Monday, November 27, 2006

"Hook, Line and Trawler:"

The rest of the title to the paper, referred to in my title is: "Gear Impacts and International Cooperation in the Bering Sea."

I took this picture of a Russian research vessel in Dutch Harbor in 1991. The Mayor at the time, Paul Fuhs, used to really roll out the red carpet for visiting Russian ships.

And predictably, the environmental group who authored it is really down on bottom trawling for it's known adverse impact on the environment. They also point out similar problems on both sides of the Bering Sea with business interests influencing fisheries management. In particular, the lack of a strict conflict-of-interest clause in the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

This paper is a good start in understanding the complexities of maintaining healthy marine resources in the Bering Sea, the "fish basket" of the U.S. We need more understanding by a lot more folks before we get a handle on some of the problems facing the fisheries. This paper doesn't address more recent data on the movement of fish populations northward toward Russian waters, much to the chagrin of the pollock trawlers. But maybe to the joy of P. cod fishermen out of Nome who have been seeing an influx of the species up there in recent years.

Back in 1990-91 and scientists were telling me some areas of the Bering Sea were 4 degrees F. warmer than usual. The only reason we're now saying the sky is falling is because there is no denying it anymore. The guys in Nome find they have to learn to skip from ice floe to ice floe over the water on their snow machines to keep doing what they do. (That's not unusual though, some guys have been running up and down the Stikine River with paddle-tracks on their machines for years. Maybe a new type snow machine/jet ski combination is needed if the Arctic is going to keep on melting.)

Back then a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers guy told me, "you can't say that," about rising sea levels. I wasn't going to anyway, because of such a slow process. But what about all the federal fisheries management folks who say the same thing about fisheries issues? In the first case it was a giant breakwater project that started and finished. In the second case it is a daily occurence in federal fisheries management. Just watch how all the "elephants in the room" are ignored, or not seen, in the upcoming North Pacific Fisheries Management Council meeting. There are solutions, but they won't come from Washington D.C. or through the conflicted interests that make up the Council. They will come from people who hold entrepreneurship and free enterprise for everyone, and the whole of the ecosystem, above all else.

The State of Alaska did hire some other economists to take a crack at Gulf of Alaska fisheries management issues. I hear that the State made reference to them in a paper of their own, and maybe a few quotes, but that's about all. Putting the full text of these outside economists' papers on the Internet doesn't seem to be on the menu at this time. We have known that transparency was one of the missing planks in Murkowski's platform. It was one of the ones that made such a hole that the Governor fell completely through.

We could also use a little more transparency on the $27 million that was given to "Trevor McCabe and Alaska Fisheries M." That's all the information you'll get when you do a search of public records. (This search result was produced as a project of OMB Watch. The data was obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau's Federal Assistance Award Data System (FAADS)). I'm going to guess that this is part of the $38 million or so that Sen. Ted Stevens sent to his former aide in Alaska. He may call it pork for his state, but only about $2.5 million was made available from the private non-profit Alaska Fisheries Marketing Board to the public. I understand that you couldn't even get Trevor McCabe, et al. on the phone.

The Heritage Foundation says there is no information on where pork comes from and where it goes, just a partial reference, like the one above. No wonder the GAO can't find where $28 billion went to. They did have a novel idea though. You just write to a paper pledging to follow one piece of pork through the whole process. They just can't stand this scruitiny, so the project suddenly dissappears. Kind of like turning on the lights in a cheap Florida motel and watching the cockroaches scatter. Anyone want to follow the D.C. outfit that is getting a quarter of a million dollars to teach Jazz in Alaska public schools?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Russian fishermen need RSDAs too

"Through a translator, the fishermen described problems with poachers, who take salmon roe and discard the rest of the fish, and with regulations that allot a certain amount of fish, and a particular location, to fishermen.

Purse seiner cruising by the mouth of a salmon stream with power skiff in the water behind. (Not my picture)

They wondered why Sweet and Gudmundson cut off and discarded the heads, and whether they saved the milt from the male fish. Apparently milt is sold in frozen blocks in Russia."

So, why are Russian fishermen saying that some of our cherished management tools are "problems" for them? I think the incoming administration in Alaska will finally get to the bottom of these kinds of things. There was an operation in a fish plant in Juneau that processed salmon eggs that had been "stripped" from chum salmon in Sitka. "Legal poaching" I suppose, and not that long ago. A lot of other roe fisheries take place in Alaska, and I'm not sure if fishermen get what they should for the flesh of the fish.

The U.S. fishing and processing family in the above linked article said: “We wanted to retain the value of the fish, maintain high quality, stabilize our means … and we wanted our work to be meaningful, so it’s not just a job.” I interviewed this family last spring in the course of my blogging. They were getting $4.25 a pound for their sockeye as opposed to about 55 cents a pound fishermen get from the processors in Bristol Bay. They told me they wouldn't sell their fish to the local plant if their life depended on it. It's a lot more work, of course, and a lot more skills are required.

This family fishes out of Petersburg, AK in the summer and processes in two standard 40 foot shipping containers; one for processing and one for freezing and storage. When they get the cold one full, they ship it to Bellingham Cold Storage and put another one in it's place. Then they spend the winter "down south" selling their "pack." That's where the Russians caught up with them.

It's funny that these Russians had to go through an environmental organization to get the straight scoop on "best practices" in the U.S. salmon fishing industry. Is what would be really funny is if these Russians caught on to the Regional Seafood Development Association idea and ran with it and blazed the trail for the fledgling Alaskan RSDAs. It might be a problem for Alaska's RSDAs when top flight wild salmon products start showing up on the U.S. market from Russia. This might turn into a race for the wild salmon market, but that wouldn't be all that bad. It might take a spark like this for Alaskan salmon fishermen to exert themselves.

Here's something else the Russians might think about. Creating a few off-limits areas. I haven't studied all the ins and outs of this idea, but it's cropping up all over the place: Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Glacier Bay National Park, U.S. East and West Coasts, the coral forests in the Aleutian Chain. The idea is to have more areas reserved to provide seed-stock for the open areas, and maintain biodiversity that more research is showing is so necessary for commercial stocks. And for sportsmen fishing nearby, it means some real lunkers.

I think the real story is about fishermen getting involved and not just bumping into a "code group" buddy on the street and asking who to vote for or what plant is paying the most. Working through an RSDA gives the fisherman the most say, without having to have all the skills needed to control his destiny. Folks in Alaska are finding out that the "association concept" is too democratic to take over as a personal fiefdom, like so many other fishermen's groups have been. It's been tried already and they just bounced off like it's got bouy-bags all around it.

You get RSDAs without ulterior motives or you don't get one at all, because they are the only fishing industry trade associations monitored by state government. One thing all fishermen have on board, whether American or Russian, is a good "integrity meter." This is like most fishing industry stories, there's a story, inside the story, inside the story, and it's not for the faint hearted to sort them out.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

"Stopped by a shoal of salmon," (Captain Cook)

“‘But you also have to have good management of marine parks and good management of fisheries.
Clearly, fishing should not wreck the ecosystem, bottom trawling being a good example of something which does wreck the ecosystem.’

This lone hotel on the Astoria, OR waterfront is testimony to the wisdom of short term profit taking by the big fish companies as well as "ecological macular degeneration."

“But, he says, the concept of protecting fish stocks by protecting biodiversity does make sense. ‘This is a good compelling case; we should protect biodiversity, and it does pay off even in simple monetary terms through fisheries yield.’”
Protecting stocks demands the political will to act on scientific advice – something which Boris Worm finds lacking in Europe, where politicians have ignored recommendations to halt the iconic North Sea cod fishery year after year. Without a ban, scientists fear the North Sea stocks could follow the Grand Banks cod of eastern Canada into apparently terminal decline.

Of all the dozens of articles I've seen on the "Boris Worm Report" this one was worth reading. It invokes a righteous indignation over the cavilier way the fish stocks are treated. Granted there are accidents. Like when the Canadians blew part of the mountainside into the Frazer River and killed off a run estimated to be over 100 million sockeye a year. Or when Captain Cook tried to sail up the Amur River in the Russian Far East and was "stopped by a shoal of salmon." Well, Cook might not have killed them off with that ramming as much as Stalin did by ordering larger canned packs every year.

You won't find the real story of what is happening in my favorite part of the world, the North Pacific, in the government documents. You won't see that trawlers are known to catch the wrong school of fish because their sonar can't tell fish apart. Some fishermen can tell them by the shape of the schools and the intensity of the echo. But how many deck loads of king salmon or cod ends full of herring have to be brought up dead and thrown back before government does something, or at least acknowledges it happens.

The amount of king salmon caught and thrown back every year that IS reported is between 200,000 and 300,000 individuals. This is largely a self monitoring system. The North Pacific Fisheries Management Council, which is made up of company representatives and lobbyists, rubber stamp the figures instead of doing any more investigation. Granted, you wouldn't put a dent in the pollock stocks without midwater trawls. Bottom trawls are a different matter entirely, and the Gulf of Alaska Rockfish Pilot Program is all about turning them loose en-mass.

We are heading into a brief window of opportunity before Christmas for Republicans to do their worst and ram a Reauthorization of the "200 mile limit law" down our throats that guts the free enterprise system in fisheries. "Craig Pendleton, a Saco fisherman who heads the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, said Allen has emerged as leader in the House on fisheries issues. He has been pushing national policy standards that would protect New England's fisheries from being taken over by corporate fishing interests if individual fishermen are allotted annual catch quotas."

This is what the American public was talking about. Corruption run rampant to the demise of our basic institutions, such as fishing fleets and communities that support them. Sure a couple of gigantic ships can catch all the fish that a whole fleet can and save all that fuel, but that's not what the public said it wanted. Especially in Alaska. Hear that Ted? But like I was just reading about the Concentration Camps in Germany, there are plenty of willing people acting as "kapos." They serve those in control, and in the current case, that would be the large corporations.

Unwitting reporters quote them all the time, because it's the kapo's job to control the "population" by pretending to be on the same side of the fence. One of the most egregious of these in the current fight for and against freedom in the fishing industry is none other than The Marine Conservation Alliance. They apparently believe that if the MSA isn't reauthorized before the next session of Congress, "the Democrats won't get anything." Newsflash, they will get plenty. They will save the free enterprise system in the fishing industry. The problem lies in the fact that reportors don't know who the "kapos" are. They are well disguised, cloaked in many high-faluti'n sounding organization names, personally flaunting impressive sounding titles. Eventually we'll expose all of them for what they really are.

The fishing industry isn't the only battlefield in corporate largess vs humanity. Last year Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005, establishing 3,500 foot wide "energy corridors" all over 11 Western states. They amount to an area about the size of four Rhode Islands. They go through pristine wilderness that drains into salmon streams and rivers. There are already 200 foot wide corridors for power lines. What in tarnation do the power companies need corridors two thirds of a mile wide for? They could build a town up on top of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument for example and let the crud flow down into the Rogue and Klamath Rivers. Well maybe that's a stretch, but you can be sure power companies don't care for anything but their bottom line, and contributing to the hand that feeds them.

I did a report with my son when he was in Dallas High on this kind of thing. Of grave concern is cutting migration routes for wildlife, not to mention clearcutting down to the grass on an Amazonian scale. Nationwide, they will impact 286 special places like this. The energy companies already are going to get some $28 billion in tax breaks, but now will have the ability to access the Federal Government's emminent domain powers. Hope your Indian village or ranch isn't in their way.

These may be the last big grab efforts of the waning Republicans, and a desperate and hurried effort to appease the corporations that kept them in power, and would keep supporting them. I predict that in the not-to-distant future, a couple of years, we'll have software that can rate the justifications for these "grabs" by probability of "correctness." Otherwise known as the "B.S. Meter."

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sarah Palin vs Goliath

Ted Stevens will probably tell Sarah Palin to "butt-out" in regards to his work to shovel the value of Alaska's marine resources to the big multi-national fish processors. How they are going to reconcile their differences is anyone's guess. I suspect Sarah will hold her ground.

We just hope and pray that the Washington delegation will have the dignity to honor the will of the people of Alaska like they themselves had just been elected. After all, Sarah is a Republican too. And it's not her against them. It's the majority hiring someone to carry out their will and she will have plenty of help from people just like her.

This letter just arrived in my mail. People are really sour on Alaska politicians' past performance as you'll see. John McCain is pretty sour too. Happy reading:

The people of Alaska have spoken loud and clear, and I for one could not be happier. In looking at the turnout and the polling of voters, -people were voting against "corruption", and against the party incumbents that are linked to this system of corruption. People had to vote for anyone but a Republican in other states. Tony Knowles, as a 2 term former Governor, and strongly being endorsed by Veco, seemed to be too much of an insider.

Here in Alaska we had the opportunity to cast a Republican vote that spoke just as loudly against corruption, just as strongly against the party insiders. Palin is clearly not an insider and just as clearly her frank low key, anti-hype made her stronger - she did not promise the moon. So I really do believe her when she spoke out against Processor Quota systems -she did this early in her campaign, at some risk, and stood by her words. She said that separating Alaskan fishing families from the resources was inherently wrong.

While she was in Kodiak she listened to the locals explaining the irrationality of the Processors owning both the quota shares and the huge numbers of boats, and of their having total ownership of the pollock stocks. Many, including Trident's Chuck Bundrant, were frantically trying to undermine her chances of being elected. Our new Governor has a good chance of returning a fair playing field to all Alaskans, by allowing them to catch fish and crab without being ordered to sell their catch to the chosen few (at what ever low price they think their high priced lawyer/higher priced lobbyist think they can force down our throats by "fair arbitration").

Hell, I don't want or need arbitration, just give me back the American right of free enterprise that we had until that bastard Ted Stevens stole it in the middle of the night. One can only hope his son will spend a long time in jail. Who would have thought that fishemen could have been reduced to sharecroppers to the Multinational Corporations by buying one Senator. And I was so naïve I thought he was representing Alaska, not Japan.

No one has yet told me why these huge companies like Trident, Nippon Suisan and Maruha need protection. They are vertically integrated mega-companies! Why does a company that already owns fleets of crab boats and huge pollock trawlers, very large factory ships, freight vessels and shore-based plants, that is the sole shore based operator in a required landing area for both fish or crab, need protection from an Alaskan fisherman selling his own fish or crab? How about it Chuck ?What about you "Uncle" Ted ?

The current Halibut and Black Cod IFQ program is working fine- in fact it is about the only good success story in the fisheries. If you have to give fish to fisherman vs open system then less market manipulation is far better for the people of Alaska. Companies like Trident Seafoods, which has the only plant in St. Paul, (and the only plant in Akutan, and the only plant in Sand Point, and owns both plants in Chignik), benefit from actual laws (made by earmarks) requiring all boats in the area to land crab there. How can this be?

How much money is lost to the Alaskan economy through low prices to fishermen? Just look at all the small towns that are shrinking. I would bet that if one charted the increasing number of Ted's earmarks in this arena against the decreasing price of fish, or with the decreasing opportunities to sell fish, or with the decreasing population of these towns, or with the decreasing number of independent, working Alaskan fishermen (vs. large company-employed men) - the inverse correlation would be obvious.

It is currently against the law for a crab fisherman NOT to sell his crab to one of these companies. In fact he has to agree to sell without negotiating a price. Only after after the season has started does he(maybe) get a soft price. If he does not like it his only option is arbitration - he cannot find another buyer to sell his crab to - EVER.

People outside the industry do not believe this - fishermen who have been working for 35 years, building up relationships and business savvy, can no longer sell their own crab to anyone not on the list. This list is now very, very short. I am sure the Russians have more freedom today than an Alaskan crab fisherman. Thanks Ted. I hope your boss Chuck got you a good Christmas bonus. Now, greedier than ever, these same companies are trying to jam through the Gulf of Alaska Processor-Controlled Groundfish Program (they keepchanging the name because Crab Ratz is so hated.)

People ask me what can a governor do? Consider the bills passed through Ted's earmarks - are they legal? Very likely all kinds of constitutional rights have been taken away from the people of Alaska. At the only hearing on Crab Ratz, which was invitational only. Even fellow Republican Senator McCain took action when he tried to stop Ted Stevens at that hearing, saying , "I do not see how creating Soviet style oligarchies would help Alaska, I thought we were against this kind of thing. Read what John McCain had to say here in opposition to Processing Quota

The Governor can and should order the vast legal resources of the state to investigate- and if appropriate- to bring suit against the companies controlling the markets in such an obvious way. (In these remote areas it is these same companies that set the price of fuel and bait, etc. Try fishing a small boat in the winter in Sand Point if you have butted heads with Chuck.) With the utmost respect to Governor Palin, and acknowledging what I am sure is an already full plate, I offer for her consideration- The Ten Best Steps the New Governor Could Do For Alaska:

1) Ask for resignation of all Alaska State employees, cabinet members,commissioners, Bridge Authority members, etc., who have been given a raise in the last 100 days. Remove all state officials that went on the last big junket to Asia last week with Frank.
2) Ask for the resignation of the North Pacific Fisheries ManagementCouncil members that are under control of the processor cartel, starting with the chairwoman, Stephanie Madsen, appointed by the former Governor of Alaska. Then move on to David Benson who tries to hide his real employer by listing LFS on his council seat listing (LFS is wholly ownedby Trident Seafoods) since it no longer behooves him to call himself"governmental advisor for Trident".
3) Ask for NOAA to reconsider appointing recently-submitted Gerry Merrigan from Prowler Fisheries, as the co-owners John Winther and BartEaton are obviously closely related to Trident. Eaton is a partner of Trident.
4) Get a group of Alaskans that have no ties to the processors, and that cannot be bribed, to review and revise a fishery task force. Ask them to look into all regulations and red tape, and to answer why less than 14% of the fish currently harvested in Alaska is harvested by Alaskans.
5) Ask the IRS to work with MARD and with investigators from the State of Alaska to investigate how 3 large Japanese Seafood conglomerates, Maruha, Nippon Suisan and Nichero (through dummy corporations) came to own approximately 50% of the boats and of the pollock and crab quotas in the Bering Sea.
6) Replace the North Pacific Council members with active fishers.
7) Remove the head of Alaska Department of Fish and Game, McKie Cambell,who has been pushing openly for processors quotas and linkages, as it is(or should be) a crime for someone in his position to interfere with free enterprise.
8) Remove the oil company-related lawyers who are using the same political tactics as in the fishing industry, i.e.many of the top spots are taken by former oil industry lawyers , or wives of existing top oil company officials. The Alaskan people have had enough of the foxes guarding the hen house. Start with throwing out the Alaska Attorney General, David W. Marquez , 20 year employee and former Vice President and Chief Counsel of ARCO Alaska.
9) Charge the new Fisheries Task Force with looking into the salmon industry, the total control of the industry that has been gained through carefully manipulated processor consolidation. Of 280+ permit holders in Prince William Sound, now only about a third get to actually fish, and even then they are told when, where, and how much to catch. Why not just return to fish traps?
10) Clean house in the corrupt Republican Party Good Old Boy Club. Start by investigating the Crab Ratz money scandal, the insider land-buying deals both in Seward Sea Life Center and in the MacKenzie Point group, the Adak pollock scandal, and the reason why the state made not one charge in the biggest and longest illegal crab purchasing operation in the history of Alaska. This illegal action by the son of the man that made the very laws being broken. Think how many times Ted has publicly said his son was an expert in "crabbing".

How could Ben Stevens, as the chief officer of the company that circumvented laws for more than a year, not even be charged? Who intervened on his behalf, and how did they do it? Has the 3.4 Million Dollar fine ever been paid?Let's clean up our state, it can only be done from the top down with fearless leadership. We have seen what happens when the elected arrogantly think they and their children are privliged. Now we will have the chance.

Tony, when asked about Crab Ratz problems, said he would solve them by giving a million dollars or more to the Alaska Crab Coalition "to better market the crab." What a load of crap. How would giving money to a group owned and controlled by the crab processors help the independent fisherman? Remember, there was no problem for the last 30 years before the "Ted earmarked crab rider" known as Crab Ratz. Besides being Governor when Crab Ratz came into law, Tony also appointed Ben Stevens to his first seat after Ted arranged to have Drue Pierce promoted toWashington D.C.

Fisherman technically have the right to sell 10% of their crab elsewhere, but this is misleading and so small a percentage to be of not much actual value. Kodiak is the only port that has independent crab buyers, but as everyone knows you cannot afford to run all the way back to Kodiak with just 10% of a load after you have sat around waiting to offload, the deadloss would be huge. There is, in fact, no open market.

Crab Processor Quota Rider Statement by Senator John McCain.

"One of these policy riders is language that authorizes the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands crab fisheries "rationalization" plan, which would divide 90% of that crab market among just a small group of processors. Under the provision, fishermen could only sell this crab to those few processors and, in turn, only those processors would sell to consumers. This legislative language has not been considered by the authorizing committees of jurisdiction, nor requested by the Administration.

Mr. President, this provision raises serious antitrust concerns. Again, it would require -- not simply allow, but require -- that crab fishermen sell 90 percent of their crab harvests to pre-determined processing companies. This precedent-setting action would violate anti-trust laws, limit competition in this seafood sector, and ultimately hurt fishermen and consumers. Fishermen around the nation have expressed strong opposition to this provision, as have at least a dozen newspaper editorial boards.

Before I go any further, I want to clarify the difference between "fishing quotas" and "processing quotas." Fishing quotas are allocation tools that allow fishermen to catch a certain portion of the overall allowable harvest. Fishermen could determine when and under what conditions to fish with such quotas, and fishing quotas have been widely recognized to benefit fishermen, the environment, and consumers. In contrast, processing quotas would allocate buying rights for the crab catch among a handful of processing companies, so that each would be guaranteed to receive a certain percent of the overall harvest.

Regardless of how efficient these processors are or what kind of price they are offering, they would have guaranteed market share. Under this plan, it would be illegal for fishermen to take their crab to other processors. Mr. President, this language could have far-reaching consequences, yet it was included in this "must pass" bill without ever having been considered or debated by the committee of jurisdiction, the Commerce Committee.

Fishermen throughout the nation object to the crab plan's individual processing quotas (IPQs) because the precedent-setting nature of this action could lead to IPQs in the processing sector of other fisheries. Indeed, "crab" boat owners and crew from all over the country– even from Arizona – have voiced their opposition to this proposal. I am aware of at least one crab fisherman who owns a fishing boat and a "catcher-processor" boat. He objects to this policy rider because it would make it illegal for him to sell his own catch to himself, so that the catch from his fishing boat could be processed on his processing boat.

According to the National Research Council (NRC), the General AccountingOffice (GAO), and the Department of Justice Antitrust Division, fishermen's concerns about IPQs are clearly justified. The 1999 NRC publication, "Sharing the Fish," found no "compelling reason to establisha separate, complementary processor quota system" to accompany an Individual Fishing Quota program. These findings were echoed by the GAO in its December 2002 report on IFQs, which failed to find that IFQ programs resulted in harmful impacts on processors in the halibut and sablefish fisheries that would warrant creation of an IPQ program.

Furthermore, on August 27, 2003, the Assistant Attorney General of the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division wrote a letter to the General Counsel of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(NOAA), in which he opposed the IPQ provisions of the "crab" plan, stating "processor quotas are not justified by any such beneficial competitive purpose" and that "The Department urges NOAA to oppose IPQ."

While the fisherman are up in arms, the processors are already counting their chickens, or in this case, "crab" harvests, and in turn, their profits. That is because the percent of the harvest that they will be able to process in the future is based on how much they have processed in the past under the free market environment. Regardless of future operational efficiency, supply and demand, or any other real-world factors, these processors will be guaranteed their allocation into perpetuity.

Consider, for example, one company that recently has processed roughly 20 percent of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands crab. This provision will assure that company continues to receive 20 percent of future harvests – worth on the order of tens of millions of dollars annually. Mr. President, for centuries, fishermen have used market forces to negotiate their dockside prices, and this has had the effect of maintaining competition and benefitting consumers. Processor quotas throw and enormous wrench in the free market machinery.

In addition to affecting the price-setting process, the "crab" IPQ plan also would effectively prevent new processors from entering the industry. If anyone wants to enter the processing sector, they would need to buy the processing rights from the few processors who would have processing quota. Considering all these facts, the Administration has officially stated its opposition to IPQs, as reported in the Sacramento Bee, Kodiak Daily Mirror, Anchorage Daily News, and Seattle Times.

The Administration's proposed language for amending the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act clearly specifies that processors could own fishing quota, but does not propose a separate quota system divvying up processor quotas. As I said earlier, let me also mention that the editorial boards from at least 12 major newspapers – the Washington Post, Washington Times, Boston Globe, Oregonian, Anchorage Daily News, Los Angeles Times, Honolulu Advertiser, Daily Astorian, Seattle Times, SeattlePost-Intelligencer, Portland Press Herald in Maine, and the Tampa Tribune – have come out against IPQs. Note that these newspapers include the entire west coast – even Alaska and Hawaii. I am submitting these for the record."

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Separation of Fish and State

There is a movement in California that espouses Separation of Oil and State. The goal is to get politicians to quit taking money from oil companies, or at least admit that they do. Diane Feinstien wasn't able to admit that she takes oil money and was noted that for the first time in the observer's recollection, she actually looked at her feet and seemed "small." Is this what the Democrats mean by taking the oil industry to task now?

Speaking of small, if you blink flying over Port Heiden, you'll miss it.

Now that the gate is open, we might as well let them all out to pasture: Separation of Pharmaceuticals and State, Separation of Construction and State, etc. Well, personally, I think I'll just focus on Separation of Fish and State for now. It might be shooting a little high to try fix our "paid-for politics" all at once. And, yes, the Democrats have their Santa Clauses too.

Getting back to fish, "State" also includes the processing sector and those fishermen that they "own." “The commercial sector provides a range of tangible values to society such as providing a steady supply of fish to the community which in turn enhances the overall health benefits to society* that accrue from the regular consumption of seafood,” said Mr Barratt.

Dan Ogg is a former legislator who got three key pieces of fisheries legislation on the books. And they included the bill that enabled the Regional Seafood Development Associations. They are forming up like clockwork, in Alaska and with any luck, they will be models for other regions of the country. They will take the pressure off the Fishery Management Councils, and doubly so when they get their act together enough to work with scientists directly. I admit I'm a little biased, because I wrote the White Paper that got the first bill on the topic written in the early '90s.

I also have a speech to the Kodiak Borough Assembly by Stephen Taufen on Gulf of Alaska "Rationalization." Ya gotta listen to Stephen, because he's been following the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council proceedings like a bloodhound for 15 years, as a first rate fish accountant and culture warrior. I guarantee he's been like "white on rice" on these issues like I have been on the RSDA issues. Here it is:

Kodiak Island Borough regular meeting of Thursday, November 2, 2006
3-minute Public Comment – GOA Task Force Resolution FY2007-12

"Good evening, I’m Stephen Taufen of the Groundswell Fisheries Movement. And I just talked to some guys out on a crab boat, where rule number one is ‘stay on the deck.’ But it looks like the GOA Task Force has built quite the plank for you to walk. And it’s interesting to see some of you are already in the water, struggling.
And this resolution and much of what is said seems, if I may say it, just a bit too provincial, given these are national fisheries.
Maybe all this goes back to where we started? So I’d like to tell you that in the early 1970’s, as a geographer I studied African diamonds, the Hawaii Big 5 cartel, and other historical cases of “rationalizations”.
And the global definition of rationalization was the destruction of local, sustainable, multi-species, diverse agricultural systems and related businesses. Replacing them with a mono-culture agriculture system that is owned by distant corporations and their shareholders. That turns what were once self-sustaining small businesses in a region into mere wage earners, it indentures them to those distant owners. And it removes the reasons for careful conservation and the preservation of local businesses.
It’s a distinct and destructive form of capitalism, …it’s Corporatism, …or just plain greed. That’s why the large corporations and their lobbyists who want it are the only ones here squealing when our community and people won’t allow such a takeover. And they are here giving you glowing versions of the task force’s results that are really just a faction’s consensus.
The Rational Price is the Competitive Price! But their first two recommendations are anti-competitive, and totally inflexible. Remember, it’s competition that is flexible. And you were also sworn into office with a pledge to obey both the state and federal constitutions. And that means Equality, Due Process, and protecting against Indentured Servitude, and the state requirements for ‘common use’ of resources.
Also, the Fishery Conservation and Management Act goes back to the Laws of the Sea Conferences of the 1960’s and 1970’s. The United States does not even OWN these world fisheries. It merely has a stewardship control over them. So, I think you’ll find, in the end, that the allocations of these resources to major global corporations, especially through processor quotas, directly violates the World Trade Organization’s restrictions against nations subsidizing particular corporations – as monopolies – to be the winners in trade.
I think that’s where we are headed, in the end, and that all this will be declared illegal at some point. So I hope that you keep all of this in mind as you deliberate further. And thanks for all of your careful consideration of the issues. We appreciate your efforts."

AlaskaReport's server crashed the other day when the site got overwhelmed Monday by 44,000 unique visitors. That amounted to 308,000 page views and maybe millions of hits. It's incredible to me, since the town I grew up in might sell that many newspapers in a year. What I don't understand is Alaska advertisers' reluctance to use websites like this one to get their message out, especially if it's a product. Maybe all the fuss had partly to do with that story about my son helping capture Saddam Hussein the day after he was sentenced.

I need to add a comment about this news article: In it, the optimists, on fish surviving our manipulations, cite the rockfish as the one species off the Oregon and Washington coast that fishing is not allowed on at all. And much of the fuss in the North Pacific Council and Congress is over plans to TARGET GULF OF ALASKA ROCKFISH, WITH FACTORY BOTTOM-TRAWLERS. So in one sentence you have three red flags: those rockfish that live as long as humans, factory ships, and bottom trawlers. Wow, what a combination. Just throw the word ecosystem right out the window.

Those rockfish the big companies want are mixed up down there with everything else: two dozen other species of rockfish, bottom cruising king salmon(it's the best hunting down there), forests of sealife attached to the bottom, other commercial species like halibut and black cod, etc. This is what that article in Science Magazine on Nov. 3 was talking about. But the crux of the matter is the corporate people who are making the laws on the F.M. Councils are just trying to maximize their profits. Heck, realtors charge whatever the market will bear, why shouldn't these fish companies try to get whatever they can too? And is it their fault politicians take their money? Keeping politicians from these fish companies' money would be a great boon to fish. Any lawmaker of any stripe that has taken fish company money should be sidelined from making fish laws.

The fledgling movement of collaboration between scientists and fishermen, like in the Oregon troll fleet, and fishermen with fishermen in the RSDAs, is all that is important. All the rest of this fisheries jousting is just entertainment. I think we should put out all the banners and blow trumpets every time there's a North Pacific Fisheries Management Council Meeting. Up till now, the Black Knight has been cleaning everyone's clock. More specifically, cleaning out the ocean.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The "Mother of all Raids": one Alaskan's role

I'll never forget Jesse standing on the railing of the Blind Slough Bridge on Mitkof Island, Alaska and his grandfather commenting on him being "fearless." He was younger and less hesitant than I was when I started jumping off the bridge as a kid in the 50s.

The Academy Jesse went to in Anchorage as a boy.

And I'll never forget how he loved to talk to retired men at gas stations on the highways in Alaska when he was only a couple of feet tall. Or when he kicked Bob Clark in the shins when he was barely out of kindergarden. Bob was a 6 foot, three inch, 240 lb fellow loan officer who had thought he could make an off-color remark about Jesse and get away with it. I think courage was a gift Jesse was born with.

Jesse started going hunting with me as early as just months old. His crying didn't do much for our success bear hunting one time though. By the time he was half a year old, he was going duck hunting with us. I don't know how many miles I carried him over his first few years, but I remember carrying him 12 miles up to Petersburg Lake and back once. Nagoonberry picking, blueberry picking, hunting, fishing: Jesse did it all by the time he was two. We all enjoyed the fact that you could put him under a blueberry bush and he would lay there and occupy himself with a blueberry feast while we were free to pick for the pantry.

How he came to be on the team that was called to go pick up Saddam Hussein when he got to Iraq was not surprising to me. He commercially fished on a limit seiner out of Petersburg for a couple of years before we moved south in 2000. Then he worked as a wildfire fighter and was put on a Helitak team, also called "hotshots." Marriage brought on the responsibility to keep cash flow going at a steady clip every day of the year though, and that's when he joined the Army. And more outdoor challenges to boot.

The Fourth Infantry Division got to Iraq after the invasion of Bagdad was over. They kept on going up-country to the Sunni Triangle to bring order to the hot-bed area that Saddam was from and where he drew much of his inner-circle support. There were cousins, uncles, aunts of all stripes there by the bucket load. The army tried to make all the connections by computer, but a simulation of the connections was too mind boggling. They finally put up pictures of everyone on a wall and drew lines to Saddam. There were five main families who were close to him, so by rounding up the bodyguards and others who were helping and had helped Saddam, it was thought they would eventually get the No. 1 in the deck of most wanted.

It was the other deck of cards, the ones on all the bodyguards and others, that Jesse had in his pocket the day he ran down a suspect that had jumped out the back window when they busted in the front door. Jesse had liked to play football, and he also had gone to a Christian School in Anchorage, AK, so running the guy down instead of shooting him didn't surprise me. The chase was over fences and back yards of Tikrit for five blocks. When Jesse had him on the ground and had plastic wire ties on his wrists, he turned the guy over and checked his deck and sure enough he had a "wanted."

Jesse was in a Recon platoon and slept on the hood of his Humvee mostly. (I used to kid him that his job was to sneak up and paint red circles on the backs of the enemy.) In fact they had gone slightly wild and got kicked out of at least one mess tent when they were "in town." He had been pulled in to help with the "roundup" in Tikrit and at one point had been in on 80 live captures. Donald Rumsfeld came to Iraq to stress that finding Saddam was a high priority politically. The troops started looking in the sewers, the fields, everywhere. Earlier, on the Fourth of July, Jesse was slogging through fields in the dark in 115 degree heat, with a 100 pound pack, looking for weapons caches. That will always mean a lot to me.

I watched the History Channel's production of the whole capture last night, so had the rest of the story to go with what I'd already heard. Jesse's tales corroberated the History Channel's. From the time the Army got the tip that Saddam was in a house on the other side of the Tigris river from Tikrit to the time they got there it was an hour and a half. The troops only took 45 minutes to get there for their part. There was only time for a bunch of Special Forces guys and three platoons to scramble. There was a batallion coming behind them though.

What the History Channel didn't tell was that the actual capture amounted to Special Forces going to the house, and the three platoons of Regular Army forming a perimeter around the house to watch their backs. It was the guys Jesse was with that caught Saddam's two bodyguards coming through the perimeter. They had the nighvision equipment so it was no trouble seeing a warm body in the black dark. They called in what they had to the Special Forces guys, who then searched about every square inch of the house and it's surroundings. They had found things in the house and a vent pipe along side a tree. That's when they found the spider hole.

It was a whole lot of detective work and a Division-wide "git 'er done" attitude that found Saddam Hussein. I'm real proud of my son's involvement and his watching one of the most despotic dictators in history being loaded in a chopper to go to jail. I want to record here some of the names of the officers and men and women I saw on the History Channel program, the ones I could write down quick enough: Major General Ray Odierno, Col. James Hickey, Col. Steve Russell, Major Stan Murphy, Captain Tim Morrow, Sgt. Brian Grey, Angela Santana at Batallion HQ and a Sgt. Major Wilson. Hopefully I haven't botched their ranks and names too bad.

There were a lot of names that Jesse threw out, as did the TV program: Special Forces Commander, Raider Brigade, the Strykers, "Cesear Romero", who Saddam looked like in his "on the run look." Someone had called in that "they had Cesear Romero," and that settled who they had.

Jesse has been pretty tight lipped about the whole episode so I was surprised at the amount of detail the History Channel had come up with, and interviews they were able to get. But then he was always the master of the understatement. In Alaska you always had some wild exploit if you wanted to go out and have some fun. When you got back, it was just another day outdoors. But get a good sized Alaskan outdoorsman, mix a good dose of bravery, three parts of good judgement, one or two parts leadership, a gift for mechanical things, including uncanny hand-eye coordination, and you have the makings of a first rate international peace-keeper.

Jesse will be going back to Iraq in March of 2007 as a Sergeant instead of a Private First Class like last time. I don't know what he does, except that painting red targets on enemy backs apparently now involves him working real close with the Air Force. And this time when he goes back, I can just trust that the huge plexiglass bubble of protection for he and his buddies will still be there. I had dreamed of seeing a small row of whitewashed Mid-East style houses at night and a fifty yard in diameter bubble of protection over them with Jesse and other soldiers in there somewhere. Maybe it was a prophetic vision of the "Mother of all Raids," as the History Channel called it.

(Jesse Enge was born in Petersburg, Alaska April 28, 1982, a fifth generation of a Petersburg pioneering family. He graduated from High School in Dallas, OR. He currently lives in Lacy, WA with his wife and year and a half old son(who somehow got me on their cell phone recently and repeated "baby" over and over. He must have been imitating dad, as Jesse calls Errin "baby." Not as costly as his dad redialing a international phone number at about the same age.))

Fishermen and scientists collaborating rock

"More than 30 academics from Dalhousie and Saint Mary’s universities stood at the corner of Spring Garden Road and Robie Street in Halifax to protest Canada’s opposition to a proposed United Nations moratorium on dragging.

Last time I was in Dutch Harbor, this 32 footer was about half of the locally owned boats.

Of course, we're talking bottom trawling here. Dragging very large and heavy fishing tackle weighing tons over the ocean floor. And, the U.N. proposal is for the High Seas, the no-mans land beyond 200 miles of every nations' shore line.

Canadian fishermen don't need to worry, at the present, any more than U.S. fishermen do. But this proposal, aimed mostly at the sea-mounts of the world's oceans, sure looks like the anti-dragging movement is getting a leg up. It's always a fight it seems. Industry vs environment and everyone else. But in Boston there is a conference going on that stresses collaboration between scientists and fishermen.

"ICES, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, comprising marine scientists from around the world, is hosting a five-day symposium focusing on integrating commercial fishing and ecosystem conservation. Steve Cadrin of the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth advocates an even more holistic approach to collaborative research. Not only should fishermen operate research platforms — their vessels — they should be involved in all phases of research, from the identification of a research goal to the publication of a study’s results." National Fisherman Magazine

The reason I came back to bottom trawling today is because of a industry lobbyist for the California Wetfish Producers Association. Scientists talk their heads off to try to tell us all that biodiversity on the bottom of the ocean is not some tree-hugging fuzzy logic, but a real issue in the safety of our food supply. Then you got the lobbyists, who could care less about the food supply, but do, about the results they need to make sure that their paycheck keeps coming on time. They may not even like fish. So when a reporter tries to get the other side of the story, to be balanced, the nearest counterpoint person they lay eyes on is usually a lobbyist in these fisheries issues. They are at all the public meetings in force and doing their best to get their narrow, uneducated interests aired.

So, it really tickled me to hear of a collaborative plan that didn't include lobbyists. Just fishermen working with scientists. Sounds too good to be true. Both sides could get a little education and maybe thats whats needed to stop comments like this from the Lobbyist/Chairwoman of the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council to a stakeholder, "Don't you ever get tired of losing?" I don't even think it would matter if the fisherman was a hired skipper for a multi-national fish company, like a lot of bottom trawlers in Alaska are. The main goal is to get the people with all the knowledge of the ocean together: the fishermen and the scientists, and keep everyone else out of it.

A lot of scientists are percieved as the "protectors of nature at all costs," including livelihoods and business activity. Draggers are often percieved as thinking that the bottom is bare as a parking lot, with their target species just hovering there over the ocean floor, waiting their chance to be dinner in Manhattan. One Canadian fisherman described bottom trawling as needing to catch 750,000 pounds of unwanted fish and bottom to get 100,000 pounds of keepers. That's probably not always true. But when you are trying to feed kids at home, that other 750,000 pounds that gets tossed over the side is just slowing you down getting back for a kids soccer game. Just a part of doing business, right?

Something's gotta give. When you throw 3 billion pounds of unwanted fish over the side dead every year in U.S. waters, year after year, it's imaginable that some scientists are right in saying we'll be totally devoid of fish by 2050. It's not only bottom trawling they are worried about, but the insults to the ecosystem of pesticides and fertilizers. And the likes of that gasoline truck that spilled 40,000 gallons of gas in Mill Creek near Salem, OR, or the asphalt truck that dumped it's load of hot oily tar into the Klamath River this summer.

Oregon has a great program of taking school kids to watch salmon spawning in the nearest stream. Not easy to find them, but that's why the program is so important. If the kids see how intact the ecosystem needs to be to raise a fish, they might be inclined to want to see it stay that way for when they are older. If we all thought salmon and flounder grew in Safeway's back room, and lobbyists rock, we'd surely be living on a wasteland by 2050.

Personally, I vote for politicians who tend to listen to their constituents rather than lobbyists. I just hope we "get it" en mass before our ecosystems go over the tipping point. Here's one candidate for Kodiak that doesn't fool around when there's good fisheries legislation needing writing.