Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Monday Fisheries Headlines 7/30

Sea Change or Pocket Change?
The Marine Conservation Alliance just has to keep trying to put a good face on the buffalo hunting of it's members. This time they dragged into the fray a midwater trawl organization and the Institute for Social and Economic Manipulation, I mean, Research.

TROLLERS lives are getting still lonlier, thanks to the TRAWLERS who are catching and dumping their kings.

I give Sarah Palin another month or so to catch on to ISER. They aren't horrible, but just don't hit the nail on the head.

But I wanted to comment on this new publicity stunt of Dave Benton's MCA. Remember, these are the same folks that bring you cod ends of trawl nets half full of halibut and king salmon by-catch that they throw over the side dead. Eventually a crewman or skipper will try to absolve his conscience and turn in photos of the carnage. As it is, the MCA members, who also run the North Pacific Council, say it's just hearsay. The average OBSERVED chinook catch in the GOA has been 17,643 kings(2000-2004), but there has only been about 3.5% observer coverage!!!! There are some official statistics like 87,000 king salmon killed in the pollock A and B seasons in one year in the Bering Sea, which has higher observer coverage. It's just as bad in the whiting fishery off Oregon and Washington. Real smart, Ted and Don.

You can write all the problem solving reports like this you want, but it still boils down to the fact that the Magnuson-Stevens Act still allows the big trawl companies and their allies to make the laws. Chief among these allies is Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young, who are under criminal investigation. The reauthorized MSA is really under a black cloud now that it's author is being implicated as a crook. The rampant greed and corruption in the Alaska seafood industry has been common knowledge from the first signing of the MSA in 1976.

I won't discuss this report line item by line item. It's great stuff if it were being practiced. There is no guarantee, and no evident will on the part of the NPFMC, that it ever will. All these principles were being forwarded by Larry Merculief, a Pribilof islander and Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Commerce and Economic Development, in the early '90s. The NPFMC still allowed so much trawling around the Pribilof Islands that the new $85 million harbors were rendered moot for use by a local fleet. There weren't any fish left for man nor sea-bird, nor marine mammal.

Again, this report is a good argument for conservation, but won't go anywhere, under the MSA. News laws will be needed. If the NPFMC had an ounce of thought for conservation they wouldn't be calling a give-away of national marine treasures to a few already very wealthy individuals "market-based." The quota system they want for the Gulf of Alaska, like what they did for the Bering Sea, will destroy billions of dollars of marketable seafood.

Two similar stories came in this week, one true, and the other made up, I think.
"John, I will tell you a true story about a Cordovan who has lived in Mexico for over twenty years. He is on the coast where
the Mexicans in this little village would go to the beach and line up and hold a small beach seine out from the beach in a straight line.
They would maybe get enough fish to partly fill a pick up truck.
He watched this operation and told them. Don’t hold it out in a straight line, put a hook at the end of it and you will get more fish. So they did this and caught enough fish to fill three pick up trucks. The next day they were mad as hell at Gene Mc Bride
(you might know him) They had taken the catch to town
and over loaded the market, could not even sell most of the catch and ruined the price they were getting."

Here's the parable:

A boat docked in a tiny Mexican village. An American tourist complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.
"Not very long" answered the Mexican.
"Why then didn't you stay out longer and catch more?" asked the American.
The Mexican explained that his small catch was adequate to meet his needs and those of his family.
The American asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"
"I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings, I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs... I enjoy a full life."
The American interrupted, "I have an MBA from Harvard and I can HELP you! You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then SELL the extra fish you catch. With the extra money, you can buy a bigger boat. With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your fish to a middleman, you can negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your OWN plant. You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York City! From there you can direct your HUGE enterprise!"
"How long would that take?" asked the Mexican.
"Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years," replied the American.
"And after that?"
"Afterwards! That's when it gets really interesting," answered the American, laughing. "When your business gets really big, you can start selling stocks and make millions!"
"Millions? Really! And after that?"
"After that you'll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take siesta with your wife, and spend your evenings drinking and playing your guitar and enjoying life with your friends."

The moral of the story? Sen. Ted Stevens got a law passed called the Magnuson-Stevens Act that is designed to weed out the lifestyle fishermen in favor of the high octane fisherman, who may be driven to extremes by a chemical imbalance for all anyone knows. Sen. Stevens has even said, at one meeting at least, that the fishery(ies?) need to get down to "the real bread-winners." These are the high-voltage, take no prisoners guys that never see their families, break fisheries laws when possible, kill and dump over the side mass quantities of by-catch species of fish, hire lobbyists to make fisheries laws to favor them only, fly Congressmen to fishing lodges, etc.

It's sugar coated by calling it "market-based," and it comes in the form of Limited Access Programs/Individual Fishing Quotas. The guys that have the upper hand in fisheries currently without IFQs, have the money to grease the skids. They have the "fishing history" to get even more money with the free gift of large annual allotments, to make the IFQ fight with the little guys a barracuda/sardine contest.

Martin Luther King had a lot to say about the large numbers of people that won't speak up for what is right. Reporters don't get involved because they don't understand all this, so the public knows nothing of the life and death struggle between the "wants-everyone's-shares" and the "have-all-they-wants." Who do you think shows up at the remote federal fisheries management meetings, the former or the latter? And make no mistake, environmentalist- sounding organizations get bought just like politicians. Check it out.

So, if you buy into privatizing the fisheries with IFQs, heed the old Chinese Proverb, "Be careful what you wish for." Eventually there will be exactly three fishing companies in every "rationalized" fishery. That's the type of "market-based" fishery that is prescribed by MSA. And those companies will be so big they sure aren't going to "deliver" to ye old fishing village.