Saturday, August 31, 2013

More Western Alaska feudal politics

View some of the 'TED Talks' and you'll see that social entrepreneurship is alive and well in the world and has answers for serious social and economic problems. The problem is that the people in power didn't think of them first and can't get credit for them so they mostly go nowhere. And in the case of places like Western Alaska, with myriad social ills, the powers to be have agendas at odds with social entrepreneurship. 

A leading social entrepreneur in the region, Tim Smith, can vouch for the dysfunction, in spades. He wants to restore salmon runs as the President of the Nome Fishermen's Association. The Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation who own a fleet of factory trawlers who catch thousands of salmon as by-catch opposes his efforts.

If we as a society find it useful or expedient to trample social entrepreneur's work and personal integrity into the tundra, the mud, the dust, or whatever is underfoot, the rest of us should know it. Notwithstanding that there are global kudos, awards and grants for social entrepreneurs. In the current issue, Tim contrasts his clear writing and selfless social conscience.with corporate smear mongers and personal bottom liners. How are we to react, how are we to believe in our future? The only future there has ever been for us is when we work together reasonably and reject the unreasonableness.

Another fisheries social entrepreneur tries to come to Tim's rescue with the following piece. We just hope the courts follow the reasonableness test.

Nome Nugget OPINION page, Letters — Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013
Dear Editor,
The August 23 hearing before Judge Timothy Dooley, due to an obviously perjured complaint by Kyan Olanna of NSEDC, could turn Nome into kangaroo court land.  Using the courts for personal vendettas makes a mockery of justice.
Across Alaska and outside, fishing industry folks have followed CDQ matters for years.  We’ve watched the failures to share CDQ wealth with Western Alaska communities.  We see the personal extravagance of highly paid key members in the CDQs, the waste of public funds, and abusing the process of awarding United States fishing rights.
Tim Smith simply stands up to represent the public’s interest, especially because Ted Stevens and Congressman Don Young failed to ensure openness, transparency, and accountability.  Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich also foolishly allow “The Untouchables,” because vote-getting seems more important than ensuring ethical and transparent use of public resources.
But Kyan Olanna makes it personal, defamatory, and even violates the laws lawyers themselves are to follow about telling the truth in court filings.  She obviously makes up false claims to ask a court for a “stalking or sexual assault” protective order against Smith. Olanna knows this does great personal harm to Mr. Smith.  False accusations carry stigmas too.
But NSEDC forgets that mocking justice might work once, against Smith, but the rest of the fishing industry is constantly watching.  Justice is not blind, either.  We hope the judge ends her vicious game and Nome’s Police Department also gets it straight that Smith is a great public citizen.
# # # #
Groundswell Fisheries Movement, Stephen Taufen – lives in Kodiak, and represents public citizen interests across Alaskan fisheries.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Alaska fisheries management and crony capitalism

Rereading this Victor Smith piece for the Alaska Dispatch immediately brought to mind two points of order. First, I never tied up my thoughts on the Arne Fuglvog affair. I was only critical of Arne being given the post of head of the National Marine Fisheries Service as a matter of principal. I allowed room for the reader to place blame where they might. I had no idea that Arne was breaking the law. It was a former crewmember who had been treated badly by Arne who had seen the violations and talked to law enforcement when it looked like Arne might become the top fish cop.

Both Arne and I were interviewed by Richard Gaines, deceased, of Gloucester Times fame and I only said that Arne had no background in the management of people or fisheries science. After doing some jail time, Arne is back in the game as a consultant. I wish him well as a man, not necessarily as a consultant.

I sure don't know why I keep getting drug into these things. Just like here in the Rogue Valley of Oregon recently. A GMO Free group wanted to meet with the local State Representative who solely sponsored a bill to take away local control  over genetically modified organisms of all kinds. The Representative begged off meeting his constituents "because he had a meeting at the same time with John Enge's group." I don't have a group, nor had I ever talked to this person, but now I guess I do have a group; 'The Phantom Pharmers.'

Second, I think there are rumblings about overhauling the whole broken Council Process of managing the fisheries. Hopefully, to break up the numerous cabals that have evolved to divy up the loot between fewer and fewer players. Fewer is better, right? so you can say the fishermen are more profitable and ignore the vast number of fishermen, and communities, who had to go bust. So, in this vein I suggest a reading of Victor's article, or a re-reading, like I did to remember just how broken the fisheries management system in this country is.

Victor Smith
Aaron Jansen illustration
Ever since 1998, when former Sen. Ted Stevens introduced his rotten American Fisheries Act (AFA), the United Fisherman of Alaska (UFA) and their allies on the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council (NPFMC) have been carving off for themselves the choice pieces of the fisheries resources of the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea. Stevens started it by giving the extremely lucrative pollock fishery to a handful of fishing companies and, in so doing, set off a vicious "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" national stampede for privatization. Why? In large part because no restrictions were placed to keep profits from pollock from being used to dominate all the other fisheries AFA companies participated in.
Proponents of catch shares have cleverly obfuscated their greed, jealousy, and crude survival instincts with high-minded baloney like the yarn that private ownership fosters good resource stewardship. Arne Fuglvog, the UFA's and Sen. Lisa Murkowski's pick to head NMFS, recently disproved that smarmy nonsense when he got busted for criminally underreporting his own catch while simultaneously parroting that bull at the Council.
There's nothing high-minded about divvying up the loot in the Gulf; it is dirty business, and all of a sudden it looks like Murkowski and UFA were pushing a "Manchurian Candidate" to head the National Marine Fisheries Service.
In his May 2009 email to the UFA, ex-Petersburg son John Enge gave a respectful and specific heads-up that Fuglvog was a crook and his appointment to head NMFS would backfire. Now that Enge's warning has proven true, the UFA is in the unenviable position of trying to convince everyone that they didn't know what everyone knows they knew all along -- that while Fuglvog may have been a good choice for the UFA, he was a thief and a poor choice for everyone else. To cover their asses the UFA is trying to make the story all about how Enge was "not credible," and claiming "(Enge) was in the practice of writing things that were untrue and denigrating our association and our industry."
Well boo-hoo for the poor UFA. Enge never denigrated the industry, just the UFA; and they deserve it. Does anyone believe that the UFA executive board (and Murkowski) were "all surprised as anybody" and didn't know about Arne's fishery violations? Sounds like time to subpoena some hard drives because as sure as dead fish stink, the UFA knew about Fuglvog and was white-knuckling it, hoping that everyone would keep their traps shut and their puppet-on-a-string candidate would squeak through.
Here's the story the UFA doesn't want anyone to hear:
After the AFA put everything on the table, a cabal of fishing industry insiders hatched a plan to rig the game by hijacking the much-revered UFA. They realized that fishermen were perceived as Alaska's soul, and if they could steal their voice by controlling the UFA they would wield a lot of power in Alaska. It would be a twofer: fishermen in opposition could be muzzled and their apparent support could be thrown behind almost anything.
As soon as they took it over, the UFA was used to boost Frank Murkowski into the governor's office. Not even apologizing to critics who pointed out that the UFA's membership had never been polled, UFA's new executives crowed about how they had worked for more than a year behind the scenes to link arms and make deals with nearly every other business sector in Alaska to get Murkowski elected.
But the deals came with a steep price for fishermen. The UFA's first deal was to quickly defend -- again without prior membership approval -- Murkowski's scuttling of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's (ADF&G) Habitat Division, the division actually responsible for the good stewardship of the habitat of the very fish that UFA members' livelihoods depended on.
The second deal the UFA made was to back, one after the other, two rotten Murkowski picks for ADF&G Commissioner. UFA's first supported commissioner, Kevin Duffy, signed off on icing the Habitat Division with admonishments to "not look back." Duffy also gave the state's approval to Congress for the BSAI Crab plan, which gifted even more exclusive rights, this time for crab, to another handful of fishing companies.
Inexplicably, the UFA's second pick for ADF&G commissioner was McKie Campbell, a guy who had spent the bulk of his career working for the mining industry to reduce standards for mine runoff into salmon streams. And the UFA didn't just grudgingly back Campbell; members of the UFA Executive Board actually traveled the state to make a slick promotional video to tout his appointment. (Campbell now works on Sen. Lisa Murkowski's staff, as Republican staff director for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.)
The third deal the UFA made was to exploit what seems to have been a crisis manufactured to bankrupt and drive half their competition out of the State. Even after dropping the price of pink salmon to 5 cents a pound (the price now is 42 cents!), fish companies claimed they were losing money on every pound of fish they bought, and half the salmon fleet was informed they would have no place to sell their fish in the 2002 season. That vicious threat of losing markets was used to bludgeon fishermen's opposition to all of the UFA's deals.
A couple of years later Rob Zuanich, the UFA executive who made the promotional video for Campbell -- the same guy who had spent so much time in Gov. Murkowski's office “managing the crisis" in the spring of 2002 -- was given a very favorable $1.2-million loan from the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority to start a fish company, thereby profiting mightily from the market conditions he helped create. Like Zuanich, Fuglvog, and Campbell, everyone who's ever packed water for the UFA has been given ever more lucrative and influential positions.
That's the opposite of the fortunes for everyone else -- and by design -- because when the loot's split up, it's best split the least number of ways. That's why the fisheries council process has been one of rigged exclusion; that's the way the ersatz democratic council process works.
Unless there is a thorough fumigation, the UFA and the councils will continue stealing national fisheries treasures and fencing them off to their own little networks, just as they've been doing for the last twelve or so years. If you run a small, honest business, that won't be good for you.
Victor Smith was born in Juneau and grew up in Petersburg. He has fished commercially all over Alaska on several of his own boats, mostly for salmon and herring, and he was a founding and long-time stockholder in NorQuest Seafoods.