Wednesday, May 23, 2007

When government drops the ball, I mean, fish

When we get a report like this about a technological breakthrough for seafood handling, we're going to pass it on. This new temperature tracking device is a throw-away and trumps all the bulky and expensive devices for monitoring temperatures of fish in-transit, one of which was recently explored by Alaska state employees.
IP Discharge into Androscoggin River
IP discharge into the Androscoggin River (DEP aerial photo from Summer 2005)

Albertsons grocery stores are going to start demanding a supplier use these things, or an equivalent, if you want to sell to them. This will probably be the industry standard in the near future for wet-lock boxes flown out of Alaska. If a guy wanted to consistently get a thousand dollars for his big king salmon, like happened this spring, he might want to put one of these labels right on Mr. Big. (the king salmon)

From the press release site, PR Inside: "A flat, 2" x 2" disk, PakSense labels are sealed in food-grade packaging and are easy to use. They also cost a fraction of current monitoring systems, which promotes their use in more product shipments. Lights on the sensor alert quality assurance personal if temperature specifications have been breached and all data collected by the label can be downloaded and graphed, enabling Albertson's LLC to pinpoint if, when and for how long, temperature excursions occurred. PakSense Labels are intended for one time use and are priced accordingly. There are no laborious rebate programs to adhere to in order to recoup money invested in temperature monitoring devices."

Going to the problem of government timely disseminating good business information, it is a real problem. Some industry groups have figured out that they can work hand in glove with government to get the inside track, and maybe even nip in the bud the flow of information to potential competitors and the public. Where else have you seen this report on Congress dealing with fish issues? Or this one June 12 &13 in Soldotna, the only product oriented fishing industry "expo" on the West Coast?

The other problem is that sometimes good information is packaged up in such quantity that it's too expensive to print and nobody would plough through it anyway. I remember one Marine Advisory Agent telling me that he co-authored this great report, that was two inches thick, and only six copies were ever made.

A host of perils that government runs into, in herding this flock of chickens we call a fishing industry, is exemplified by this article from New Zealand. "If you persist in opposing aligning the Fisheries Act with international best-practice it will be hard to convince your customers, and the New Zealand public, that your commitment to sustainability is anything but skin-deep." (He's speaking to the big fish companies.)

I should comment here and say that this very thing might come back to bite numerous fisheries in Alaska. There are many, many cases of ecological abuse in Alaska, and it all stems from the fact that large corporations control the industry. A corporation may be an entity, but it doesn't have a conscience. Employees of these big fishing corporations, who make up the federal fisheries management councils and other organizations, are not required by their employers to make moral calls.

The New Zealand article goes on to say:

"How does it help any fishing business in the long term if stocks are ruined? What sort of basis for building an industry is that? He(the Fisheries Minister) wanted to work with commercial fishermen, urging them to spurn lawyers, "who have tangled you up in inconsistencies and confusion" and talk direct to the Government.

Do you think Alaska is any different than any other place in the world regarding big business concern for the future? If you could prove it is different, it would prove there is some staircase to heaven that fisheries managers use to go get wisdom. Maybe it's right at the end of the Homer Spit, or maybe it moves to every new North Pacific Fisheries Management Council meeting room. Yeah, that's it!

Most all of this is summed up in three words; laissez fare economics, which of course led to the Great Depression. Compare Wikepedia's definition against the Republican agenda as trundled over to the North Pacific from Washington D.C. by the Alaska congressional delegation: "It is generally understood to be a doctrine that maintains that private initiative and production are best allowed to roam free, opposing economic interventionism and taxation by the state beyond that which is perceived to be necessary to maintain peace, security, and property rights.[1] In this view, it is not the job of the state to intervene in the economy in an attempt to reduce inequality, poverty or protect worker's rights (except to the extent that they are covered under property rights)."

"Property rights" are the end-all, be-all to the laissez fare economist. Notice the huge effort being expended by the NPFMC to allocate "property rights" to animals "on the hoof," I mean, "on the fin," as described by the American Fisheries Act, "crab ratz," or "Gulf ratz."

I remember once proposing a light industrial development office to some folks. They said, "Good proposal John, but it doesn't have a call to action at the end." Well, I figured the title was the call to action for them. For whatever reason, the mind needs guiding along and ya gotta do like Lee Iaccoca said. "Tell 'em what you're going to tell 'em, tell 'em, then tell 'em what ya told 'em.

So, with that said, my advice is to get behind the nearest Regional Seafood Development Association. And if there isn't one, help start one. And if you don't know what one is, do a Google search of a successful model like the almond growers association, Blue Diamond Almonds. That'll give you a compass to go by in the fog of competing interests and ethical lapses that has led to fish stock collapses all along the U.S. coastline, with Alaska heading down the same "ocean ranching," "clear-cut bottom" road.