Friday, May 18, 2007

A Coalition of Fishermen, Researchers and Conservationists

"A coalition of fishermen, researchers and conservationists is calling for a new approach to groundfish management that advocates predict will help rebuild depleted stocks while protecting another increasingly rare species: Maine’s small, independent fishermen." And, "This is just essential if we’re ever going to bring the fish back and are going to have fishing communities that have diversified options." "The Legislature recently passed, by unanimous vote, a resolution urging support for local management."

Will my grandson be the sixth generation of Enges to commercial fish out of Petersburg, AK or will opportunity knock no more?

This sounds much like the Depoe Bay, Oregon consortium that I wrote about two articles ago. The sad thing is that it takes flattening the stocks completely to get the big businesses to leave the area alone so locals can start to do it right. Although, Oregonians are really working under the nose of that sleeping giant, Pacific Seafood Group, who has one eye half open. Likewise, the North Pacific Council members have been waiting for the Pacific ocean perch stocks to build back up in the Gulf of Alaska after the Japanese hammered them 40 years ago. Gulf "ratz," that Sen. Ted Stevens rammed through Congress, is their fishing companys' gun to bring down that quarry.

Civil society all over is stepping up to the plate after government strikes out.(All over the West Coast, Judges are having to step in to save the salmon.) I was watching a TV program yesterday on the classic example of a successful NGO. (Non-governmental organization) This woman started working alone to stop everyone from using land mines. She got 1,000 other NGOs throughout the globe to join, and ended up getting 132 nations to sign on to the idea. She got the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts. Of course she never could get the U.S. Government to sign on.

The point for the seafood industry is epitomized by the fact that an estimated 95% of Kodiak area residents and fishermen object to the privatization, by the big companies, of the fish in the Gulf of Alaska. But there is nothing they can do about it, with the force of the Federal Government behind the privatizers. Anything the Federal Government touches, and that's most everything in Alaska, is controlled by the politics of money.

Places a little less stable, like Lebanon, make no bones about the fact that no economic development is going to happen until the politics settles down. It's obvious in the fishing business in Alaska that there will be continual infighting until there is a Congressional delegation make-over.

People in a small region really can get together and influence fisheries management though, or anything else for that matter. The trick is in the getting together. At present in Alaska there is still a lot of money on the table(fish stocks to hammer down), and public servants and players of all stripes are being pulled in a hundred different directions by their individual ambitions.

I guess the fishing business is like the car jacking business, in that you aren't going to drag the car jackers to church right away. They need coarse policemen to deal with them first, and that's only slightly successful. It sure doesn't do any good for a preacher to go out and try stop a car jacking by his methods. But civil society itself can collectively get up on it's hind legs and be effective. Probably with a little organizing thrown in.

The Regional Seafood Development Associations in Alaska could be wildly successful if they got the town folk, researchers, conservationists and others behind them and for extra brain power. The eight regions of Alaska now have that howitzer to bag local prosperity. But it always takes a forerunner to wheel these kind of things out on the field. It's a thankless job, and a little like the foolishness and self-sacrificing aspect of being a preacher. But a necessary job none-the-less.