come clean with anyone. The souless corporation and souless government vs the independent fisherman can be pretty closely compared to godzilla vs bambi. Hence this fisheries scientist saying that future generations will only have jellyfish to eat the way things are going.

"Former Alaska Attorney General John Havelock's Anchorage Daily News' September 26th "Comment" is a must read if you're thinking the legal problems of the crooks selling off Alaska's resourses will just blow over. It's the straight story about the long hoped for cleaning of our political system.

The good news is 70 Federal agents on the case and indictments in 07. My only fear is we'll end up burning a few very important people who richly deserve it, but lose our own battle during the excitment.

I am still not allowed to fish Rockfish in the Gulf of Alaska, and you aren't either. Why is that? Those who feel they don't yet understand the situation should assemble the few simple facts that it takes to answer that question. The masterplan of the cartels would begin to emerge from the fog. They're going to steal the GOA just like they did the Bering Sea, if we let them.

On another note, having failed to shame several leading citizens into a write-in run for the House seat I'm forced to contemplate the choice we're left with. No one knows how bad Ledoux was unless they were one of the fisheries activists that worked for a year to turn her against SB 113. SB 113 was Sen. Ben Stevens' plan to gut the State Constitution in terms of fishing rights. She snubbed us fishermen all the way and then had the gall to claim credit for defeating the Bill in a campaign speech last month.

Gabrielle just vibrates with whoever is presumed to be important and winning. She rode into office on the Asian-Latino voting block in the last election. Those people voted for me when I ran years ago and my politics haven't changed. To them I would say that she took your vote and forgot about you. Don't be fooled again. Vote for Dan Ogg.

And look at Tony Knowles, climbing up in the pols by smearing Palin as anti-native on subsistence. Tony's sins as governor, too numerous to count, were color blind, injuring all Alaskans equally by favoring corporations over people. Please, whoever you are up there, let Sarah Palin be our next Governor. Please. All The Best"

Friday, October 27, 2006

John's News Articles

Fishermen and Farmers Get Together and Solve a Klamath Problem.
"The response was simple: direct assistance for fishermen for this year's lost season and acknowledging the ground-up approach by stakeholders. Long Lake would be at the top of that list, water users said." Long lake would be created to supply cool water to the Klamath because of it's depth. Blue-green algae from all the warm lakes in Oregon and N. Calif. raises havoc too. Readings get over 1000 times higher than the World Health Organization recommends as a limit.

Prominent scientist charts the health of 27,000 fish species.
While his work is often attacked by commercial fishing interests and even governments, his conclusions about an international crisis unfolding beneath the seas are widely regarded as prescient and correct.
This marks the third year in a row that the lecture series has featured a scientist recognized for chronicling the decline of the world's oceans. The upcoming lecture, titled, "Global Trends in World Fisheries: Impact on Marine Ecosystems and Food Security," begins at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the University of South Alabama's Mitchell Center. For more information, call 460-7136 or visit his website http://filaman.ifm-geomar.de/search.php. ( 29400 Species, 222400 Common names, 43000 Pictures, 38800 References, 1380 Collaborators, 25 million Hits/month )

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Fishing for "favor" with linkages as bait

It looks like Alaska Fish and Game Commissioner Campbell is fishing for a future job in the seafood industry. I doubt very much that he went out and figured out by himself that processors would fold up if they didn't get mandated buying powers. And then he pushes the point all the way to D.C.!

This is one of nearly 180 vessels that left the king crab fishery. I wonder how many more non-U.S. citizens are being used as crew now. The Dutch Harbor plants are full of recent immigrants from all over and make quick replacements.

Like in, "if you don't sign up for a processor to sell all your fish to at THEIR prices, then you can just get out of fishing." So much for all the direct marketing talk the State has put money into, through ASMI, through the University, through the Department of Community and Economic Development, through support of the RSDA program, and through anyone who believes in free enterprise. -- Strictly a power grab, with lots of cheerleaders.

Some articles just bear repeating in their entirety. This one appeared in the Kodiak Daily Mirror recently.

Article published on Tuesday, October 10th, 2006
Guest Opinion
The Department of Fish and Game does an exemplary job of managing Alaska’s fisheries, and Commissioner McKie Campbell has provided sound leadership overall. Unfortunately, he is currently advocating a fishery policy that is misguided and would needlessly hurt fishermen and communities in Alaska and across America’s coasts.
Commissioner Campbell recently advocated that fishery management councils be given the authority to control where fishermen sell their catch. Under the guise of putting another tool in the councils’ toolbox, this would in practice give councils from Alaska to New England the power to require that fishermen must be linked to a specific processor in order to receive fishing privileges such as individual fishing quotas or similar fishery rationalization measures.
In an ideal world, a council might use that power sparingly; in reality, it would turn fishermen into sharecroppers rather than independent business people.
The federal law governing marine fisheries – the Magnuson-Stevens Act – gives regional fishery management councils the authority to conserve and manage fisheries, not to engineer or jerry-rig the marketplace. The fact that the industrial trawl fisheries for Bering Sea pollock received a special congressional allowance to form linked cooperatives does not mean that community-based fisheries should sacrifice the independent fishing livelihoods that support families and coastal communities.
Commissioner Campbell suggests that some degree of fishermen-to-processor linkage is necessary in order to protect processing jobs in communities; his fear is that fishermen might change their delivery patterns and leave some processors without enough product to remain viable.
His concern is misguided. Most fishermen have good business relations with processors and will not sacrifice that for a passing gamble. Plus, voluntary cooperatives give fishermen and processors the choice of negotiating delivery arrangements that optimize value and increase local community stability. If communities seek measures to ensure that delivery patterns do not change too abruptly, the answer is to link deliveries to communities, ports or regions, not to individual processing companies.
Current legislation pending in the U.S. Senate and House would allow for voluntary co-ops, called regional fishery associations, and would also authorize regional delivery measures. Neither bill allows processor quota or mandatory fishermen to processor linkages. Congress should reject the suggestion that these bills be re-written to give councils the authority to tie fishermen to specific processors.
Every lame-duck administration is tempted to freelance important public policy decisions on the way out the door. The Department of Fish and Game should resist that temptation and end its misguided advocacy of a bad policy that could needlessly hurt fishermen and communities in the Gulf of Alaska and across the nation.

Stosh Anderson is a longtime commercial fisherman living in Kodiak. He has fished throughout Alaska and served on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, the federal body that establishes rules for managing ocean fisheries in Alaska.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Bottom trawling: Battle for the Gulf of Alaska

To mr.Enge
It's plain that fishery managers/industry players and political allies are breaking National Standards that Congress has voted on. Shawn Dochtermann wrote this in the Kodiak Daily Mirror:

You have to watch the movie "The Corporation" to understand the "Battle for the Gulf of Alaska."

"Let’s start with reference to the national standards (NS) of the Magnuson-Stevens Sustainable Fisheries Act. The RPP would never have passed Congressional hearings because it does not adhere to NS No. 5 and No. 9.
NS No. 5 states: Conservation and management measures shall, where practicable, consider efficiency in the utilization of the resources; except that no such measure shall have economic allocation as its sole purpose.
The RPP gives allocations as its sole purpose, preventing any other future or present fishers the ability to harvest more than 5 percent of the total allowable catch (TAC)."

You also hear efficiency and effective thrown out in a weak attempt to match the language in the National Standard No. 5 of the MSA. These terms refer to "efficiency" used as a verb to the word "utilization." Utilization, acording to Webster is: a noun, meaning - "to put to use ; turn to profitable or practical account." National Standard No. 5 is talking about getting the most out of the resource, NOT using the most efficient gear or catching the Total Allowable Catch quicker, or making fewer boats more efficient for the plants to deal with, etc. It means spreading the wealth around better, getting the multiplier effect really cranking on. Just the opposite is happening in Crab "Rationalization."

Sarah Palin, the leading candidate for governor, said the other day that Governor Knowles didn't understand the consequences when he pushed to get the two-pie system of allocating king crab through. And that the consequences of any plan to privatize the Gulf will need to be well understood.

The gentleman from Sant Point gets high marks for his concern for the truth. I would rather converse with a fisherman any day. First of all, Robin, I definitely do not get any compensation from anyone for opening up the discussion in broad daylight. I won't even go into what I have given up to do this so Alaskan fishermen and their sons can have a future. Hundreds of fishermen write me to thank me for this work. I don't have a clue what they think my efforts are worth to them personally and I have not asked them to put a price on it. It's really priceless.

A few clarifications: when I mentioned bringing up the bottom, I was really thinking of a Japanese method of dragging for octopi using all chain gear, and it too, of course would hang up on a rock outcropping. I know you use rubber rollers made from stamping disks out of truck tires and stringing them on a chain like a pearl necklace. But it rolls over everything down there that can't jump off the bottom and go into the net, or pull themselves down into a hole. Do we know exactly what that does to the bottom? Have we tried to find out? Would we care?

I do know what a dry clam dredge does to the bottom off the coast of New Jersey. It's pretty barren down there and the dredge was just raking the bottom for clams down six inches or so. I also saw a video of a hydraulic clam dredge on the bottom in the Bering Sea. Besides it plowing anything like crab off to the side, it didn't look like it was doing any harm to anything but a few worms. The fish and crab would come charging back around behind the dredge to get a smorgasboard of things to eat. Just like you describe for otter trawls. And they have been dragging beam trawls for shrimp in Thomas Bay near Petersburg for almost 90 years now. Just that we have to be careful, and I'm not convinced that every area that gets bottom trawled has been observed so closely.

"To Mr.Enge
My name is Robin Larsen. I have lived in Sand Point for all my life and have been involved in bottom trawling since we started here in the mid 80's. To say all bottom trawling is wasteful and destructive is niave. We do not have the problems with bycatch here in the Western Gulf that goes on around Kodiak.

Just look at the observer data. For the last few years we have been fishing on pins and needles around here waiting for the season to close because of halibut bycatch. Last year for example we heard NMPFS was closing it for bycatch and the fleet here sent 4 boats raceing for King Cove with our observer data. NMPFS assumed our bycatch was the same as around Kodiak,WRONG.

We cannot even come close to what goes on around there if we all tried. I know this because I have fished around Kodiak and will not bottom trawl there again. Oh, by the way, NMPFS was wrong in their assumption and the season reopened. We are trying to get the bycatch split between the Western and Eastern Gulf. If this happens you will see who fishes the longest and catches their quota(without being shut down due to by-catch).

Just this fall I was asking the plant to bring down my bottom gear and the plant manager told me the season was closing in a day and a half. I asked why. He said for halibut bycatch.WOW! No one even fished out here in the Shumagins. So in my opion it is wrong to condemn all bottom trawl fisheries, because they are all different. I can show you pics of almost 100% pure cod tows with little to no bycatch.

Don't get me wrong, I do not condone catching of coral and by-catch, etc. There are still fisherman out there trying their best to fish as clean as possible. Bottom trawling is and always will be the most cost effective way to catch cod if done in the proper manner. As far as destroying the bottom, I find it very hard to break a rock with rubber and netting, the rock wins every time. There are some studies that show trawling on the bottom actually helps by stiring up the nutrients.We see that here at Wooly Head for example.

Since we started trawling there in the 80's we have seen more differnt species and more fish there period then ever before. I too have a 58-foot combination boat that has a lot of halibut quota. Your commentary sounds like you are trying to get a bigger peice of the pie. If you are going to write these commentarys for your own gain this site will lose readers. I could go on and on but I will stop there. Feel free to share this letter with any one you like including the readers of the AKREPORT. In fact please do so. There are a lot of fishermen out there who share my opion. Thank you for your time"

I have to say too, that I was vaguely aware that you don't have bycatch down there in the Shumagins. I have reported before my experiences trying to fly cod from you guys to Korea. But if you want to talk about that we'll do it privately. I'm mostly mad at Trident Seafoods for threatening you guys with cutting you off from home heating fuel if you sold to us. I think boats like yours can and probably should be the boats of choice for the drag fisheries in the Gulf of Alaska. The boat in the picture above is the kind of boat I object to: it is too big to fit in Alaska harbor spaces, in effect violating National Standard No. 5 in not maximizing the benefit to the region. There should be a boat size limit like in salmon seining. I know you would love to have a bigger boat for seining Unimak Pass. Doesn't seem right to me all the way around.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Agendas: they cover up the plundering

This interview piece in the Penninsula Clarion with the gubernatorial candidates reminded me how dangerous these GUYS are.

We had to paddle a speed boat for 8 hours out through here, at night, after a mini-tsunami swamped the motor.

After reading Halcro's solution to young Alaskans leaving the state, I now know why nothing ever gets done right in Juneau. Ray Metcalf had a good idea, just don't vote for anyone who was serving in the Legislature in Juneau, still had a heartbeat, and allowed Ben Stevens to gain the position he did.

That's not the only reason not to vote for Halcro. Even Tony the 'flip-flopper,' as Sarah Palin calls him, came right out and said, "I oppose it," when asked about the Pebble Mine project. Of course that's how Tony works, he says one thing, then does the opposite. But Halcro struck me as the classical politician; boilerplate answers right out of the text for "Political Culture 101: Applies To Any State." He needs to get a funnel for a hat and try to be the Tin Man in Wizard of Oz.

He didn't say one thing that indicated that he knows the smallest amount about the issues. Either that or he's hiding his agenda. Look at the statement from Sen. Brownback, speaking for the Republican National Committee: "Or will we keep America stronger and more secure by electing more Republicans who support our responsible agenda aimed at protecting our borders, making the tax cuts permanent and waging an aggressive fight against our enemy?" Not that I support either party's "agenda." The point is, why have something to use to polarize the nation. Why polarize the nation anyway? There's all these books on politics and how to be a "culture warrior." I say, just go out and help an old lady cross the street, so to speak.

Is allowing large Japanese fish companies gain control of our marine resources part of an agenda we want? No. It got on the agenda after we voted in folks who would just mindlessly dance to the music that a few powerful people picked. Halcro and Knowles danced to the music that people like Uncle Ted picked. That crankiest of all politicians, and remember, cranky equals loveless and callous.

I saw the classic show of a politician trying to bail out of Washington and get a Governorship the other day on C-Span. A well qualified, soft spoken, Iowa Secretary of State is running against one of their delegates to Washington. Caring and knowledgeable on Iowa issues versus fast talking, march to the music. I think in these days of low confidence in government, we should be looking for a little compassion in our leaders above all. These kind of folks will listen to you later on, and not listen to the money, as much. Note to Iowans: don't elect a Frank Murkowski or you'll be sorry.

Remember, Tony Knowles brought us "rationalization" of the Bering Sea fisheries. What is so rational about the price dropping last year to the king crabbers, the crew wages dropping 70%, 1,100 king crabbers losing their jobs, and now the price drops a whole dollar a pound at the dock? The few fishermen left might have gone along with the scheme before, because the competition on the grounds was cut back dramatically.

Now that the scheme is cast in concrete, they are hearing the music loud and clear. It's a version of the old song, "Take as much as possible while they aren't looking," lead vocalist - Ted Stevens, lead guitar - Frank Murkowski, back-up singer - Tony Knowles, drums - Kevin Duffy, business manager - Trident Seafoods' Chuck Bundrant, lighting - Bobby Thorstensen. And this band has a ton of groupies that make them seem like the best thing since peanut butter.

It appears that a letter written by Bobby Thorstensen, of Untied Fishermen of Alaska, declaring Kevin Duffy their "man of the year" is now being called the "Liar Letter." Where Bobby is calling Tony Knowles a liar in effect. I got this clarification:
"John, I went back-"The man of the Year"(letter) -says Knowles "recanted"- and that he instructed Duffy to vote for a 70-30 split(processors-fishermen) rather than 90-10. Here is where he is called again a liar-"UFA firmly believes that Duffy acted under orders from Knowles." Duffy voted 90-10(on the North Pacific Council)."

Well, whoever was "turned," Knowles or his Commissioner of Fish and Game, it doesn't bode well for Knowles. Even more control was gained by the big processors. The NPFMC has a way of convincing any new councilor to join in the processor love fest. I hear Duffy now has a plush job with Trident Seafoods. Trident must have a whole building in Seattle just for folks that they got to swing things their way: burearcrats, editors, fishermen, councilors, etc. But if they can buy a $47 million French jet to fly folks around, they can sure afford a social service program for folks that have "turned," and I don't mean turned 65.

All this cloak and dagger, Spy vs Spy stuff in fisheries management and politics will be a thing of the past pretty soon. Sarah Palin, the Alaska gubernatorial candidate that stands for transparency, will be leading the non-groupies, and it's a much bigger group. Besides that, just in the last year and a half, the Internet has allowed a quantum leap in transparency. And the President of Google promises another quantum leap that will send the spin-meisters running for cover. That's probably why Ted Stevens wanted to put a kink in the Internet's "tubes."

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Bottom trawling: "an insane way to catch fish"

I think this fisherman in Kodiak has about put the whole problem with the North Pacific and other U.S. fishing grounds in a nutshell. He says:

I found myself fishing one winter on Fred Haltiner's first boat the "Siren" in Port Houghton for bait herring.

"I would like to commend President Bush’s recent stand on the increased regulation of bottom trawling on the high seas. I would encourage him to consider supporting drastically increased regulation of bottom trawling in all waters of the United States as well.
Bottom trawling is a very wasteful and destructive method of commercial fishing. It is wasteful because it is very indiscriminate in the catch it brings to the surface. Much of the catch is discarded dead back into the ocean and only the target specie is retained. This is an insane method to catch fish.
Bottom trawling is destructive as it destroys the ocean floor as huge trawls and doors to spread the nets are dragged along the bottom. It is long past time to have this practice highly regulated if not abolished.
I have been involved in the commercial fishing industry in Alaska for 51 years. I am now 60 years old. In that time I have owned many different vessels, from a 50-foot salmon seiner to a 102-foot Bering Sea crab boat. Presently I own a 60-foot combination boat.
I earn most of my income from the halibut longline fishery, which is also a bottom fishery, but with individual hooks instead of a trawl hauled across the bottom. In a whole season, catching 200,000 pounds of halibut, we catch a few hundred pounds of fish we don’t sell to a processor. Nearly all the fish unable to be sold are returned to the water alive.
While the president doesn’t get high marks from the environmental community, I would expect as an active, outdoor person, the environment is an important concern to him. His stand against bottom trawling on the high seas and the inshore waters of the United States of America would be an incredibly important step for the environmental health of the world’s oceans.

You know, we always talk about "the Market" in such hushed tones like it was the great unknown, a Holy Grail of sorts that can never be approached by mere mortals. Get real. They are reading these words too. I've been looking at the Family Farm Movement down here lately too because of it's similarity to Family Fishing Operations. But I started seeing articles about small scale organic farming a few years ago and a recent article in Northwest's ag weelky, www.capitalpress.com. about a Family Farm Festival in Skagit County, WA.

A pear farmer here in the Rogue Valley was telling how he can't afford to grow pears for the local buyers, because the industrial scale pear farmers can produce pears so much cheaper. This trend to large agri-business has been fueled by crop subsidies just like the demise of the fishing family in the U.S. has been, and will continue, under the misguided push for privatization of the marine resources. This just fuels the "big" buying up the "smaller", AND the smaller operators getting just plain outlawed.

The current thinking in current government circles is that privatization is a given, and that it's just an argument of who to give it all away to. This statement by the Fish and Game Department in Alaska is symptomatic of the fungus amongst us: "sectors that wish to proceed should not be held back by others." Uh, does that mean Charlie Manson shouldn't be held back by others? I rest my case.

Well, maybe I can't until people that say things like this are out of state government and there is a mechanism to keep them out. And that political candidates, and those helping them, make statements of their convictions: what they "stand for." And I don't mean like standing for a little dirt on your car, or this or that compromise. I mean a stand like Sarah Palin has made.

And to those Knowles campaigners who are so intent on dominating the Anchorage Daily News Blog, I not sure you know what you wish for. Remember, if you wish for patience and wisdom, you might get all kinds of trouble that will surely teach you wisdom and patience.

And totally off the subject, there is going to be a Tilth Conference:
"John, How was the sweat lodge event?(I was invited to attend a Blackfoot ceremony.) Will you be attending the Washington Tilth Association's meeting Nov. 10-12? (http://www.tilthproducers.org/conference.htm). I'm one of the speakers (Value-Added Martketing) but there are lots of great workshops, many of which deal with local food."

And this is the opener that I forgot to put on the previous article:
"John, Here is a opener for you: The Kodiak crowd has finally drawn up some Q & A's for those that represent absentee boat owners, especially those that live off island or out of state." I also retracted the part about Dick Powell giving $100,000 to Ben Stevens to influence his dad to ram "crab ratz" through, which he did without the consent of Congress. Even though the money transfer story has been passed around for years and not publicly refuted, I understand there is no hard evidence of it anywhere.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Sustainable communities trumps privatization, or why is government not going our way?

"We encourage people to share their ideas on practical solutions to move toward a sustainable community" This is on the minds of a number of people in fishing communities, not all, but some. Communities need to be viewed as a business enterprise, not just a flat spot for developers to build houses. They are an economic engine.

My favorite photo of how fishing gets so unsustainable.

City councils in the ports should put a big sign over the mayor's chair that says, "Healthy fishing makes healthy fishing families, which makes a healthy community." This article from Maine depicts what happens when the fishing isn't healthy. That statement takes into all the factors: fishing methods, global warming, predator/prey relationships, ecosystem health, and lastly abundance of the cash crop.

Notice that in the Maine article the chief fishing method is trawling. The pressure on politicians back East has been to let 'em trawl. I think at times that if all stops were taken off, trawlers there would sweep the bottom, the mid-water and the shoals of fish clean. That aside, compare their methods of catching fish with the methods they use in Florida, hook and line for the most part. Florida has an economic recreational and commercial fishing engine worth well over $5 billion a year. Maine has zip, it sounds like.

Trawling was never as effective as it is now. The new synthetic nets and winch systems can pull up a net full of boulders as well as fish. And the electronic systems used to find fish is close to that used on a sub-chaser. You gotta stand in the wheelhouse of one of the big factory trawlers to appreciate what it might be like standing on the bridge of a U.S. Navy destoryer.

Not that the fish-finding electronics can tell a herring from a pollock. There has been times in the Bering Sea when a hundred tons of herring or the wrong size pollock were caught by mistake. Oops. The factory isn't geared for that so just spill them out. Of course they are all suffocated in the cod end and dead as a mackerel. Although Alaska by-catch is just as dead as East coast lobster by-catch.

Of all the nutty things, the big fight is over whether these bulldozers of the ocean will be allowed to keep all the illegal species they catch. If drivers got to swerving over and clipping pedestrians on the curb, the solution wouldn't be to put foam on the front of the cars. It would be to stop the destructive practice. Just because the trawler drivers are like foreign diplomats, it doesn't mean something shouldn't be done about the practice.

Trawling embodies the epitome of the thrill of the chase. It's fun to play with all the electronics, the boat can be big and comfortable and safe, even in the worst weather. The quantities of fish you can catch are enoumous and thrilling. And the payoff is good for the owners. You know, economies of scale and all. The next step is just to use some of those immense profits to get the lawmakers to give you more play time on the ocean.

There have been organizations dedicated to stopping bottom trawling for decades. The damage they do is not unknown. Just not passed around that much. But the good news is that, like any horde of locusts, they will eat themselves out of house and home. Just ask a gas station attendant in Bangor, Maine. And it's not like a bunch of fisheries in Alaska didn't get "fried" either, mostly because the fishery managers were too timid to stand up to the industrial scale buffalo hunters.

Actually, now that I think about it, I kinda hope that the fishing industry never does get it's act together. It's such lurid stuff to write about that it's easy to get "page views." So, have at it boys, drop them 10 ton trawl doors and let 'er out for some more clear-cutting of the ocean floor. Scrape 'er clean so it will be a moot point that the local boats got "co-opted" out. Out of their entire fishery, and their mortgages, and any fishing port in the country.

On the other hand, communities themselves could get their act together and do what Lincoln County in Oregon is doing. Organizing to look at what is going to sustain them in the long run. If they need studies they will get them. If they need support in the Capital, they will go to other coastal counties, and so on. But what they aren't going to do is sit on their duffs and let circumstances, (buffalo hunters and politicians) overtake them.

I think Lincoln County finally realized that the local fishermen were never going to get together in the form that would be effective insurance against catastrophic industry decline. The fishermen have a chance in Alaska to be that insurance, if they embrace the RSDA concept that the Legislature handed them. At the moment very few fishermen understand what it can do for them. And the Boroughs are even more in the dark. The City Managers are just worried about keeping water pressure in the mains and the Mayors. Where are the Mayors.

Usually the Mayors are just trying to get their feet under them since the turn-over of Mayors is high. They never get time to look into broader issues. But a good Mayor would say the first day in office, "Bring me the Business Plan for the City." If past mayors haven't left the town's fate to the travel agents and fish house people, there might be one laying around. A good start in making sure things aren't happening around them that would render the town unsustainable. Citizen should demand to see the "business plan" with it's description of external threats and competition included. Don't settle for "the strategic plan" that seems to be so prevalent.

"Strategic plan" and "economic development" are phrases that leave the door wide open to a real stew of gobbledy-gook. Not that a good community planner couldn't use these phrases just so folks don't think he's in left field. But these plans need to look for the "fatal flaw" that might catch them up. I addressed the Petersburg, AK City Council on fisheries infrastructure once and said if you don't remember anything of what I said, just remember the concept of the fatal flaw. Three minutes flat into their regular meeting they canned the waste management plan they were looking at.

I think the fatal flaw for many fishing communities has been to ignore the concept of sustainable fisheries practices. Even in little Petersburg, there used to be mass quantities of smelt and herring in the harbor, which attracted king salmon and who knows what all. Then one day a local fish processor sent out some boats and wiped them all out. The boats and plant had just geared up for spring roe herring fishing with the latest technology and thought a little practice would be fun I guess. A middle of the winter, middle of the night type of fishery, but only a couple of miles from what was once good fishing off the docks.

A Window into Kodiak fish politics

I saw this tonight- the episode "Is God Green" which was about some churches getting more spiritual toward stewardship of the Earth, and the resulting political split from the global warming naysayers currrently interpreting for the flocks." http://www.pbs.org/moyers/moyersonamerica/index.html

I'm not sure who a big consultant would be representing in a place like Petersburg. He sure wouldn't be representing the trollers or gillnetters.

I'm not sure why this e-mai struck me as important, except that the probable next governor of Alaska is a bona-fide Christian, as 85% of us profess to be in the U.S. And that she is running on a platform of "throw the bums out." Her opponent being one of them, if taking billions of dollars away from Alaskan fishermen and communities is any yardstick.

And a worry I keep hearing is that the candidate is "listening to" the second category of Christians in the first paragraph. I know that at least some of these love the accumulation of wealth and regard it as a sign that God is favoring them. I should know because I found myself in a now-defunct church in Anchorage that taught this, not in so many words, but the message was clear. It's kind of like the big seafood companies corraling all the economic advantage from the fish resources in Alaska by banding together. The part of the Christian right that bands together with them benefits from the largess of the whole scam. The environment and the middle class is left sucking gas real bad.

Part of Kodiak's problem in trying to defend itself from "The Sting" (remember that Paul Newman movie), those in self-apointed leadership positions in the fishing industry there, and many in city and borough government, have created a profitable little scam. And some of the above is used, like Manifest Destiny was in the 1800s, to run roughshod over the unorganized and powerless.

Is what I consider a blessing from God is the transparency that the Internet brings. Check out this expose' from the "starting-to-organize" fishermen in Kodiak. Charlie Davidson, the City Councilman and candidate for Alaska State Senate is right, "the processors are our enemy."

Kodiak Alaska is the home to the ANTI RATZ movement of the entire universe; where fishermen look like fishermen, and have the nature to stand up for their rights! The city of Kodiak is colored with many different ethnic groups and they coexist just like fish in the sea. The only separation of types of peoples in the town are between those who are truly communal and those that want to take everything from the rest. When it comes to fish politics and lobbyists there are a lot of rotten fish that need to be discarded.

Where do we start? Okay, the city of Kodiak employs a lawyer, a lobbyist, and a fisheries consultant. They would be William Bittner, Brad Gilman, and Joe Sullivan. Bittner is Ted Stevens’ brother-in-law and works in a high-powered D.C. lobbying firm of Birch, Horton, Bittner, and Cherot. Mr.Gilman is a prominent lobbyist in the US Senate and House, and it just so happens that he’s worked for Ted in the past. Joe Sullivan is the citys’ consultant, AKA, fisheries power broker for hire to the highest bidder.

Next round; the Kodiak crowd that pushes the trains and needs to take the blame. Julie Bonnie, director of the AK GroundFISH Lobbying Bank, I mean AK Groundfish Lying Bank. Oh, her card says Data Bank. Shouldn’t an independent organization like the McDowell group be calculating the trawl fisheries stats for the Gulf of Alaska?

Linda Kozak is the team leader (consultant) for crab clients, the Leader Corp, and Dick Powell. Dick is a fish magnate (who testified at a Congressional hearing on "crab ratz" in Feb. of 2004), that now leaves the "big house" empty in Kodiak, as Vegas must be where the game is played. (Or maybe another trail of dust out of Dodge.)

One wonders when Joe Sullivan, who represents many different clients for the law firm of Mundt & McGregor, would be ready to declare conflicted interests. Especially since Stephanie Madsen, at the April 2006 NPFMC staff tasking meeting, alluded to the fact that he was representing conflicted interests. Was Joe involved in helping piece together AFA Pollock in the Bering Sea for the factory trawlers? Who knows? Was he player in "crab ratz"? Who are his clients in crab rationalization? Boat owners? Processors? Why doesn’t someone ask him, so for once we might get a straight answer. And why does he have an apartment at Dick Powell's house? Does Joe work for Dick too?

Now Linda and Joe are always at all the "crab ratz" investors (boat owners) meetings. Do you suppose that they have some clients that overlap? The voices in Kodiak say , YES! But who are these clients? Would they both like to fill in the blanks on AlaskaReport.com, so we can disassociate them from hitching up to the same fish magnates that have stock in these fishery allocation goldmines.

Jump back to the City and it’s wonderful choice of associates, such as Bradley J. Gilman. His father was a well respect former state legislator in Alaska. Ben Stevens and Brad have been friends since 5th grade. They own a consulting/lobbying firm together, and I think its called Advance North, you know, like getting an advance before anyone else knows, and “way up North”! Gilman took Ben’s clients as soon as Ben got tapped by Tony Knowles to be a State Senator in Alaska. They include Trident Seafoods and Alaska Groundfish Data Bank (AGDB).

Ben was their lobbyist in the US Senate from 1998 until his appointment. Gilman presently lobbies for West Coast Pacific Fisheries Association, the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, the city of Craig, Unalaska, Petersburg, King Cove, Kodiak, as well as the Kodiak Island Borough, the Aleutains East Borough, plus Yardarm Knot Fisheries, Trident, & AGDB. So please tell us Brad, who do you really work for? He also worked on getting the Rockfish Pilot Program in the MSA.

There is a Gulf of Alaska Groundfish Task Force that was formed by the joint city and borough of Kodiak. Who sits on it? None other than Linda and Julie. They both want one thing for their clients; to scoop the most fisheries allocations and let the rest of the community take the scraps. Well, in Kodiak we don’t ride any trains. And we won’t accept a few fishermen and processors taking control of our front yard's resources with Uncle Teds’ illegal penmanship.

Joe and Julie just happen to be on the same state appointed stakeholders group that formed some crazy scheme to allow privatization of our state waters. But in Alaska, our Constitution only allows for common usage, and with the least impingements to everyone's rights to a natural resource. Both of them tried to convince the coastal communities that it was the SB113 train and you had better jump on, as their train was due to arrive in Ben Stevens’ station quite soon. (Alaska Senate Bill 113 would have taken quota shares of salmon from the fishermen and given them to big corporations, basically.)(Ben Stevens, the son of the person third in line of succession to the President, now finds his offices continually raided by FBI agents and now has a criminal attorney.)

There’s only one problem in Kodiak; we’ll fight for our rights to fish as much as we like to fish. So the train came to a screeching halt when none other than former bush rat Governor, Jay Hammond, wrote an editorial that will be remembered in Alaskan History for centuries to come, BEN STEVENS: LEGISLATOR OR LOBBYIST? on May 1, 2005 in the ADN.

Now only a few more questions to ask. Ben is in hot water with the Department of Justice, Public Integrity Division, the FBI, and all those agencies that are probing for bribery, fraud, and racketeering with fish processors and oil companies. So who has been paying him, convolutedly? For what legislation?
Numerous lifelong fishermen are out of action, due to high profile greed. It’s their check book against our ‘passion to uphold the constitution”. When you see one of these lady lobbyists, who represent God-knows-who, remind them that we will not stop until justice is served . It would be more appropriate if the Justice Department dealt with this, instead of the fishermen themselves. We don’t have guillotines in Alaska, but I guarantee it's so-long evil fish magnates, hello grassroots fisheries harvesters in Alaska!

God Bless the USA,

Kodiak Fishermen"

Now I hafta say that Kodiak fishermen are finally engaging the enemy head on and really trying to hold the line for fishermen all over the U.S. If the Magnuson-Stevens Act is reauthorized, with the current provisions that will allow continued consolidation to big business, then little fishing towns all over the U.S. will fall to the condo developers one and all.

And consolidation is not more efficient. Large operations get lax when they have a partial monopoly and don't modernize, or in general, break a sweat. Look at how long the one pound tall can of salmon has been around. Look at how destructive bottom trawling by the big factory trawlers is. They can tow such a big heavy trawl that everything comes up, bottom and all. The locally owned boats mostly use selective fishing methods like pots, jigging machines and longlines. They have to live there.

Neither is consolidation safer. The corporations can, and are, telling "their" boats to go out when and where the head office desires. Storm or no storm, sea ice or no sea ice. Is this what we want our national fishing fleet to look like. Without stopping the whole privatization, "rationalization," "cooperative," processor shares train, the end of it is low paid Chinese to man the few boats the corporations would need to catch all the fish, albiet, very destructively.

The precipitous drop in king crab crew wages, after 1,100 of these guys lost their jobs, is a harbinger of things to come at this rate. Which shell are the paychecks under? The folks who would like the Gulf of Alaska groundfish pay-checks as well. There's big money at stake so heads and hearts are bound to be turned.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Contribute to the solution

Back when I was an economist for the Alaska Commercial Fishing and Agriculture Bank, I predicted a sustained yield harvest of salmon in Alaska of 150 million fish a year. The last couple of years says I was way low. Then there was this year, a harvest of 140 million. I was only looking at my lifetime, as a lot of people tend to do, I think. A serious downward trend could start if we aren't careful.

They call this island in Crater Lake, the Mystery Ship. Sitting on the back deck of the lodge taking in the scene and having a beer is one of my favorite things to do.

I remember bumping into a retired doctor in the city park in Dallas, OR and him still apologizing for a deceased friend who had been in charge of Oregon Fish and Game. It was during his time that the logging companies did so much damage to the wild runs of salmon in Oregon, during the post WWII boom in logging. I saw a map on the wall of Oregon Trout yesterday, that showed the vast loss of range of Pacific salmon in the Northwest. An area about the size of the whole state of Oregon.

Looking back at the statistics doesn't do any good though. The focus should always be on the future so you can make good plans. And that includes the Alaska Fish and Game Department's failure to forsee the bad run of pinks in S.E. this year. Probably goes to show that the ADF&G was underfunded by both the Legislature and the Governor. Unless the ADF&G was just not doing their jobs. We'll probably never know.

I found out that you can drive up Highway 62 out of Medford and get to a bridge where it crosses the Upper Rogue River and see the kings spawning. I got curious the other day about a certain spot on Bear Creek, right in the middle of Medford. I had to walk across this pesky park LOL and then under the Interstate. Where lo and behold, king salmon were ramming into a small dam, where the bottom of the fish ladder was a foot and a half out of water. They had a lot more room to butt their heads out in the middle of the creek.

I noticed another funny thing, that when you grow up running up and down creeks chasing salmon in the summers, you tend to go looking for salmon from then on. Once in a while you can help to restore a run in small or big ways. You'd be surprised at how many little dams like this one in downtown Medford are still around. And how many times the creeks turn like soup with all the dirt in it.

But one thing is for sure, get Oregon Trout or someone to show you where you can see some salmon around here before they are the last ones that anyone will see in that stream or other. The first fishing war story I heard this fall was from a preacher right over the pulpit. Made a big impression on me. Seems the pastor was fly fishing on the Rogue, with this "see me, I got this cool fishing outfit on" sense of ownership of the patch of creek bottom he was standing on. He proceeded to hook a real lunker, but it turned out to be a anchor line, covered like spots on a Cutthroat trout, with lurhs, spinners and other flys.

The other one wasn't as exciting, but yielded the same number of fish: none. Robin Moulder, of Moulder Inc., took me out one evening to the Rogue to show me his patented Planer. The Planer takes your line out to the middle of the stream and lets your bait or luhr just bob along right where you want it to. No better system has come along to simplify stream and river fishing. Should make it easy for anyone to go out and catch something. The ocean planer will spread your lines out for a lot better footprint trolling out on the lake or in salt water.

But the real story was us standing on that bank, actually on a front lawn, in the late evening on the Rogue River. The mists were starting to form, and a summer steelie jumped near the far shore. It looked almost like a vision through that light mist. No wonder steelheaders get so psyched up over fishing for them, the places they go are some of the coolest places in my opinion. I'm sure though that if there weren't any fish in the stream anymore, I'd have a different outlook.

And I hope that nobody else is worrying that Sarah Palin is "listening" to advisors. AlaskaReport.com would have heard of any fisheries advisors by now if there were any. Yeah, we've heard the rumors too. They're just gathering data at this time. Woudn't you? Like I said, contributing to the solution is all that is important. Pick your problem, there's more choices than you can shake a stick at.

And a friendly letter from a reader on his experience commenting on an Anchorage Daily News blog:

"Hi John-
A few of the people gave me some flack ( tonies) and I even had some yanked (Probably because I e-mailed them to my union business Agent). She's suddenly on personal leave and I wonder if there is maybe more to the story of why she took leave. I think My union bashing has been read by the right folks. Maybe she is suspended. She had some do nothing State DOL job as a political appointment under Knowles, and would be back there if he was elected.

I think I put all there is to say there (ADN) for now.

I think the end is I work on setting up a sampling program for the Factory trawlers so there is some transparency there, but we'll see what the court can do for the situation. I think the MSA reauthorization is obviously tainted with the same spirit that is present in the Staate Legislature.

Do you have a Fax? I could send my opening brief from the Ninth Circuit. I alledge an "ethics crisis" and list the major players; Bennie, ADAK,VECO. There has even been some more events (Irwin, Pipeline neglect, etc) that were probably looked at. The dates they(FBI) started (their)investigation was October 2005, which was a month after the brief was filed.

I heard Ray's(Metcalf) stuff was stuck in State Court, and when he approached the FEDS he was told he had to exhaust his case there. I pointed the Ninth Circuit towards the stuff he had come up with.

Take care-"

Friday, October 06, 2006

To catch the last salmon

"We have been warned that if things continue going in the direction they're going without anybody stepping in, the rest of Puget Sound could start looking like Hood Canal."

I should go back to this glacier in Alaska and see how much it has melted since 1972 when I took this pic. from the road near Palmer.

And this is what happened up the way in Vancouver: "Once there were 50 salmon streams in Vancouver, supporting an annual run of more than 100,000 fish. But one by one they were diverted into storm drains, polluted or paved over, until only Musqueam Creek sustained a small and dwindling run of wild salmon."

These two situations are different. The first is a natural phenomenon, and the second is a man-made phenomenom. The good news about Musqueam Creek is that a water main broke and flushed everything out of the creek, and the chlorinated water killed the food for any fingerling who might have survived the deluge. About six adult coho last used the creek. That was good news only because it gave publicity to a couple of guys that had been trying to save the coho run for ten years. With major restoration work, they had 66 adult coho come back at last count.

But salmon runs don't often have the benefit of some eye-opening disaster. It's little insults to the ecology of the streams and rivers, like the day this summer in the Rogue Valley when Bear Creek suddenly went from clear to dark brown; massively muddy. Then it cleared up in the next few days. But life went on around here with out skipping a beat, except for all the steelhead and salmon fry that might have suffered, their food sources suffered, and the spawning gravel silted in a bunch more. They did get a little concerned when three gravel companies in Eugene were examined for making the Willamette River noticeably muddier. One of them had an overflow pipe dumping the mud in the river in plain sight. For how long? Does it take an irate public to get the government officials to take a constructive step.

I guess you have to realize it was Oregon who sat back and let the Feds turn off the water to the Klamath River so they could get another Republican Senator to Washington D.C.

The same situation has been the norm in Alaska. Governor Murkowski put a mining lobbyist in charge of the Department of Fish and Game, coincidentally just when foreign mining interests wanted to build the biggest mine in the world right next to the biggest wild runs of salmon in the world. This same Commissioner is back in D.C. pushing for the Governor's big business agenda on all fronts as we speak. We need to pray not that God will shorten the End Times, but that He would shorten the end of Governor Murkowski's term in office.

The State should give preference to those companies that want to do what fits in well with the rest of Alaska. Young Alaskans, and the young Oregonian in my last post, for at least one other, would like the chance to go commercial fishing too. And I'm quite sure the first thing they are going to find, if their opportunities aren't ALL taken from them, is how much fish is left. Don't get the idea that people won't wipe out every last fish if they had a chance.

President Bush came out against "unregulated destructive bottom-trawling." Some jokers are saying that he didn't mean in U.S. waters. Don't listen to that. We have unregulated fishing going on all over the place in our 200 mile EEZ. Take a look at the 30 or so bottom-trawlers dragging the Portlock Banks in the Gulf of Alaska. They will be going for Pacific cod and get mostly halibut in the cod end when they pull the trawl up. And that doesn't include about as much baby halibut that they don't count, all of which has to be thrown over dead. Because the North Pacific Council or their helpers up or down the gravy train say to only count the legal species. Is the newborn now not a species?

I regret that anyone would not distance themselves full bore from this kind of thinking. And the kind of thinking that would deliberately or recklessly harm the economic welfare of a whole class of people at one time (a whole group of fishermen, or future fishermen). One prominent member of the Club that doesn't think other life counts much is trying to be the next Governor of Alaska. And the initials aren't SP.

I have to make a little announcement here regarding a lot of people thinking Sarah Palin is listening to the wrong people. A little bird that read his 160 e-mails today and answered my concerns about this subject said: "excluding the KKK, Sarah will give an ear to anyone." That, in no regards, translates into buying into anything, or promising anyone anything. She is purposely not expressing any leanings toward anybody, because this has always been the case. She's not going to continue the practice of promising people positions and support before she has all the facts. Anybody here ever buy the first car you see on a car lot? That right there is smarter than what we've seen before in an Alaska gubernatorial race. (And I say again, this is no time to be partisan when you see an honest candidate.)

Then here: "Salmon remain in the ocean, where they mature and take on weight. Some are caught by Japanese and Russian fishing trawlers. Ocean conditions are the single biggest factor that determines whether the fish return to spawn or die at sea, according to NOAA. Food-filled cold currents are good for the fish, warm currents bad." This writer should read the stuff that is prepared for the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council. Buried in there real deep it says that American, not Russian or Japanese, trawlers are catching between 200,000 and 300,000 salmon a year in the North Pacific and a lot of them are kings. (King salmon from all the Pacific ocean rivers mill around up there, often on the bottom to over 100 fathoms, feeding on juvenile fish of all kinds that grow up near the bottom.)

You know why it seems like we are always playing catch-up to restore salmon runs? Because we are outnumbered by quite a bit by other people who don't figure the future of salmon in their activities much at all. Take the bulk of everyone down here that sprays weed killer on their property. The stuff ends up in the nearest river in enough strength, not enough to kill outright, but just enough to get caddis fly larvae to shed their shells. Then when they try to build a new one, they poop out easily and die, removing a prime source of feed from the river for baby salmon and steelhead.

A lot things like this are being addressed by folks who see that it will take a concerted effort by everyone to achieve the desired results. It's not like people don't want salmon and steelhead around for future generations of anglers and commercial fishermen. It's just that they don't know there is a river around the bend, or that their Roundup will someday soon start to leach into that river miles away. It's not really willful ignorance, but the common garden variety.

But the head of Google says that in five years or so, we are going to be so connected by the Internet, in a true democracy, that you'll be able to actually turn on my proverbial "B.S. Meter." It's the beta model of my later version, the "Intergity Meter." Only goes to show you have to be careful or a manufacturer will run with your ideas. LOL

Well, I wanted to stick with fish streams today. The Klamath can't win for losing. It continues to struggle with low water: agriculture all over southern Oregon and N. California, lower amounts of rain, parasites in the river killing off the young salmon. Now an oil tank truck tips over and spills a pile of asphalt oil along the bank. I'm sure the people that put out SpawnDigestNews, an e-mail magazine to alert folks to goings on in N.W. salmon streams, would say: "do whatever is humanly possible to protect the streams in Alaska, because the weather will hand you all the trouble you want."

A Rogue fisherman told me he heard of the word "dog" used to describe some salmon that aren't in the River any more. Did they have a run of chum salmon? A lot of the little streams branching off larger creeks around Petersburg, Alaska had good runs of chum, coho, sockeye and pinks when I was young. You might find a few stragglers in many of the streams now if you're lucky. Commercial fishermen had fished them in the mouths of the streams in Alaska for a hundred years by the time I came along and they were still there.

The Klamath didn't die off just recently. Someone built a cannery in the mouth of the Rogue, for example, and didn't stop seining in the River mouth until 1929. A gold dredge, like the big Alaskan variety, was placed in the middle of the Klamath River for many years. Then they built four dams on it's tributaries, with no fish ladders. They are still there with no ladders.

One expert has said that there is no hope for the runs down here. The Bonneville Power Administration has spent over three billion dollars and the runs keep dwindling beyond "endangered" on the Snake and the Columbia. Is Alaska next? If not, I suggest that the institution structure Alaska has to prosecute the fisheries need to be radically altered, and that includes the NPFMC.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Alaskans can choose between Paradise lost or Paradigm shift

I entitled this submission from a reader this way, because Alaskans really can make this choice, by who they choose as representatives to state and federal law-making bodies. You can have vibrant fishing communities, or you can have condos all along the waterfront to look at the Seattle trawlers with high power telescopes, because they have no need to bring the fish to traditional Alaska processing plants.

Young man at the Fish Blogger's wedding on the Rogue River: "There might not be ..., but by gosh there'll be fishing."

I only say this because it is definitely the trend. It took 325 years for this to happen back East, but is taking only decades in Alaska. The problem is that people just gave up bucking city hall because thier voices just went down a black hole no matter who they turned to. And I have to say to those who would speak up, don't worry about hurting the feelings of the kind of people mentioned below, they have made plenty of money to retire on. They just seem to want your's too. And AlaskaReport is the second loudest voice in Alaska.

"John, Welcome back, we all hope the wedding was a great success.

This last week has confirmed what many people have told me about the FBI's ever-expanding dragnet into the Adak/Stevens cover up. They may belooking at the spider web of ties between Ben Stevens (as a lobbyist), Tony Knowles (as the Governor), Kevin Duffy (as Commissioner of AlaskaFish & Game), Robert Thorstenson Jr. (AKA Bobby Jr., a major shareholder of Icicle Seafoods, AKA Bobby T. as President of United Fishermen of Alaska, AKA Bobby of Southeast Revitalization Committee, AKA Bobby of Southeast Alaska Seiners Association (SEAS) and, most importantly, AKA Robert Thorstenson Jr. of Alaska Fisheries Marketing Board.)

By now everyone in Alaska must be experiencing that horrible feeling that occurs when naked power and greed, derived from nepotism, finally spill into the public spotlight. Adak is the best example of this- not because it was unusual behavior for Ted Stevens-or for the size of the theft (tens of millions annually of the once-public resource that Pollock had been). No, Adak has to be more carefully examined because of the two legal actions which help the general public to see through the normally cloaked world of organized crime.

This might be old news for some, but with the FBI actions, up-coming Governors' race and new documents recently discovered this is worth another look.Who is Bobby Thorstensen anyway? He is one of the largest stockholders of Icicle Seafoods, a long standing Alaskan-style cannery/freezing plant for salmon, halibut, crab and cod.

Icicle Seafoods was conservative and did not get into pollock until late in the game. In fact, they were the only processor that tried to stop Ted Stevens' AFA push, and it was only after they purchased the larger pollock processing vessel, the Northern Victor, that they did a 180 degree turn and switched to supporting AFA. Icicle also used to complain that the early IFQ program on halibut and black cod only helped the fisherman (after looking at Crab Ratz, thank God for that.)

Bobby was smart enough to take over the UFA and masquerade as a fisherman looking out for Alaskan fishermen's interests, as opposed to his own interests as a major stockholder in one of the larger salmon processors. He was very active in the State of Alaska's Salmon task force groups and countless others. Under his fisherman's guise, he steered UFA into supporting Crab Ratz and Gulf of Alaska Ratz, which is in direct opposition to the interests of fishermen.

More markets and more buyers of fish would help fishermen, not the opposite. During this time he sat on many boards that included Ben Stevens, and it is my understanding that this is when the ideas were hatched for Ben's father to find federal dollars to grant back to salmon processors (like Icicle) and for creating the Alaska Fisheries Marketing Board (AFMB) instead of working with the existing Alaska SalmonMarketing Institute (ASMI).

The name Alaska Fisheries Marketing Board was designed to be easily confused with ASMI, therefore the public was not always aware of the differing agendas of these differing Marketing Boards. Ben Stevens, his partner Trevor McCabe, and Bobby all sat on the board of the AFMB. The grant money moving from AFMB to a couple of seafood companies is now well known, as is the money back to Ben and Trevor - some paid directly to Ben and some to his various companies: Advance North, Ben A Stevens, Ben Stevens & Assoc, helping to conceal both the amounts paid and the fact that people were paying Ben Stevens to lobby his father.

Icicle is even more interesting, both because of the relationship between Bobby and Ben, and because it was Icicle that offered to sell Ben the then-secret stock option (on June 29, 2002) for $500,000, the same number that soon comes up in salmon buyback meetings where it was openly discussed that they had to "get $500,000 off the books" to Ben Stevens to secure his help getting Ted Stevens to earmark a grant for salmon just like the one Ted had done for crab.

During this time Icicle was buying a lot of brown king crab - which is sold as Golden Crab -using various companies to hide the fact that they were going around the recent crab cap under the AFA (which Ben's father had passed.) That is right, Ben was a secret shareholder in a company that was breaking this law. And not only was he president of Adak Fisheries, he was also advising (for large consultant fees) the other companies involved, sitting on the board of some, and holding office in others.

This group of companies (Adak Fisheries, Aleut Enterprise Corporation,etc.) then purchased over 4,000,000 lbs of brown king crab -approx $13,000,000. ex-vessel (see NOAA letter.) This was not one transaction,where one could argue they somehow didn't understand the law. This was 2 years of deliberate illegal acts, yet no one was charged criminally. Where were the Alaska Troopers who normally show for every offload – ask any of the King and Snow crab boats- and check every crew member, arrest them for traffic warrants, walk all over your crab looking for accidentally small crab, looking for any and all possible violations.

Remember it is a crime for the captain if just one crew member screws up and lets one undersize crab get by. So who called off the dogs? And who had the power to limit the fine for these actions to less than the profit Icicle would have made? Who kept the State out of this - normally the State would have input into such matters with NOAA.Would it be the Governor Knowles? Maybe someone in a top position in Alaska Fish & Game like Kevin Duffy? Remember him - he was he guy who helped twist arms on the 90/10 processors rights, and he voted 90/10 eventhough his boss (Tony) said he was ordered to vote for a 70/30 buyer split.

Tony said this in 2003 (see letter) and again recently in Kodiak, stating "problems with Crab Ratz". Why would Kevin Duffy go easy on Ben and Icicle Seafoods? Let's not forget the great job At-Sea-Processors Assn (At-Sea) rewarded Trevor McCabe with immediately after Trevor helped pass AFA, which netted$90,000,000 to American Seafoods? Coincidentally, the former President of American Seafoods, Mike Hyde (Attorney) and Trevor McCabe (Attorney)(partner of Ben Stevens in Advance North) are partners in the real estate that sits at the other end of the Bridge to Nowhere, along withArt Nelson., son in law of Don Young.

What was Kevin looking forward to when he went against the wishes of Governor Tony on the 70/30 split and sold the State down the river on 90/10?? For the record, the Fish and Game seat on the NPFMC is not supposed to kowtow to the governor; they are supposed to vote for the right thing for the people of the State of Alaska. Kevin Duffy must have been the right man at the right time, because about the same time NOAA announced the agreed-to fine of only $3,400,000(again, this is less than the profit gained by breaking the law) - without one criminal complaint - he got a job taking over for Trevor at At-Sea, which is also where Don Young's son-in-law Art Nelson (now ofAlaska Fish & Game Board) was working. (All these guys are for fast tracking Processor Quota programs.)

Late 2004/early 2005 was a busy time: Crab Ratz rules published in the Federal Register on 11/5/04, Southeast Salmon group (Bobby) talks about Ben Stevens' need of $500,000 on 11/13/04, in PSVOA meeting, Ben Stevens tenders his check on 11/16/04 for $50,000 to bind the downpayment on his secret option. Kevin Duffy announces retirement 11/18/04.

NOAA, after a year of deliberation, announces 11/29/04 a settlement and small fine. Ben Stevens' offer is rejected by other new partners on 12/23/04- after Ted Stevens has attached an "earmark" already. Ben Stevens' secret option expires on 12/31/04-(needs another $450,000). The Adak pollock "earmark" ride passes in early Jan. 2005 on the bill that Ted Stevens had attached it to. Legal action starts during 2005, which gives the public their first look into Ben's enrichment from his secret stock options.

So who is lying? Tony or Kevin Duffy? Or did they both use their influence to help Icicle and Ben Stevens? Look at the actions, Kevin gets a great job around the time Icicle gets off the hook, Ben does not go to jail nor even get indicted, in fact it looks like he is about to become very rich, Crab Ratz is a big winnerfor Icicle, Ben + Trevor made hundreds of thousands dollars inconsulting fees ... Bobby T is clearly in the center of power. Just look at the pompous "Executive Man of the Year" UFA awarded to Kevin Duffy (for screwing the fishermen and immediately moving to Seattle).

Question- Who was Duffy's boss during the last phase of the coverup? Answer- the next UFA/ Bobby T. "Executive Man of the Year". The biggest pigs get the most. Interestingly, a guy I know attended a very early crab scoping meeting during the first serious talk of crab quota for processors - he was standing with the crab guys who were cooperatively discussing the possibility of splitting their crab rights with the processors at around the 50/50 mark, when Joe Plesha jumped in and said "it was already decided at 90/10, don't waste our time," then he threatened to hold up the crab boat buyback in same breath.

Here is my nagging question: Everyone knows Ben cannot legally accept money to lobby his dad, so when asked about the fees going his way they cite consulting, or his deep knowledge of Congress... but how is that possible if the act in question (for example Crab Ratz) was an earmark, added in the dead of the night solely by Ted Stevens? Who else could Ben be talking to? Only one man was responsible, there was no Congress. Neither Crab Ratz nor Adak/Pollack was debated in the Senate, where one might have claimed Ben was talking to anyone else.

I've said before that no native corporation is in a position to sue the son of their benefactor Ted Stevens, so I was surprised to read in the legal documents pertaining to Adak, and in Ben's statements from his radio interviews, that he claimed "they (Aleut Corp) are trying to take away our plant." Aleut Corporation vs. Adak Seafoods (Solberg & Ben Stevens) I could not help but notice Aleut Corps' lawyer is Stan Lewis of Birch, Horton & Bittner. Bittner is Ted Stevens' brother-in-law.You're telling me that the Aleut Corp is seriously chasing Ben Stevens using a law firm founded and run by his uncle? That looks more like a group that is going to make sure no harm comes to the little prince.

Part Two-how many more people are over the line in Adak?"

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Who are the good guys? Check your integrity meter

A long time ago, Samuel Adams, one of our founding fathers, not the beer maker, said: "If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquillity of servitude than the animating contest of freedom, — go from us in peace.

The cake toppers when the fish blogger married the nurse last Sunday( a 80,000 page view day on AlaskaReport, by the way). (I formed, baked and sprayed the fisherman's hat on and made a trolling spoon from a smashed .22 lead.)

We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!"

There are plenty of resources and land to support everyone, so why the malise of fear of the future that drives fishermen to side with monopolistic seafood corporations? The shortage problem seems imminent when viewed in terms of only variants of fisheries management "rationalization." There was no shortage for fish before all the privatization programs began. The only shortages are for those companies and fishermen whose egos are larger than their current boat or plant. Processing plant owners fuel the privatization push by holding down ex-vessel prices so fishermen will fight for larger individual catches. The plants finance many boats who become their allies in a closed loop of mutual support. They don't need any more boats (the rest of the fleet) or the communities.

Enter, stage left, some folks who Bill O'Rilley calls "culture warriors" in a recent book by that title. I have been using the old term "social entrepreneur" and even put it on my Blogger profile as an occupation. But I'm tired of the spelling challenge. So here's to those brave souls who labor for the principles that make us strong as a GROUP. More like Sarah Palin are stepping forward all the time. I have to warn you though, they won't sidle up to the powerful purse-string holders of the world. So if you are looking for pork, these folks aren't for you. But they will dedicate their fortunes and reputations to see that the 98% get an even break.

I doubt we will cover all Alaska Legislative races before November, so just get your integrity meter out and hold it up to your local candidates. Remember, office skills aren't a prerequisite for the makings of a good Legislator. Integrity is though. Here's a look at some races, starting with that dynamo Charlie Davidson, who is running against a pretty much do-nothing candidate in Kodiak.

"Davidson also touched on seafood rationalization, calling the privatization of king crab that took place in recent years “a travesty of justice.”
Davidson said he believes regulations put in place by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council should one day be overturned in the courts.
Stevens was not asked to address the issue directly when it was his turn to take questions."

I'm sure Stevens wiggled his way out of that situation. How could he answer a question about how he views "rationalization" when he stood by and allowed it to happen all around Kodiak (while he sat in Juneau)? And when 98% of his constituents oppose "rationalization." Oh, I forgot, Sen. Gary Stevens of Kodiak used to be a processing plant manager. You know, steeped in the plant management culture of "take a little then they're not looking and give a little when they are." All I have to say is, coastal communities better take a second look at local politicians who have a seafood processing background. It's like inviting Don Corleone to run your bingo game. You aren't going to want what comes next.

In the Governor's race, Halcro minces no words in his disapproval of Tony Knowles' past performance. In particular, his lack of a stand on anything of consequence. Many percieve him to be a shadowy figure who attempted to avoid controversy by going with the strongest gust of wind at the moment. Most Alaskans will never know how he stood in the way of a solid 36 to 4 Legislative move to balance the budget. And how he stood back and watched, even helped, the process of handing over the ownership of the living marine resources in the EEZ to foreign and Seattle corporations.

"Halcro feels a governor should show strong leadership in dealing with the Legislature, and he faults Knowles for not doing enough of this. For example, he would signal early on that he would veto bills as a way to get legislators to fashion bills in a more acceptable way. "You have to get out in front of the process. You have to stand up and bring in the public to influence the Legislature," he said."

Good, Andy, but it's not a novel concept. When you get unbiased media, finally, like AlaskaReport, and have a heart to help, giving the public the heads up on bills in progress in Juneau is exactly the kind of thing we do. And "bringing in the public to influence the Legislature" isn't going to happen in a Governor's busy schedule. That sounds like a "campaign promise." And we all know how far you can throw a campaign promise. It's the media's job to do this, it's just that the media drops the ball. We already "see through a glass darkly," so there's no reason to keep any more of the truth from the public.

There's an immense amount of damage control that now needs to be done in Juneau to salvage what recent Governors and Legislators have wrought. Alaska has enough trouble without trying to play catch-up. But bringing the process into the open, puts all of us in the position of problem solver. Nothing like honest media to usher in honest government. Without Ben Stevens to suck up to in Juneau, maybe the Legislature will get real, even if many of them do make it past November.

Whether or not any of us columnists individually continue contributing to this pro-bono public advocacy site, the site's future rests on continued unvarnished truth and perceptive analysis. All of us are writing from a perspective we feel strongly about and the combination goes a long way toward cleaning the windows of public policy making. For example, the Governor is holding a Salmon Confab in early October in Anchorage. Well, you have to get an invite. Is all you get out of something like that is another meeting of the self-agrandizement society.

That greatest of all "culture warriors," Mahatma Ghandi, said it takes faith and courage. The current Pope says it takes faith and reason. I think Ghandi just assumed people were reasonable. You can't assume that anymore. When you have entire legislative bodies that keep a sharper eye out for their perks than the free enterprise system, you gotta get your sights up above the crowd and look for stand-outs.

Charlie Davidson in Kodiak is one, Sarah Palin of course is one, Mark Stoupha in Juneau is one, Shawn Dochterman in Kodiak is one, but he's not running for any office. Stephen Tauphen and myself have been active "culture warriors" for fifteen years in the fisheries in Alaska. John Finley in Kodiak is one, who goes back to the great privatization of salmon in the early 70s, Dennis Zaki, our intrepid webmaster is one, Terry Haines is one. Terry just needs to feel a little prostate irritation, to see his mortality, to crank up his writing. That sounds familiar. LOL

Found a mother lode of culture warriors here. These are the guys that I wrote my original white paper for, entitled Small Seafood Processors Association. Well, it went into the Legislative Black Hole of Good Ideas and never came out in one piece. Sorry guys.