Thursday, April 19, 2007

Something is rotten in the Pacific fisheries

Just in is a study that looks at the effects of bottom trawling off the West Coast. In areas that were bottom trawled there were 30% fewer species of fish and six times fewer invertebrates. I haven't been around bottom trawling that much, but I saw a catch come into Brookings last summer and one of those little flatfish would barely have made a good sandwich. Talk about scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Working out in God's country like this, and the culture of seafaring, masks some real nasty business.

Jeff Barnard said, "Other studies worldwide have documented the damage bottom trawling does to seafloor habitats, but this is the first to look at fish numbers and diversity on muddy seafloors on the West Coast's Continental Shelf, where bottom trawlers do much of their work, the study authors said."

And you won't see this kind of candidness from fisherman in print anywhere else. This seiner had a solid business relationship with his processor for almost 20 years. So much for loyalty in the industry:

I found three very interesting sentences in the last paragraph of your recent posting, Salmon win a round against NMFS. You wrote:

"One notable influence is through the United Fishermen of Alaska. Their mission statement says right on their web-site that they work to foster positive relations with the big processors. So where are they when fishermen lose their market when they advocate for fishermen's rights?"
I believe the answer to your question is that "they" (UFA), were in the processor's offices conspiring with them. Let me explain.

In late March, 2002, I went to Seattle to meet with NorQuest's Terry Gardiner and John Sund to find out if they might reconsider cutting me from their fleet. Since Sund had called and told me they wouldn't be purchasing fish from me a week or so earlier, I had learned that many other fishermen had been cut from other companies and no companies were talking on new boats. I knew I was going to have a particularly hard time finding a market because I had sold exclusively to NorQuest since 1981, 20 years, so I didn't have many contacts in the industry to fall back on.

When I arrived at NorQuest's offices I sat in my car for a few moments composing my thoughts when I saw Bobby Thorstensn come out of the building. When I went in and met with Gardiner and Sund I commented that if they had been talking to Thorstensn about me, that they probably wouldn't be thinking about hiring me back because Thorstenson vehemently disagreed with my ideas about what fishermen should be doing to regain industry respect, and I mentioned the conversation I'd had with him in Craig just several months before. (I mentioned that conversation in my last piece where Thorstenson told me processor quotas would be part of any fleet reduction plan.)

Sund's reply was that, "No, Bobby wasn't talking about you. We were coordinating our positions for the Governor's Salmon Summit." Remember the Salmon Summit? You should read Bobby's address where he claimed fishermen's permits didn't give them the right to fish, just the privilege. Ted Stevens attended and made some veiled comment about "reducing the fleets while preserving the real bread winners." of course they would be deciding who the breadwinners would be. It was at this meeting that the Salmon Task Force was formed.

So who controlled the task force? Well, Ted's boy, Ben was made the chair and NorQuest's Terry Gardiner and Icicle's Don Giles were his right hand men. UFA controlled fishermen's access. A tightly knit group wouldn't you say? And while the main reason (excuse?) given for the desperate state of affairs in the industry was "cheap farmed salmon." We now know that Icicle was and is up to their ears in farmed salmon.

NorQuest didn't relent on their decision not to buy my fish though and towards the end of our conversation Gardiner suggested to me that it would be futile to look for alternate markets like self marketing because they were "going to saturate every opportunity and niche market they could find." Have a nice day?"

Of course Trident owns NorQuest now, but it doesn't appear things have changed any. It's pretty hard to out-junk yard dog the big junk-yard dog with the "T" on it's collar.