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.