Thursday, December 08, 2011

Case study of a lost salmon resource

"I never did give anybody hell. I just told the truth and they thought it was hell.”
                                                            ------ Harry S. Truman

This quote by Harry Truman reminded me of a situation that is unfolding, as we speak, in Western Alaska. I can't say it as well as the folks out there tell it, so I'll just preface it and then paste on what they've said in the last few days. Some of what is being said is in the 'Nome Nugget' newspaper on-line. I started to be really concerned after hearing that the Mayor of Teller, Alaska, the legendary sled dog racer, was attempted to be barred from attending a North Pacific Fisheries Management Council Meeting by management of the Community Development Quota group he is a Board Member of. 

Joe had a right to attend as a member of the public, but the Norton Sound Community Development Corporation is acting more like a feudal lord and doesn't want it's constituency learning the truth about it's involvement in the fishing business: where all the money is going, why their salmon runs are drying up, and why they can't get any salmon enhancement going.

The following correspondences explain it better. I think it is shameful on the part of Governor Parnell that this is going on on his watch. If any other force of law wants to step in, feel free. When you have the leaders of these CDQ groups making in the hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual salary and villagers are getting on the radio and saying they are cold and hungry, something is rotten. 

Some folks in Western Alaska have been speaking up lately and are also being threatened by their own economic development group with legal action. The economic development folks have just been buying toxic assets of the fishing industry. For what? It seems, just their own salaries. Under CDQ federal rules, they aren't obligated to respond to their constituency, the villagers of the region. Is there no humanity left amongst the regulators? 

What is economic development? The Knight Foundation just released the findings of a study on what promotes the general welfare of the public, which is the definition of economic development. And that is, attachment to community was found to be the most important thing. And that the drivers of attachment are the underlying key variables. Those would certainly include, in this case, the continuation of the historically important food supply of Western Alaskans, the salmon runs. And freedom from fear of retribution for speaking up about injustices in the region. Without further ado, here's some letters that have come across my desk lately. Not the whole of it by any means.

"The three public RPT (Regional Planning Team) members identified in the message from Sam Rabung to David Bedford below: Charlie Lean, Wes Jones and Simon Kineen are all NSEDC (Norton Sound Economic Development Corp.) employees. All three are former ADF&G (Alaska Department of Fish and Game) Commercial Fisheries Division employees who worked in the Nome office.

Charlie Lean retired as an ADF&G Commercial Fisheries Area Management Biologist in Nome and now is the Director for the NSEDC Norton Sound Fisheries Research and Development Program.

Wes Jones was an ADF&G Commercial Fisheries Assistant Area Management Biologist in Nome and was hired as a Fisheries Biologist by NSEDC.

Simon Kineen was an ADF&G Commercial Fisheries Technician in Nome and is now the NSEDC Chief Operations Officer.

Kawerak is an ex officio member of the RPT and the Kawerak RPT representative is Roy Ashenfelter who also works for NSEDC.

Putting the owners of pollock trawler companies in control of Norton Sound salmon enhancement is ridiculous. The last thing the trawlers want is more salmon in the Bering Sea. More salmon means more bycatch and they are already under salmon bycatch limits which reduce their profits. Marked salmon from enhancement projects can be used to determine the impact of trawl bycatch on specific salmon stocks of concern for the first time and the most threatened stocks in Alaska are in Norton Sound.

This incestuous relationship between ADFG and NSEDC creates a conflict of interest for both entities with lots of money changing hands. ADF&G headquarters may not care about the amounts obtained from NSEDC but the area management staff and the region sure do. In addition, CDQ groups provide a cushy second career for ADF&G employees who play ball.

Gene Sandone was a former ADF&G Commercial Fisheries Regional Supervisor for the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim area which encompasses most of the CDQ eligible communities. He now works for the CDQ group Coastal Villages Region Fund.

6 AAC 93.015. CDQ Team; Responsibilities; Lead state agency.
(a) To carry out the state's role in the CDQ program under 50 C.F.R. 679, a CDQ team shall perform functions as directed in and under this chapter. The CDQ team consists of

(2) the commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game, or one or more of the commissioner's representatives from that department; and

(c) To fulfill the purpose of this chapter, including providing accountability to the CDQ program, the CDQ team shall

(3) make recommendations regarding CDQ allocations and changes to allocations;

5) monitor the performance of each CDQ group in achieving the group's milestones and objectives in its CDP;

A reasonable person would conclude that the money NSEDC gives ADF&G and the high paying jobs it provides for cooperative ADF&G employees will buy favorable recommendations on its CDQ allocations and superficial monitoring by ADF&G as a member of the State of Alaska CDQ team of its nonperformance in delivering CDQ program benefits to its member communities."

And  this just came in today:

"It needs to get out there. There was a criminal conspiracy, leading to an illegal break in and theft at our communities hatchery, by highly placed ADFG officials. The State Corporations office stated formally that Tim is president of our aquaculture association. ADFG is doubling down in criminal behavior, really retaliating, and violating Tim's civil rights, by putting a bunch of ex ADFG mercenaries, employed and orchestrated by the trawl industry, to once more rob him; this time of a rightful place at the table.
And any slim chance of future involvement in salmon restoration. And ensuring the slum dog millionaire salmon famine of Western Alaska is prolonged indefinitely."

And this:

"The stuff with Joe got interesting. A few weeks ago, NSEDC Chairman Dan Harrelson wrote the city of Teller to demand Joe's resignation from the NSEDC Board. A familiar pattern of doubling down in retaliation, when remotely challenged. No board authorization to do so. A retaliatory, racist action. Little white VPSO Dan has been trashing natives & getting paid for it so long he feels it a human right. He's been corroding the legal system here long enough they basically condone or ignore every misdeed.

I'm hearing through the grapevine too that Eric Olson confronted him, in a blatant conflict of interest at the current Council meeting in Anchorage, warning him not to try to break away and form a new CDQ group that actually represented his people. That he, Olson, wouldn't allow it. The bought and paid for Council Chair, knows that such an idea would spread like wildfire to all the groups.

The best performing group per capita, Central Bering Sea, is the result of such a breakaway. Not a bad precedent?"
The State of Alaska is abrogating it's constitutional responsibilities to protect these salmon resources that are being lost. Who do you pin it on though? Well, certainly the Governor. In the least, don't let him and his appointees have four more years to trash more of Alaska's resources.