Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Gone Wild Alaska Seafood Marketing and Board of Fish

I don't know if us that love the way of life of the Alaskan coastal fishing village are just in a kettle of water like the proverbial frog, happy to be still swimming, but concerned that the water is starting to warm up. The folks that are watching legislative antics, and letting us know when they crank up the heat to try cook us, are doing a valuable service.

In honor of the Sitka Sound herring fishery going on now, a picture from bygone days there: I always imagined Gary Stevens of Wrangell, on the stern, thinking, "What have I corralled here anyway." There was enough to fill all three of our tenders.

Some bills are getting reworked already, such as the one to prevent sneezing within 100 yards of a Bristol Bay creek or river. Well, it wasn't quite that restrictive, but someone might need to build a new, modern seafood processing plant out there pretty soon to match market realities for a change.

We are still getting lots of mail from folks that are just livid over HB188 and it's attempt to give Nazi-like authority to the Board of Fish. Why do we keep seeing attempts to re-engineer the free enterprise system? If folks don't want to compete in an open market, they can go to Cuba.

We hope the new Administration is not stumbling, even though we understand it is occupied heavily with gas line matters. But we are only seeing a former taxidermist working on fisheries policy for the Governor and that's not acceptable. And you know the Board of Fish doesn't research anything.

We hear that it was the Department of Law and/or the Dept. of Fish and Game that came up with HB188 for "housekeeping purposes." Who put THEM up to it. They probably figured they couldn't be blamed if townfolk started shooting at each other in huge allocation struggles all over the state.

Here's a letter I got on the subject the other day:

"Hello John,

With your recent piece on HB 188, and this bill regarding the BOF’s continued attempts to allocate "within a single fishery,” and as such, ruled as illegal again in Grunert I, and rehashed and explained again by the Court in Grunert II.

Of course the other “single fishery” and illegal allocation issue that is in direct conflict with this ruling is the Bristol Bay Permit Stacking Regulations that currently allow one permit holder a 50 fathom shackle, and another fisher a 150 fathom shackle? Evidently the Courts writing;

“We note that the boards allocation of the harvestable salmon between the cooperative and the open fishers was potentially arbitrary and capricious. Allowing some, but not all, Chignik salmon purse seine permit holders to operate different types and amounts of fishing equipment potentially raises questions of efficiency, arbitrary decision making, and equal protection.”

I suppose Peggy Wilson's Bill is to allow the Board to promote what they believe is the “equal protection” issue, also touched upon by the Alaska Supreme Court in Grunert vs State of Alaska. Good fishermen, and their communities that don't want to be ripped apart, might view the 14th Amendment’s “Equal Protection Clause" as a way to protect them from capricious social engineering, not "giving the fish away equally."

It gets better, as a result of this board's ignorance regarding this decision, as it applys to the Bristol Bay Salmon Fishery.The amusing socioeconomic engineering by the BOF in the Bay, is just another example of the fictional view of reality it has, after the Court's writing to the State of Alaska and the Alaska Board of Fisheries in this Grunert Decision.

One must wonder how this Board of Fish views the Limited Entry Act, and the voters of Alaska, who gave the Court and the Alaska Constitution this Amendment.

This “Within a Single Fishery” issue, written clearly in the Alaska Supreme Court's decision, is yet to be corrected in relation in the Bristol Bay Salmon Driftnet Fishery.

Of course in the recent BOF meetings in Dillingham, the board again dropped the ball, and took no action whatsoever to bring Bristol Bay into compliance with the Court's decision, written directly to the Board of Fish.

I guess Robert Heyano, a Bristol Bay Fisher who sits on the BOF, has a reading comprehension problem when the Court writes to him. I guess the Bristol Bay Salmon Driftnet Salmon Fishery is not a “Single Fishery” to Robert Heyano and his associates on the Board. What a concept from this Board! And their inaction on this issue is as ignorant as their action in Chignik.

The Board tabled All of the proposals aimed to correct these issues and sent them over to their “Restructuring Committee. I thought their “Restructuring Committee” was the Committee who the Supreme Court wrote to in Chignik, the BOF themselves.

Of course now the explanation of why Frank Murkowski’s Attorney Generals resigned, may have come to light. Evidently, over at the Department of Law, these Court Decisions still confuse them. Facts speak for themselves, as far as the Board of Fisheries goes. Still “unable and unwilling” to read State Board of Fisheries v. Grunert

Thank God for that Third Branch, obviously the “Least Dangerous,” compared to that Alaska Board of Fisheries."


"I sent a strongly worded opinion to Sonya Hymer(Legislative Aide) regarding HB 188. I know there will be people from Kodiak that support this bill. My educated guess is that the Olga Bay Seafood Producers Alliance will see it as the only way to further their co-op fishery agenda. This is the cycle year for Kodiak proposals to the BOF. I expect to see a proposal for "allocation within a fishery" from that group. HB 188 would pave the way.
The Alitak set net fishery has been very very contentious over the years. We have had bitter conflicts and beach brawls over line changes, rock sets, shore leads,area boundaries, site surveys, escapement and management issues, allocations and co-ops.
We now have regulations that the vast majority of seiners and setnetters are satisfied with, and we have enjoyed stable management for several seasons. In Kodiak, HB 188 will serve a very few setnetters, with the destabilization of the entire fishery.

I am aware that some regulations that are already implemented may need adjustments if HB 188 is not passed. I say don`t correct a wrong with another wrong. I am on record a few years back, with the BOF, as being in support of a per-capita allocation plan. Oddly enough, the folks from up the bay were adamantly opposed to such an idea. My change of opinion is a result of education, observation, and adaption. Today, I see RSDA`s as the new hope for a stable industry.

Fishing has never been fair. Some folks have luck, some don`t, some have connections or better work ethics and some are born with an edge. Its what makes us who we are. HB 188 is not for real fisherman.
Please be very careful when considering HB 188

Well, right off, you can see the contempt the old guard has for the people and their courts. I refer also to the leadership of the United Fishermen of Alaska who wanted the Courts and regular folks' lawyers to stay out of their way in a recent proposal to the Board of Fish.

I sympathize with Sarah Palin, not knowing who to trust to guide her in fisheries policy. I remember when I used to run buying stations far removed from the main plant locations. When I was put on as a signer on one company fish buying fund they said, "Well, I guess we're just going to have to trust you." Another company that put me on as a signer on their main cannery account didn't bat an eye. They knew me better. Just wish Gov. Palin would get to know some folks better herself.

And we still get a ton of mail about these major processing companies that work the farmed salmon business, being the ones that run the Board of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute and the "Wild Alaska Seafood" brand. I maintain that the whole "institute" concept is wrong to start with, and this scandal just proves it. That was a mouthful. Need lots of soy sauce for that one. Well, it'll be awhile before lots of folks see how much better the Regional Seafood Development Association concept is. I think the water supply in Juneau has blinding paradigm in it.

Stephen Taufen offers this letter to forward on to the Governor to express your outrage. Be a hero for some kid in Chignik, and Naknek, and write Sarah. She'll listen.