Friday, August 12, 2011

Time for UFA to fess up

Even with overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing, I've heard a reporter say, "what if this isn't true," and, "don't you have a problem with privatization efforts?" Wow!! Even the LA Times took this tone, mentioning his "critics." Is a peace officer a "critic" of the criminal caught in the act?

Well, lots of folk just have a hard time calling the kettle black. And for other reasons that the media doesn't seem to think is important, the coastal communities in Alaska are drying up. Just this week I saw an article talking about the flight of permits from Bristol Bay, yanking the economic rug out from under those communities as well. Welcome to the world of privatization and consolidation of the fisheries resources.

Now one of the key players in the facilitation of the goal of complete consolidation has been brought to justice. See below. And after so many years in the works. Now, influential parties that swear on a stack of Bibles that they 'care' about the fisheries resources, are struggling clumsily to explain why they took no action earlier themselves in the matter. All will be revealed in the end, as they say.

Hopefully, the culprit himself will see his life in a new light, that culturing a rounded personality and moral compass are two of the legs of the three legged stool of the complete man. The other being sagehood, which Arne can undoubtedly demonstrate in Washington D.C. in the fisheries realm. In Alaska he is just another fisherman. We wish him luck in his quest. Below is more information on the train wreck that seems to be making more cars teeter on the tracks all the time.

"Assistant U.S. Attorney Steward said in an interview that Fuglvog is not considered convicted until the sentencing is complete and the judge has accepted the plea agreement. She declined to answer questions about the investigation of Fuglvog or the addendum to the plea agreement, except to say that it's usual to have a sealed addendum as part of any plea deal.

Fuglvog was Murkowski's fisheries adviser from 2006 until July 31, when he resigned the day before he was formally charged and his plea agreement went public.

Murkowski has said that Fuglvog, despite having signed the plea agreement on April 8, did not tell her about it until June 29.

Fuglvog's plea deal says he falsified records of his commercial catches several times between 2001 and 2006, a period during which Fuglvog helped regulate fishing off Alaska as a member of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

He admitted that in one 2005 incident he "covered up his illegal fishing" by claiming more than 30,000 pounds of sablefish, also known as black cod, were caught in the Central Gulf of Alaska region, rather than an area known as Western Yakutat.

The value of those illegally caught fish was about $100,000, according to his plea agreement.

News of Fuglvog's crime astonished many in the fishing world. John Sackton, president of industry information service, described Fuglvog as "the most important fisheries staffer in Washington."

Fuglvog came close two years ago to taking over as head of the National Marine Fisheries Service, the highest government position in the country that is focused solely on fishing. He was widely reported in fishing industry journals as being one of two finalists to take over the position.

The United Fishermen of Alaska on Saturday emailed a letter to its members, saying that the Fuglvog developments have cast a negative light on commercial fishing and stressing the need "to represent ourselves in a positive and forthright manner." The organization represents more than 30 commercial fishing industry groups throughout the state.

"UFA had no knowledge of fishing violations throughout Mr. Fuglvog's time of service on the NPFMC and his work for Senator Murkowski," wrote the group's president, Arnie Thomson, and its executive director, Mark Vinsel. "UFA's support for Fuglvog for the top ranking fisheries position in the U.S. in 2009 was based on his record of accomplishment and comprehensive knowledge of fisheries issues nationwide."

John Enge, who grew up in Fuglvog's hometown of Petersburg and created a fishing industry blog called "Alaska Café," confirmed this week that he had emailed UFA director Vinsel about Fuglvog in May 2009. Enge wrote in 2009 that "there is an effort to bring to light the log books of Arne's that document under-reporting of landings to NMFS Ram Division. ... Apparently there are plenty of people whose testimony of at least a ten year period of falsifying federal documents would hold up in court."

Vinsel said this week that Enge's email had seemed to him at the time like just one of the rumors that constantly swirl around the fishing industry. Vinsel said that he simply deleted the email and that UFA did not take any action as a result of his receiving it.

"UFA groups had already supported Fuglvog for the NMFS position two weeks prior to my receiving this message. I did not feel that this second hand rumor was credible, in light of the extensive background check that is performed on all regional fishery management council appointees," Vinsel said."

Read more:

I have to add that of the thirty odd fishermen's organizations that UFA lists as members, quite a number of them aren't fishermen's organizations, lest anyone think that this emperor does wear clothes. Many of them are aquaculture associations. This may sound impressive, but in fact they are salmon hatchery operations with only a few employees, none of which are fishermen.

I could go on and on pointing to the elephant in the room, but if the media are operating with blinders on they will never see this industry for what it is. Peeling the onion, another way to look at it, would however provide exciting reading for many, many months and probably pull some newspapers out of their funk.