Monday, February 27, 2012

Disrobing the Aboriginal Industry

Only letters from the fringes of Alaska, and maybe some other underdogs, get my blogging juices flowing these days. Alaskans living on the islands and rugged coasts live a precarious existence, not that they can't get to the 'outside' somehow and live on welfare at any time. Sometimes that's problematic too, but sometimes I think purveyors of the modern version of the Golden Rule (He who holds the gold, makes the rules.) wouldn't mind so much if there were fewer folk to contend with. Notice I didn't say 'do for,' 'assist,' or 'feed,' or anything like that.

There are reasons that there are pockets of real hunger and cold in Western Alaska, just like there are definite reasons why the U.S. economy tanked in 2008. I applaud the new generation of Alaska media movers and shakers for their courage. And that they cover each other's backsides. They do form a network now. And as they bond, the resource extractors ramp up their grabbing at a more furious pace. It's a race to be sure and a race to leave nothing behind.

The following letter from way out in the bush is in response to a response in Alaska Dispatch to a recent blog post of mine. That's what the writer meant when he said they get real touchy when you put a light on them. Meaning the new Golden Rule types. I gotta hand it to them, they close ranks real well. But that's about all they do well. As help for Alaska Natives has poured in, especially under Sen. Ted Stevens 'pork pipeline,' the industries they had going started closing down all over the state,; their canneries closed, subsistence opportunities dwindled, and the entrepreneurial spirit waned, in just about a direct ratio. Without further gum smacking, here's the latest cry I've heard from someone not very willing 'to go quietly into the night.'

"You hit a nerve going after Harrelson and our inept version of Blackwater, the VPSO Program. Where an ANCSA police farce holds sway over perhaps 90% of Alaska's area, or more. Be that as it may, CDQ's are legitimized by the rationalization (think nationalization) of fish, and ANCSA's 8a corruption is unfettered because they are a great economic asset to election campaigns. You're nibbling at the edges of the aboriginal industry of the north.

 Parallel tribal corruption in the lower 48 brought down Abramoff. But in Alaska, mountains high, king distant, always dicey anyway politically, nobody has taken it on. Probably out of an acute sense of self-preservation. Here's a Canadian take on it :
 The harder you hit it the greater the reaction. Indigenous people as individuals are exploited more ruthlessly and systematically by their purported corporations (managed by caucasians) than by any overt discrimination. And as a result are in many ways worse off today on their home lands than they have ever been."

Friday, February 17, 2012

To Kill the Kodiak Economy

Occupy Fisheries is catching on in Alaska it seems. Family fishermen are speaking up in a way I haven't seen in years. For certain these folks have been disenfranchised for shedding light on the plunder of Alaska's fish resources by 'the few,' with help from the stacked government deck, including their own neighbors on important citizen committees. Oh, but the good news is that they 'got theirs.'

I, John Enge, a fourth generation Alaskan fishing industry type, and 'anonymous blogger,' according to one corporate shill, do seem to be getting a lot of letters lately from my correspondents. New web sites and blogs on the subject of corporate take-over of the fisheries are sprouting up too, in what seems to be a Fisheries Spring; the Tholepin blog has been very enlightening, now there is 'Fish Bytes' from a reporter for the Alaska Journal of Commerce, Alaska Dispatch does a good job with general news, There may be others that aren't biased toward the status quo, but these ones are on my radar.

And I have to reiterate what this writer says about the big 'Battle for theGulf' being about Pacific ocean perch. The reportage on the fight for these fish behind closed North Pacific Council doors is non-existent. At stake is a fishery maybe worth more than the pollock fishery in the Bering Sea. The Russians used to catch MANY hundreds of thousands of metric tons of them. They are the tastiest of the rockfish, highly valued in Japan, and have rebounded since the days before the 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone off our shores. Anyone can do the math. Anyway, enjoy the rest of the read.


     "Many thanks for laying out the Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation situation.  I can't understand why such a juicy story keeps from breaking into State News.  The ADF+G has some house cleaning to do, as do the villages in that region. Here in Kodiak it's the deadly calm of a descending economy. The public appears to have given up and accepted "RATIONALIZATION" (rats), the law that says who owns the fish ( not us).  I say 'appears,' because if leopards can change their spots then it's very possible we're quiet because we're tickled to death with "rats". 

No, there's a general feeling that nothing economically fruitful is ever going to happen again in our neck of the woods, that we're being pinched off a little more every year, that we've been swept without knowing it into a situation resembling an oligarchy composed of a handful of corporations and individuals; complete with two governments, several radio stations and a Chamber of Commerce that all do their duty to that oligarchy.  Their duty is to pretend they don't see what's going on in our basic industry and I have to take my hat off to their performance.

 But now, from 3 fish plants that were shut out when the Rockfish spoils were originally split up, comes a lawsuit, striking the rats balloon in mid flight.  A week ago the cartel's plan for 'owning' the North Pacific was on track and doing fine, nearly complete.  Our fate was sealed, we wouldn't see any new money in town till there was oil rigs off shore and services like crewboat supply, and bars, were needed.

The Rockfish in  the Gulf are all owned by a few dozen lucky fishermen via the "catch share" system.  That takes care of half the business; "Processor Quotas" (PQ's) take care of the rest.  It mandates that every GOA Rockfish fisherman has to deliver his catch to the processor who holds the PQ's, whatever the price and delivery schedule. Plaintiffs will be in court in a month, but for now, the Feds say they told everybody twice back around 2004 that PQ's were illegal, but the cartels just kept pushing them through. PQs have been functioning in the Bering for years. 

 It's going to be hard for Kodiak people to hear the ins and outs of this.  The Kodiak Daily Mirror went on 100% censorship as of July 2008. The public radio station never met a privatizer they didn't like, and short of handing out tracts on the street, there's no way to clue folks in.  Still, the news will seep in eventually, but I hope we can straighten up and do whatever it takes to make sure we stay on the information highway.  I wouldn't be surprised to see all the organs of our two local governments leap to the defense of the poor cartels; it's happened before.

     Faint signs of a recovery may sprout on our waterfronts in 2012, if the privatizers can't scare the Federal courts into condoning an unconstitutional act. If the Feds hold tough it means long term growth, some anyway.  The big leap would come when and if we dislodge the draggers from their dirty work in GOA Rockfish. 

     The rats crowd are in turmoil; good time to hit them with whatever else is around.  The biggest thing by far would be enforcing another law that's presently being broken.  Revisit the dividing of the spoils in Bering Sea crab and GOA Rockfish.  Federal law says the crew and skippers get 40%; they got 3%.  Correct that fraud and make sure the fish corresponding to that 40% are earmarked for mixed gear fleets, non-trawl. No power could stop the economic growth that would then occur. We'll hope for the best up North and here as well."

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Bering Strait Blues

"In the latest; Charlie Lean, NSEDC's new Fisheries Development person,  is advertising for a state sanctioned aquaculture association. In meetings and on paper it has the same name precisely as the state certified aquaculture association presided over by Tim Smith, President of the Nome Fishermen's Association. He uses no name in the solicitation. If he changes the name it won't be the one ADFG certified."
This is one real head-scratcher from my Nome correspondent. I've been following these antics by the Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation for a long time and it just gets stranger and stranger. The State of Alaska has certified on numerous occasions that a Tim Smith is the legal head of the first legal salmon enhancement program in the Bering Strait. In NSEDC's desperate attempt to co-opt the program, they have hired former Fish and Game Dept. regional biologists, such as Charlie Lean. What are they doing anyway, is what I'd like to ask. Keep in mind that NSEDC is invested in trawling the Bering Sea, to the tune of over $170 million, with it's attendant interception of coast bound salmon. Producing more salmon would of course increase the by-catch, likely beyond the hard cap that would trigger a shutdown of trawling. Never mind that the locals have had plentiful salmon runs up until the trawling kicked into high gear. I know, it sounds stranger than fiction.

To put some clarity on the subject, the head of the NSEDC is a Dan Harrelson, a Village Public Safety Officer in White Mountain, a short distance from Nome. I won't go into the Barney Fife aspects of law enforcement in this village, because it is overshadowed by the more Conan the Barbarian aspects of it, and the attendant quality of life effects on the folks there. These next two letters, in chronological order, help us understand the wonderful life (not) of the 'theoretical' shareholders of NSEDC in the frozen north. The feudal society that the indicted Sen. Ted Stevens set up.
Sent: Tuesday, November 06, 2007 11:39 AM
To: (Alaska) Sen. Donny Olson

"The Village Public Safety Officer (VPSO) program is a private police force that covers the majority of the land mass of Alaska. Something without parallel in this or any other democratic nation. Although the Alaska State Troopers provide training and liaisons with the program; VPSO's are corporate employees, with a supervisor who as likely as not started his or her job with no law enforcement, or legal background.

The State can not hire or fire a VPSO. In the worst instances, they can arrest them. But short of that, expressing a negative legal opinion about a VPSO by a Trooper leaves them open for a defamation suit.
State troopers tend to be rotated every few years and much of what they've learned goes with them. If a VPSO is under suspicion, all they have to do is wait out a change.

In living in a village in Western Alaska I witnessed a wide open drug trade, and physical reckless injury to one of my children. The response of the VPSO in that community always was influenced by the relationship he had established over decades with the dealer or the reckless operator, not necessarily the law.
In going directly to the Troopers to attempt resolutions of these issues I detected a sense of frustration , similar to what I experienced, in varying degrees. I had no honest response from the program's corporate management within the nonprofit. Any public action or admission that would reflect badly on their management, and adversely effect future funding or continued management, were buried with bureaucratic finesse.

As a result I feel a deep skepticism of the program as currently constituted. But there are several ways it could be improved.
1. Direct supervision of a region's VPSOs, with the right to hire and fire, by the State Troopers.
2. Any corporate supervisory personnel be required by statute to have several years law enforcement,
a degree in criminology, or equivalent legal experience.
3. Have the boundary of the VPSO program in various areas of the State correspond to the Trooper
contingents districts; ie. A,B C etc. This would help maintain a continuity in oversight of the program
as troopers are transferred within their area.
4. Recruit returning veterans to become VPSOs. Veterans have useful training, institutional integrity,
demonstrated courage, and commitment to public service. Alaska Natives have a great history of
service to their country: why not continue it here?
5. Where possible recruit State Troopers from young competent VPSOs.
6. That the Trooper overseeing VPSOs in an area spend substantial time in its villages gaining a
greater knowledge of their region and those they supervise.
7. Make VPSO's employees of the State. It would allow oversight of the program by competent
professionals. It would also legitimize and ensure the continuity of the program."

Jump to the present and here's what can happen with run-amok law and order in Bush Alaska.

"It's great the Norton Sound Salmon  RPT (Regional Planning Team for salmon enhancement) met and decided to spend a few years putting together another 10 year salmon plan after the expiration of the previous 10 year plan. With the same folks running the show. Into the tundra.

Charlie Lean and Jim Menard know why there are no salmon in Salmon Lake. They were responsible for the project and they just quit feeding them. After record escapement the Salmon Lake fertilization project was terminated. Salmon smolt were starved to near extinction.

State personnel have even taken the incubators from the hatchery here. I asked respectfully at the meeting as a gesture of good faith for their return. If you plan to restore runs why cripple a hatchery in the first place?
It would seem more productive to reinstate the previous plan in the interim until the next plan is in place. By the time all is said and done under the current regime, all that are likely to be hatched isempty promises and per diem checks.
 Mr. Rabung, the state biologist presiding at the meeting, has a distinguished career behind him in salmon enhancement. But his suggestion to a group of us in favor of a hatchery outside the meeting was to form another non regional aquaculture association as has been done in Southeast Alaska. What is operational just beneath the surface is the vast political reverse auction of ethical depravity, funded by antipoverty funds. It
is a political ghetto, and the quickest way to a 10 dollar bill is to be mercenary, for a corporate interest ,against the public welfare.

It is the norm out here rather than the exception for a publicly funded effort, led or influenced by a nonprofit to fail. There is a communal yawn in Norton Sound at yet another corporate fiasco. And the same lot of entitled poverty pimps keeps us 20 years, and growing, behind aquaculture efforts in the rest of the state, that have really benefited their regions.
King Salmon in Norton Sound have been mismanaged to the brink. Red salmon, the same. The hatchery ripped off. Tier 2 imposed over the united consensus of the community, in disdain of it. And now a commercial salmon fishery planned in Nome while we are still under the subsistence restrictions of Tier 2?
  Do we have another 20 years?"