Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Planned Obsolescense for Fishermen?

It's been a wonderment to me why so many fish stocks keep going downhill in this country. Even salmon, as much as that is refuted by the marketers who want the premium 'sustainable' label.

We should have started flying these P. cod to London instead of Korea. They are as good as gold over there now.

It's easy to see though, if you are unbiased, and are student enough. A big problem with fish management, at least in Alaska where I hail from, is that the citizen councils are all of one stripe or another. These fishermen and company representatives fight like mad for the biggest share of the pie out in the industry, then continue the fight in the council chambers. And when they do agree they'll go so far as to invent a 'two-pie system' just for themselves.

The only stocks in Alaska I know of that aren't going down all the time, or are already fished out, are arrowtooth flounder, which is inedible after you bring it to shore, and dogfish shark, which is a protected specie. Which now may be resulting in an ecosystem way out of whack. So what's the use trying to train our youth to enter this industry. What are they going to inherit?

Fish and Game has often used lack of funds as an excuse for not doing a better job or opening new fisheries. Sometimes State appointments to these fisheries management councils vote contrary to the wishes of the Governor who appointed them. Now the Feds are using the same 'lack of funds' excuse to disallow a little decentralization of authority.

Let's not let pesky fishermen try to get up on their high-horse; get organized, take some control back locally. After all there are national policy imperitives, like continuing to rebuild the Japanese economy.

I don't know what's wrong with the notion that our industries should at least be 51% U.S. owned. And that goes for the fish swimming in the sea too. How many other scenarios will be played out like the Chase Bank deal, where they were bought into by a Malaysian bank to the tune of $12 billion, after Chase lost $18 billion.

To keep this from becoming another 40 fathom letter, here's some comments from the leader of a Port of New Bedford Business Alliance program to help fishermen nationally get up on their feet. Boats are flocking to New Bedford, MA as it is one of the few full service ports left on the East Coast. And Gene, I did see the petition mentioned in National Fisherman magazine.

"Hello John,

Thanks for the update. I agree with you that the feds foster a disorganized commercial fishing industry. Just last week, they shot down the prospect for organized fishing sectors in New England (seventeen were proposed under Magnuson reauthorization) because the feds said they did not have the manpower to accommodate them in the near term. They know the fishermen essentially won't have time to financially survive the delay. Congress can pass all kinds of legislation, but as always, the devil is in the details of implementation. In this case, it seems simply to be planned obsolescence through attrition. The average age of fishing vessels captains here has risen to fifty-five.

The local newspaper in Gloucester, MA did a negative piece on the petition as Gloucester seems to have become very tied to NMFS, where the regional office is coincidentally in Gloucester. When you and Susan wrote your pieces promoting the petition, no other papers picked it up. The Gloucester article, in contrast, appeared in over fifty papers worldwide, which shows the specific power of the strict conservationists and they know it too. So do the feds. They have a lock on communications, and besides, the fishermen are not only too tired to counter, but too afraid - a sad sight indeed and support in the form of money and manpower is in short supply.

What's necessary, at least to my mind as you know, is to rally around the petition, which is slowly being reformatted for distribution on paper - the net surprisingly has proven not nearly enough. The petition needs champions.

All the best, Gene"