Thursday, March 15, 2007

Food Riots at the Board of Fish?

Sensible people in Alaska are incensed by new proposed legislation that would turn the Board of Fish process into the biggest squabble for fishing rights in history. It will pit everyone against everyone else in a most bitter struggle for chunks of the pie in each commercial fishery. The Alaska Supreme Court stamped out this madness a couple of years ago. This is an end run around those sensible Judges.

You know I need to download more pics when I have to use ones of myself. Port of Anchorage in background at low tide.

That begs the question, since Rep. Peggy Wilson, who is proposing this legislation, doesn't have the background to write something like this, nor has Wrangell had an issue with "allocation WITHIN a fishery," who the heck wrote that piece of blarney? The justification PDF document with her name on top is full of half truths, suppositions and belittlement. My mind screams, where is an unbiased, academic, fisheries industrial research body when you need one.

Well, you won't get one with all the folks that float around spitting out stuff like HB188, trying to get their own way all the time no matter what the cost in social upheaval. This reader outlines the cost of such legislation:

"Hello John Enge,

Let’s see, a year ago we wrote and talked because the former Chignik Co-op was attempting to introduce legislation expanding the authority of the Board of Fish. I guess its not just coincidence that I am back in touch with you.

Just received news today that Representative Wilson from Wrangell introduced House Bill 188, intended to expand the power of the BOF to allow them the ability to allocate fish as they see fit. Seems criminal to me that after having virtually destroyed the villages of Chignik Bay, Chignik Lagoon, and Chignik Lake by setting their residents against each other, and eliminating numerous jobs for local residents, topped off by having outside investors with no fishing experience purchasing “investment permits” and destroying the dreams of local young people to some day grow up and skipper like their fathers did, that there is still a strong movement to allow the BOF to do this again in Chignik and in fact any area they see fit.

I also find it interesting that Representative Wilson submitted the HB 188 to the special fisheries committee chaired by Rep Paul Seaton, from Homer, who owned a tender that has been employed by the Co-op at Chignik. With recent events in Alaska fisheries regarding questionable ethics, it seems unthinkable to give the BOF the ability to restructure, via allocation, any fishery they deem “needs” it. All other fisheries in the State of Alaska should be aware that this dog and pony show could show up on your door step. As brutal as IFQ’s and Rationalization has been to those who did not get a ticket to the party, to have the BOF have the power to allocate each permit in a limited entry fishery equal shares, regardless of who catches them, or whoever worked to catch their share, be allocated an equal share to every other permit holder in the fishery is absolutely wrong.

The BOF has already demonstrated their willingness to do this in Chignik and all limited entry permit holders in Alaska should be aware of what is currently being submitted via House Bill 188, lest they see the volume of their catch dictated to them by appointees. I am hopeful of pushing this topic into the media to make sure the citizens understand what is currently on the table in the Legislature.

Hope to hear back from you, Thank You"

Remember this allocation scheme in Chignik allowed almost all the permit holders that wanted to to sit at home while a designated few caught all the fish. They then split the proceeds. That allowed some purchasing of permits by investors from God knows where to sit God knows where and receive their settlement check while sipping umbrella drinks or whatever. The sponsor of this bill says that's not going to happen again. Well, there's nothing stopping it if the Board of Fish can split up the catch in a certain fishery.

But the worst thing about it, and I'm sure Peggy Wilson doesn't understand this, is that it ends up pitting neighbors, and even family, against each other in the allocation disputes that follow. The experience was that at weddings and funerals and any social event in the community, people grouped up and glowered at each other. How is that going to enhance the sense of community so necessary for the health of people and the survival of the community. It's like a civil war. And a Alaska Legislator would want to export this kind of thing around Alaska and set a precedent for the same kind of power plays elsewhere? Elsewhere goes for 25,000 miles around as the crow flies, right?

You allow allocation WITHIN a fishery just see how many proposals the Board of Fish gets, if they don't come up with their own like last time. The quartile analysis of earnings I used for each fishery showed that only 10% of fishermen were making the good money. And don't tell me that the long-ago Legislature and Board of Fish INTENDED for highline fishermen to catch the same amount of fish as one who only fishes part time, or who can't get up in the morning.

I won't beat a dead horse to death here, but the Board of Fish already has strong allocative powers. Everyone only gets to catch two king salmon with a sport rod, etc. These legislators seem to forget that they passed legislation to create Regional Seafood Development Associations that can hash out allocation issues, being so connected to marketing and all. But at the moment, when you mention marketing, a whole new cast of characters emerges. As the woolly mammoth said in the movie "Ice Age," "Spit it out, you don't know where it's been." Sorry Peggy.