Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Economic efficiency vs productive efficiency in the fisheries

Most people would be frosted by the economic gobbledygook sleight of hand the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council uses to throw everyone off balance. Economists have even been hired to spout malapropisms, and in the fog, the people paying the salaries of the Council Members got away with oceans full of fish.

Consolidation of control in the fisheries causes false economic benefit to communities, just like this picture might look like a successful hunting trip. In actuality, is all I got was a bunch of bleached bones.

One of the first malapropisms they used was the term "economic efficiency," to justify large and consolidated fishing and processing operations, controlled by the few. Market control is what they are after. It is happening all along the U.S. coasts now.

This article from back East makes a point that "economic efficiency" isn't what the tens of thousands of fishermen wanted. They just wanted to make a living, not get snookered out of a job, lose their markets, lose their boats, etc. over the misuse of economic terms.

This is what one reader wrote when I mentioned "economic efficiency."


Good on ya. Haines rocked! Hmmm, that economic efficiency argument is a simple but deceptive one. In essence, a limited supply or bundle of goods faces a demand for a product mix, demand by CUSTOMERS! Product A is highest use, greatest returns, probably an advanced product form. Product B lesser, until down the line may come Product G - ground up fricking fish flesh destined for grocery bags of meal eating carnivorous farmed fish instead of humanity - i.e. bottom trawled, squashed fish no good for anything but.
So, when I presented the reality of Economic Efficiency, that the consumer rules - not fishermen or processors, (and then only if this bundle goes to the highest use function), to the Council about a year ago, they immediately ceased talking about it thereafter. Point is, they did not want any truth to get in the way of allocating all they could to shore side plants and captive trawler fleets.

Not sure how the East Coast and others will see or use the term. It is a mess. The Council, AP and SSC testimonies were wormy with "productive efficiency" discussions, not EE ones.

And we are a sorely under capitalized industry! Not over-capitalized. We need newer tech boats, higher tech food- grade, white-capped workers, and plants you could eat off the floor in, etc. Not this old worn out mirror of an industry that Alaska thinks is food processing, as the only ones we look better than were the disease causing plants of the S.E. USA where you might as well breed flies and sell the healthy maggots.

Fishermen should want to own it from boat to tablecloth, nothing less - and take every penny along every step of the way, and make damned sure no multinational corporations (even if they form their own vertical integrated one) cheat the USA, tax evade, or otherwise act with malice, aforethought, and greed. Good lord, we are civilized enough to start acting it.

Spouting - in whale country...

Good evening!
Stay warm."

Even the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative, in it's Report to Congress, says that unregulated commercial activity affects the ocean systems such that the end result is detrimental to the maximum usefulness of the marine resources. We see such unregulated activity all the time in Alaska, whether the media tells it like it is or not, or politicians admit it or not.

The story that jumps to mind is back when Kodiak had a healthy king crab resource and the National Marine Fisheries Service said that mature male king crab don't do the breeding. Hence these individuals were targeted by the commercial fleet. A renown local diver went into the NMFS offices in Kodiak and reported that they were dead wrong since he continued to see just the opposite. The Feds escorted him from the building and the rest is history. Not a king crab survived the botched fisheries management.

The Japanese already knew this, and I'm not convinced that NMFS didn't either. But those big red king crab males sure sold like hotcakes. Did Wakefield pressure NMFS, like he did the Alaska King Crab Quality and Marketing Control Board to hire his ad agency? We probably will never know. The point is that Federal pig-headedness shorted Alaska many decades of lost economic benefit from a wonderful fishery. And this is just one example. I'd probably blow a fuse if I got into describing all the blunders and pure greed that just I know of.

I'm going to have to leave the reconciliation of these economic terms, and the way they are used by fisheries managers, to the reader. I'll just say that anyone serious about preserving the oceans bounty for future generations, and the livelihoods of many thousands of independent fishermen, should put in a little time. It's obvious from statements like the following that there is a "fog of war" aspect to all this: "Commercial fishing has a value far beyond its dollars," said Karen Amspacher of Harkers Island. "I challenge this committee to find a way to convert the value of commercial fishing into terms economic development councils can understand."

The article that quote came from dealt with working waterfronts being in peril. The point here is that when economic principles are not understood, or are misused, the result is not a pretty picture. So if anybody cares what happens with small Alaskan fishing communities, they ought to check how economic principles are used in the fish councils there. The next chance is at the NPFMC meeting in Portland, OR this month. It will be at the Benson Hotel in downtown Portland Feb 5 - 13. If you miss it look on YouTube for video clips of choice Council maschinations. Cell phone photographers wanted.

Take a look at these quotes from Time Magazine, for discussion purposes. No homework required, yet: "Why pay a professional when an amateur would do it for dramatically less money? In fields ranging from photography to the sciences, companies are taking jobs once performed by staff and "crowdsourcing" them to the enthusiastic, increasingly adept masses." And: "From YouTube amateurs to bloggers to amateur photographers competing with the paparazzi, "user-generated content" is revolutionizing the media landscape."

Saturday, January 27, 2007

When the rulers are ethical, the people rejoice

Legislators in Alaska estimate that 10% of their number are unethical. How is the public supposed to reconcile that with the old saying that when a ruler is a crook, the people are distressed. Well, maybe they think that 9 out of 10 isn't too bad these days. What is it about these days that we are so accepting of self-dealing in public office? Legislators tell reformers, "Don't bother us with that ethics stuff, we're too busy."

It is that we watch too many Rambo movies and our consciences are seared. Maybe, but that doesn't excuse the chosen few who the public expect to be above this kind of behavior. This is true for all law making and policy making bodies in Alaska, not just the Legislature. No more movies above PG 13 for lawmakers is my prescription. Ray Metcalfe, a former member of the Alaska Legislature, has a more thoughtful prescription:



The shear magnitude of the improprieties of Ben Stevens, VECO, and Fish Marketing Board, which APOC allowed to persist for years, and in some cases defended, makes clear that now it is time to devise a new political watchdog. Think of the proposal below as a new framework for defining and enforcing of the dozens of new ideas that are likely to be proposed over the next few months.

· I propose that APOC be discarded and replaced with a new commission. I recommend a new commission, (at a minimum, those who set in judgment of complaints), be created within the Judiciary branch of government. I recommend this for two reasons.

  1. APOC is dependent on funding from the legislators they are expected to police and their funding appropriations are subject to the Governor's veto. Every time APOC did the right thing, whether the complaint involved the Governor or a member of the majority in the legislature, their funding was either threatened or cut.

Once moved to the Judiciary, the Court would decide what portion of the Judiciary's budget APOC's replacement would receive and how much staff they required. I would expect it to include record keeping staff, staff to review and advise filers of incomplete filings, and at least one investigator unless an investigator in the judiciary it is determined to be in conflict with the constitutionally required separations of powers.

  1. Currently, two of APOC's five Commissioners are hand picked by that standard bearer of Republican ethics Randy Ruedrich. Another two are picked by the leaders of the Democratic Party. All but one of the five Commissioners has a vested interest in protecting their fellow party members from accusations of improprieties. Future Commissioners should be picked by a majority vote of the Alaska Supreme Court, from a list of qualified applicants recommended by the Judicial Council.

· I propose that all responsibilities currently in the purview of the Legislative Ethics Committee be transferred to a newly formed Commission in the Judiciary and the existing Legislative Ethics Committee also be disbanded.

1. In May of 2006, the State Senate passed a bill that would impose a $5,000 fine on anyone who talks about filing or intending to file an ethics complaint against a Legislator. Former State Senate President Ben Stevens not only served on the ethics committee, he sat in judgment of himself and he voted in favor of the proposed $5,000 fines mentioned above.

· The New Commission should be empowered to address all public corruption in whatever form it takes. I propose that all restrictions concerning what statutes APOC's replacement has the authority to enforce be lifted.

1. APOC's most frequent excuse for not perusing a remedy for Ben Stevens obvious fraud was to say Not My Job. In example, when I brought clear evidence of bribery to the attention of APOC staff, I was told to take it up with the Legislative Ethics Committee on which Ben Stevens sat.

· I propose the creation of an Anti-Public Corruption Unit of not less than three non-exempt officer positions (non-exempt meaning they cannot be fired for investigating a powerful public official). Such an office should be within the State Troopers and filled by officers trained in the investigation of public corruption.

1. Reducing public corruption will pay for its cost many times over. Given the opportunity to address an audience willing to listen long enough to understand the issues, I can prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that our failure to police public corruption has cost this state tens of billions of dollars due to unnecessary losses resulting from legislators and former governors who gave away our oil for a pittance of its real value to Alaska.

2. If the FBI can find enough work cleaning up our act to busy dozens of agents for a couple of years, certainly we can find enough work for three new Troopers.

· I propose adding a forty-eighth title to Alaska's statutes, titled: Open Honest Ethical Government.

1. Alaska currently has forty-seven titles in its statutes. Alaska's statutes currently have a motley assortment of toothless disclosure, ethics, and campaign requirements that are strewn throughout our statutes and selectively enforced, depending on who's in power and who's asking for enforcement.

2. Alaska's statutes need to be rewritten from top to bottom and consolidated under a single easy to understand Title 48, Open Honest Ethical Government. Not only do such statutes need to be armed with serious criminal penalties, they need to include workable mechanisms for citizens enforcement, to include an abbreviated mechanism of recall for legislators who refuse to comply. (Abbreviated meaning a lower bar for recall. Signatures of 5% of those who voted in their last election, accepting that the question of whether or not they failed to comply should be appealable to the Courts. An abbreviated mechanism should not be available unless noncompliance can be demonstrated.

(Note: Contrary to Speaker Harris's assertion that our current statutes appear to be working, they clearly are not. When enough signatures had been collected to begin the recall of Ben Stevens, the Division of Elections said we had no proof and tossed our petition. When we challenged the Division of Elections in Superior Court, the State provided Ben Stevens and the Division of Elections with seven attorneys to oppose us. The Court once again said we had no proof. When the Superior Court ruled against us, Ben Stevens tried to shackle the volunteers for his recall with his attorney's fees. (We were not investigators and should not have been held to the proof standard nor should we have been expected to prove our case within the statutory limit of a 200 word complaint. I suspect the eventual proof of Ben Stevens' skulduggery will fill a filing cabinet.

Believing that Ben Stevens' term of office would be over before we could get a ruling from the Supreme Court, we elected to take our complaints to APOC, who tossed our complaints and/or recommended “no penalty over and over again. When we took our evidence to the Attorney General, his three page reply could have been summed up in three words. "Go Screw Yourselves." We may have won in the Court of Public Opinion, but had it not been for the FBI, the Good Old Boy System may well have saved Ben's Senate Seat. Clearly our current laws do not work.)

3. In addition to appropriate criminal penalties for Courts to consider, compliance with Title 48 needs to be a condition of holding any elected office or appointed position.

4. It needs to be clear that the New Commission has the authority to remove any elected or appointed official who has refused to come into compliance, or in the Commission's opinion, attempted to conceal substantive information that should have been disclosed, or if they attempted to deceive the public. This authority should be subject only to a review of the Courts, and in the case of a member of the Legislature, subject to over rule only by the Courts or a majority vote of both houses of the Legislature.

5. Just as it is a crime for people of authority to remain silent over child abuse, it needs to be a crime for a fellow Legislator to remain silent when he or she possesses knowledge of bribery or other criminal infractions of the newly created Title 48 Open Honest Ethical Government: AS:48:01-99

(I provided every legislator with several packets of information demonstrating evidence of Ben Steven's bribery. I received two responses. (1.) We in the Senate Minority can't afford to rock the boat; we need to preserve what little working relationship we have with the Senate Majority. (2.) A note from a Member of the House Majority reading "Not in this office Ray."

· I propose a constitutional amendment barring all closed door meetings of the Legislature and all other forms of secrecy in the discussion, and/or conduct of Alaska's economic interests.

1. As a legislator I was a reluctant to participant in closed door meetings. In hindsight, I cannot think of a single subject we ever debated behind closed doors, that wouldn't have better served the public's interest if it had been discussed in the light of day for all to see and hear.

2. Any legislator who says the subjects discussed in closed caucus meetings are restricted to strategy and procedural questions is lying.

For real fishing fanatics, the scoop on California winter opportunities: 40 - 50 lb squid, 26 lb steelhead, sculpin, and a 15 lb halibut that won the derby.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Alaska Halibut Equation

Although I don't think he has just now seen the light, that most famous Alaskan sport-fishing writer, Craig Medred, has been pushed just a little too far with the new plan to cut the sport halibut catch to one fish.

The Alaska Draggers Association and these boats are a big component of the equation.

In a recent piece in the Anchorage Daily News, he blasts the concept of private rights to the halibut resource in Alaska as the culprit behind it. And he points out that 17 of the top 20 "shareholders" of the halibut resource are lower 48 fishing corporations.

I'm pretty sure Craig is aware that the same thing is going on in the rest of the commercial fisheries off Alaska's coasts, but now these business interests are sticking it to his readers. Welcome to the club. They have been sticking it to the rest of Alaska's coastal economy for decades. It's just business. You do what you can to maximize your commercial fishing profits, right?

It's been to Alaska's shame that privatizing has been allowed to happen. In Oregon, Washington and California, recreational fishermen get half the halibut. In Florida's $6 billion industry, it's even more. Economists warned there would be problems with privatizing, but then special interests were making the rules. But Alaska Governors get elected by allowing it to happen, except the most recent one. It'll be interesting to see what happens now. As the privatizing of Alaska's fisheries siphons the resource wealth out of the state, charter halibut fishing operations and other attendant visitor industry businesses have propped up the economies of the coastal communities. Pull a key prop and just see what happens.

The background according to John: When I went out on a halibut trip for the first time in the very early 1960s at about 13 years of age, the boats took a eight day lay-up between trips. Longlining trips out of Petersburg lasted around 10 days. If you were from Seattle and had refrigeration coils in your hold, you could make a 21 day trip. The boats fished all summer and it wasn't fun. Later I executed a federal contract and invented an automatic baiting machine. I've done a little research myself on longlining.

As hot young blood got into the game, they weren't content to spend a little time with their families in a mandatory lay-up, so out the window that went. Then it just escalated into a couple day derby, which I participated in too, twenty odd miles off Yakutat in the Gulf of Alaska. Then when some folks came up with the bright idea that the existing fishermen should get private rights that could be sold, there wasn't much objection from the fishermen. The ones that pioneered the commercial fishery were gone and weren't defending their clans. It was a slam dunk. There were no thorough studies, just power politics.

Halibut come up shallow enough to sport fish for in the middle of June in order to spawn. This coincides with tolerable weather, especially in Southcentral Alaska, and hence the influx of visitors wishing to take a crack at catching halibut. The IPHC doesn't make the rules, just suggests them. So now is a good time to speak up. I figure if my son is going back into war this spring to fight for personal freedom from oppression, I can do my part to do the same here. Don't rely on the media to bring up these issues, this one just happened to be kinda understood by the main sports fishing writer in Alaska.

Well, I reckon this blow to personal use and the visitor industry by non-resident owners is where Craig and others take a stand for the people. Especially when commercial fishing interests kill and discard 14 million pounds of halibut compared to the whole sport catch of 9 million pounds of table fare. 14.1 million was Craig's count, but actually it's much higher. You also have to count the halibut under 24 inches that are discarded by the trawlers that the IPHC doesn't make them count. If you drag a trawl through nursery grounds, all you'll get is chicken halibut. In any event, longliners shake a lot of chickens and it figures that the trawlers get a lot too. So, how many? Nobody is saying, but it may push the total to closer to 17 or 18 million pounds of discard. Does that sound like the IPHC is a truly scientific outfit?

It may be that the International Pacific Halibut Commission has awakened a sleeping giant, the public in Alaska itself. Maybe Alaska state government is just not able to ever stand up to the out-of-state commercial fishing and processing interests. But I reckon if there ever was a chance it's now, with the public behind it. This won't be an instant process. The new Governor has a lot of wreckage to clear from past administrations. And she doesn't seem to be inclined to be "unequally yoked" with bad appointments. There just aren't that many untainted industry folks around to pick from to create a "David's army."

Let's make this more interesting still. I propose a handline commercial category to equal the annual commercial wastage. That would give some impetus behind the IHPC suggesting a zero tolerance for halibut by-catch in the bottom trawl fishery. I think the Jackson family in the Tlingit village of Kake should be able to catch and sell handline halibut like they did for thousands of years. It would be a win-win situation.

If every fisher was limited to 200 lbs a day, and assume he or she fishes about 20 full days a summer, that would allow 4,500 fishers to value-add and/or direct market product worth about $110 million. Figure a multiplier effect of five and you get an economic boost of $550 million to the coastal towns. This is a day fishery, so non-residents would tend not to do it. No more fish were caught, the commercial fleet sells the same amount, the charter operators and sport anglers could keep their two fish per person limit (capping their total at 10 million lbs), and there's joy in Mudville. Except Al Burch would be hopp'n mad.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Alaska fisheries management should be outside the vacuum

Wouldn't it be great if Alaska took a look at how the "outside" did fisheries management? From my vantage point, you'd think the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council operated in a vacuum. Like someone said in this article on managing Florida's $6 billion fishery, "red drum don't live in a vacuum."

A big king salmon I landed from a 8 foot Sport Yak. I felt like the "Old Man and the Sea" with it towing me all over.

The common ground of all the stakeholders in a several year effort to include the public, through workshops, was that the environment was the No. 1 consideration.

So how does this stack up against the NPFMC's effort to clearcut the ocean floor in the Gulf of Alaska using bottom trawlers? It doesn't. The North Pacific Council does what it does just because it can. Like in "What does a 800 pound gorilla like to do? Anything he wants." When you get the conflict of interest factor out of fisheries management, then invite the public to participate. As it is, the Council process is just for show.

Now you have young Alaska fisheries reporters, some of whom don't know the names of the major fishing ports in Alaska, quoting special interests as "the industry." They wouldn't know the "industry" if it fell on them from the sky. The Governor of Alaska was elected by a landslide by regular folks that wanted a change from all the corruption and self-dealing in government. (They are the industry, they own the fish, what little that hasn't been stolen already by the Council.) Fisheries management being part of government, and just as bad as the oil industry. And Senator Stevens and our intrepid "press corps" keep beating the old refrain. (See article in the Juneau Empire)

Ethan Berkowitz is the Governor's point person on ethics in government and he isn't happy with the Anchorage Daily News. But then the ADN has a long history of unpaid, Saturday philosophy sessions for their reporters. No wonder Bloggers like me don't give them a lot of credit. The problem is that they mislead the public, and mislead law-makers who don't do their own homework.

Another problem is that the independent press is not capitalized, doesn't have an agenda because they don't coordinate their efforts, is easily discouraged, and often intimidated. They are like a trout on a hook, a lot of flopping around but not getting anywhere. Consistent effort does work though. Those that would enter the seafood industry in Alaska need to keep an eye on the official reports of Governor Palin and Ethan Berkowitz's progress in creating an open and honest environment for GOOD law-making. If they get their way, and aren't stymied by Alaska's intrepid legislators, I may yet be able to recommend my favorite industry to a young career seeker.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

WANTED: better fisheries mousetrap engineers

We hearken to more evolved fisheries lest we repeat the mistakes of history. That sounds good on paper, but special interests running U.S. fisheries law-making aren't so Utopian. Compare current U.S. law-making to this article from the U.K.

It's central theme is this quote: "In reality, the quota system often creates as many problems as it solves, and may even be counterproductive. Using modern vessels that have enormous capacity, crews routinely throw much of their catch back into the sea to comply with reduced quotas. While catching fish over quota is not illegal, landing it would lead to fines and criminal charges."

The other cautionary note from this fishery is that even with quotas, fishermen find themselves fishing in the worst weather of the year, and with foreign nationals that have little experience, but are cheap to hire. The fish processing plants in Alaska have already gone the recent immigrant route, with Dutch Harbor elementary school students speaking 17 different languages. They make up 50% of the student body.

With consolidation in the fishing sector, through MSA machinations, following hard on the heels of consolidation in the processing sector, we can probably expect to see more foreign nationals in the U.S. fleet as well. If the lawmakers are going to give the bulk of the fishing opportunity to large corporations, they should allow for a class of commercial fishing called "handlining" like in the Philippines. Coastal villages in the U.S. are going the way of other countries hardscrabble fishing villages. Two classes of fishermen. One with all the technology and capacity they can handle(generally non-resident), and one that is basically trying to catch some fish to put on the table and maybe sell to get some firewood too.

This business model below looked interesting, and a sign that lots of other folks are worried that doing nothing at the grass roots level is a recipe for disaster. Maybe it's a starter kit for the new Regional Seafood Development Associations. After all RSDAs
can do this work more cheaply than governmental entities because as a non-profit, they don't have to go through complicated bidding processes, use union labor or have as much administrative overhead. The new Alaska administration might want to consider supporting RSDAs more as a self-help system, as opposed to more bureaucracy which hasn't worked to date.

The ................... works to strengthen and connect businesses and community members in ........................ who share a commitment to creating an economy that preserves community character and vitality, promotes social justice, and protects ecological health and diversity.

Members are locally owned businesses (and fishermen) working together to:
  1. Support the growth and development of each other and community-based business in general.
  2. Encourage local purchasing by consumers and businesses(that means no more black-balling fishermen for trying to form RSDAs)
  3. Network and share best practices.
  4. Advocate public policies that strengthen independent local businesses and (fishermen), promote economic equity, and protect the environment(public members and others watch for creek robbing and by-catch with web cams, etc.)
  1. The Flavor Campaign: helps consumers "think local first" for their shopping needs. Through the .................. Flavor guidebook and in-store label we encourage your support and appreciation of our local (fishermen) and artisan producers of specialty foods.
  2. The Food Connection: fosters collaboration between (fishermen) chefs, retailers, and processors committed to expanding and strengthening regional and sustainable (fishing) through annual conferences(ugh, more conferences) and print directory of local food products.
  3. Industry Workshops and Roundtables: quarterly meetings focus on (fishing) business planning, best practices, marketing and regulatory issues.
  4. Community Education: We have a growing library of economic sustainability books, periodicals, and DVDs for rental. Teachers and community groups are welcome to contact us and we will be glad to suggest possible speakers tailored to your interests.
  5. Regional business infrastructure needs: We are working with other local groups to ensure our (fishermen) and food entrepreneurs have access to local facilities to process their products.

Friday, January 12, 2007

President Bush has family fishermen in the MSA crosshairs

The Gunny says that cannister shot took the civil right out of Civil War. Well, this contributor points out enough shot to fill a cannister round against family fishermen. Taken all together, in the Reauthorization Bill of the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Management and Conservation Act, independent fishermen will be in a world of hurt.

Kodiak folks demonstrated against the Stevens/corporate industrial complex last winter. Nothing much changed.

I reckon that President Bush is the one with his finger on the firing mechanism now. Well, we don't give the Dems a whole lot of credit for letting this thing get into the President's hands in the first place. Maybe they are going to do some reforming, but they better do their homework a whole bunch better or it's de javu all over again.

"It could not be more clear - there are many special provisions tucked in the MSA Reauthorization Bill, and President Bush should NOT sign this bill into law, until FBI probes complete their job! This is a rough list of issues and provisions to review and comment on regarding special interest provisions in S.Amdt.5224 Ted Stevens (re. House Amendments to Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Act). Isn't a Senator enriching his son and friends a crime in this nation? Priority one should be to identify benefits to companies already (currently) under FBI probe/subpoenas, or who benefited from Alaska Fisheries Marketing Board largesse, led by Ben Stevens and Trevor McCabe.

There is ample reason here for President Bush to refuse to sign the bill altogether. The other senators are well versed on the conservation needs and could quickly construct a more clean bill without these end-runs of public process, without valuable resource allocations to culprits.

a.. Extension of Rockfish Demonstration (Pilot) Program from 2 to 5 years - did not go through RFMCouncil process, a legislative end-run, serves companies under subpoena (such as Trident). This is a major resource allocation shift! Favors those who dealt directly with Reps. Pombo and Young and Sen. Stevens' staff to get this special extension before the pilot program even began.

b. Grandfathering clauses (read entire bill carefully) - reprivatizations and sector splits in Alaska fisheries, to avoid renewed scrutiny and application of new laws to those efforts.

c. SE Alaska Buyback program - to be managed out of same building as AFMB (under federal investigation) by same parties, etc. $25,000,000 - designed to serve price lowering entities, antitrust efforts by companies under investigation.

d. Pacific Whiting (read and analyze how it affects PSMCouncil resistance to Processor Quotas) - benefits monopoly on West Coast.

e. Certain CDQ groups continue their march toward Discriminatory preferences over other native tribes, taking a share off the top from real fishermen, as if a tax on those who still have to pay taxes. Ted has given a lot of money to CDQ groups, a few have even hired Ben.

f. Conversion to Catcher/Processor Shares (read, evaluate its effects) - gives Ted Stevens' associates a means to get even richer without public debate at regional fish councils. g.. Change in rule from having 50% of permit holders by adding OR 50% OF POUNDAGE - serves Alaska Groundfish Data Bank and Ak Draggers and their Processors - that includes members of AFMB board under scrutiny, members of processors under subpoena etc. Serves companies like Trident too.

h. New allowance for collective processing of Northern BS/AI crab (specifically winter opilio season), goes against Crab Ratz purposes, moves jobs offshore, and otherwise serves Trident primarily - a firm under subpoena. Special rights not afforded others; and a consolidation - special legislation package that did not go through Council process, either. Undercuts promises of the Crab Rationalization to ensure more jobs. Monopolizes this fisheries for Trident's sake, for the most part.

i. Unconstitutional and discriminatory 2/3 referenda protection is only offered to N.E. States and special provisions for Gulf of Mexico - violates Equality Clause because West Coast and Alaska do not get this protection for its family-based fleets and local communities. Ted cares not about the Constitution nor fair and equitable.

j. Regional Fisheries Associations - could be constructed of Independent Operating Companies who are owned by a major processor, with its fleet - and cause sector split or other allocative arrangements. (read, analyze, outline effects and identify who it benefits specifically). It is another scheme desired by the companies who have misspent AFMB funds and >control prices etc.

k. NB: the bill needs to be analyzed for other ways it helps, such as loan guarantees etc., only special interests. It is clear that lobbyists helped write these Amendments in the back halls of DC, for special corporate welfare at the expense of other citizens.

l. This is not a set of "market based solutions" but rather Soviet >style collectivism, or more accurately it is the creation of coercive monopolies granted exclusive allocations in resource extraction trade, asset commoditization that promises to harm the coastal economies of the Nation, severely.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Fishing technology in Alaska: too good?

This little look at fishing technology in Alaska ranges from a bone fish-hook found on the Missouri River recently, to chain mail trawls dropped miles down to rip the tops off seamounts in the open ocean. And it's not always technology that is the culprit.

This style of Alaska fishing boat is capable of staying out at sea and fishing for long periods of time, making the "smash and dash" fishing methods redundant.

Unless you consider dams and other degradation, of five thousand plus miles of salmon spawning grounds in each of Oregon and California, to be high-tech.

This came from a news article from a Middle East and African marine resources magazine: "Referring to bottom trawl fishing he said the method must be abandoned because it leads to the extinction of many species of maritime creatures.

Ninety-five percent of the material caught in deep sea bottom trawlers' steel nets that are dragged along the seabed, are thrown back overboard, dead, destroyed or dying. These trawls really do devastate the seabed, destroying everything in their paths, marine biologists maintain.

Deep sea bottom trawling has been compared to clear cutting ancient forests or using a bulldozer to catch rabbits. It is considered the most destructive form of fishing.

Only a handful of countries have deep sea bottom trawl fleets operating in international waters, the most prolific amongst these being Spain, other European countries and Russia. New Zealand is one of the only 11 countries that took approximately 95% of the reported high seas bottom trawl catch in 2001 and have been promoting and exporting this technology around the world."

There are already bottom trawlers(draggers) leaving the Gulf of Alaska fisheries. And there are smart people getting into pot fishing for cod there at the same time. Make no mistake, all the cod could be caught selectively with pots with no damage to the bottom ecosystem. The pots can be strung along a really heavy "ground-line" for good efficiency. A pot fisherman can haul up as many cod on a string as a trawler could bring up in a trawl. Also, make no mistake, the big companies want to lock in the status quo so their trawlers don't get phased out by more efficient and "greener" fishing methods.

I know something about this, since I found a design for a double-tunnel, collapsible cod pot and gave it to my brother to start fishing black cod in Clarence Straits in S.E. Alaska. That was in about 1971 or 72, and was the first cod pots used in Alaska as far as I know. He started fishing the pots between gillnet openings with his gillnetter. Every pot would have a whole school of cod in it. Just pull the pin on the money end of the pot to empty it, unsnap it from the ground-line and collapse it, and start hauling again.

The draggers make the rules now though, by dominating the management process, with the help of state and federal government, in a fisheries version of the military/industrial complex. On the plus side, there is a new Governor in Alaska that ran on an anit-corruption platform and if she appoints conscionable people to all Alaska seats, there would be a majority. AND Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young have said they are going to shelve their work on U.S. fisheries management issues, which are just special interest issues, to concentrate their last years working to end open ocean bottom trawling.

The vessels that bottom trawl are extremely inefficient in other ways as well. Check out the amount of steel and electronics and fuel they require. Fisheries managers aren't required to protect the investments of anyone who might have spent too much getting into a fishery. Big shock? And there is no comparison in quality to a smashed dead cod in a trawl to live ones in a pot. I even saw a load of live black cod come in to the Cold Storage I was working in once.

A previous chairman of the NPFMC is going around now trumpeting how the Council is made up of fishermen. Like hoohey it is. It takes at least an hour of reading a day, continually, to keep up with everything that's going on to be a council member. It's a mutually exclusive situation. This is a big problem, because your regular Joe Alaskan fisherman can't take the time to do it. So, you end up with non-fisherman hired guns making the rules that dictate fishing methods, the acceptable by-catch, quality of the harvest, fish prices for the Alaskans, etc.

Originally, the Council process for managing the 200 mile economic zone was to use fishermen who knew the fishing methods and had the local economy at heart. Someone should compensate Alaska fishermen for service on the Council, even if it's the State government. Take this scenario of the Gulf of Mexico snapper fisheries.

"Unfortunately, the counts for gulf snapper are hotly disputed.
We question the methods of collecting data. We rightly denounce the formula for extrapolating the health of fish stocks. We doubt the credibility of folks who interpret the data. We question the motivations of bureaucrats spinning the results.
Everybody thinks everyone else is lying. The search for truth becomes buried in layers of self-interests, legal wrangling and blame.
A good program demands an honest and objective accounting system. In Canada, this is accomplished either by independent on-board observers or by cameras on boats. Unbiased contractors monitor video footage.
We're a long way from this."

This might not be as sorry a situation as the illegal drift-net fishing that is going on around the world however. Those 40 - 50 mile long nets are designed to catch everything, kinda like the bottom trawlers of the sun-lit zone of the oceans. I've been stuck here in Los Angeles for a week and a half for a family medical emergency (the patient lived, but his body died) and ate at the big seafood restaurant at the Ontario Mills mall. I just couldn't bring myself to look at all the bill-fish, shark, and Atlantic salmon, on the menu. No Alaska salmon because "our purveyor doesn't carry it." Did you know a big grocery chain in England pulled Atlantic salmon over the dye/carcinogen scandal?

I find the fishing world down here quite facinating. Here, the saying is, "You can give a man a fish and it will feed him for a day, give that man a pole and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day." Seriously, some of these guys go down off San Diego and catch these 350 pound yellowfin tuna. And a 150 pound wahoo will jump 15 feet out of water. Then there's the 1000 lb. sturgeon practically caught in downtown Portland, OR recently. But I saw a picture of a 1100 lb. halibut out in Dutch Harbor once, so there.

In the Atlantic Ocean, some trawlers used to throw back these big halibut, because of the value for spawning purposes was so much greater than just killing them. The big ones can survive better than the 9 million lbs of halibut that get hauled up dead in trawls off Alaska every year and thrown back as prohibited species. And the "counters" don't count the ones under two feet long! So, why was it that the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council got ballyhooed as a eco-friendly rule making body?