Friday, January 25, 2013

Gulf Ratz letter misses protective mark

The Kodiak City Council and Borough Assembly recently sent out a three question questionnaire on trawl ratz. It was in response to Dr. Seth Macinko's  warning about the dire effects of catch shares on the health of fishing communities. Check out the YouTube video of his speech. It's similar to the one he gave to the European Union. The death of fishing fleets in half of Denmark's coastal fishing communities after catch shares is a dire warning indeed. This is my response to the questionnaire: reprinting Stephen Taufen's guest opinion. I will add, though, that I started warning city governments in Alaska in about 1991, on an appointment by Gov. Steve Cowper, that they should take a more active role in fisheries economics.
Sending out a questionnaire to find out what others have to say on the subject is like asking folks how many fish can live in the ocean. It's especially ludicrous coming right on the  heels of a world expert on the subject  of the effects of privatization of fish resources on  coastal communities. I'll say right now that there are MANY  downtown Kodiak businesses that have closed up shop since privatization started kicking in. I'm not holding my breath that Kodiak's politicians would care if little Timothy Cratchit hoppled around Kodiak on his crutches and in his rags. Anyway, enjoy Stephen's letter.

Guest opinion: Gulf Ratz letter misses protective mark
by Stephen Taufen
Jan 25, 2013 [Friday]
The Federal Register declared the North Pacific Fisheries Council is proceeding on giving away federal fish resources to selected trawl recipients in the Gulf. That is close to committing public larceny.
Catch shares are a euphemism for limited access privilege programs. Sharing sounds good when it applies to giving candy to kids. But privatization of public resources, giving away individual fishing quotas in perpetuity, ends all sharing. A proper impact statement and required analysis would take years. That’s unacceptable to greedy proponents of personalized catch shares. Total catch limits are already in place.
Others propose individual bycatch quotas. But awarding rights to harm the environment guarantees as-dirty-as-now fishing and goes against sustainability. They are like carbon credits that cost governments hundreds of billions, were absorbed by the worst polluters, and did zilch for cleaner air. IBQs just provide a short step to IFQs.
The city and borough just fashioned a generalized letter to the council about the trawl sector proposal. I say generalized because one could also call it pathetic. Or weak.
Oh, it is well written and well-intended, for the most part. They are trying to stand up for Kodiak and figure the diplomatic soft touch is best.
However, the council doesn’t have to do anything communities want — especially if the governor’s squad of NPFMC members won’t take an anti-giveaway, anti-privatization perspective.
Politicians often get in the habit of compromising, particularly where there is no right to. The USA does not ‘own’ the fish in the Gulf of Alaska. Politically tainted agencies have no right to give away ownership.
The letter ignores current policy atmospherics. The inspector general of the Commerce Department just issued its first report on concerns over transparency and problems with council members’ financial disclosures and conflicts of interest on votes.
How many times in the past decade have corporate and catch share proponents prevailed over addressing crab crew concerns by 6-to-5 votes and other faction-based squeakers?
Kodiak shouldn’t fall to divide and conquer and the PR Wurlitzer of the trawl sector’s trickery to get IFQs and get them first. The city and borough are being alienated by the sweet cake of community shares ownership while other fishermen are getting net-hanged.
The joint letter fails to loudly declare support for captains and crew. It disregards exorbitant lease fees that will drain Kodiak and its fishermen. Yet those jobs and dollars generate local taxes. We might better off asking Congress to set a national fish price per pound, and some floor prices on pollock and cod.
There are other gear groups able to catch fish and maximize the net national value and sustainability who provide far more jobs. The letter also needed to open up the door to concerns for value-added products and local processing plant jobs, too.
As fishery expert Seth Macinko of the University of Rhode Island recently told the community leaders, “there are no unintended consequences, we know exactly what harms will come about” from IFQs and fleet concentration. He then inquired, “The question to you as policy makers: Is this what you want for Kodiak?”
Stephen Taufen is president of the Groundswell Fisheries Movement, which advocates fisheries issues on behalf of fishing industry workers.