Monday, September 02, 2013

Plan B for Alaska's coastal communities.

Yeah, John, Salmon Limited Entry, as the first privatization scheme in the country, had a jump-start from Petersburg when a local seiner became it's first President. The Petersburg seiners were interested, as it was said, in keeping the Seattle seine fleet out, since they had knocked down their own fishery and were moving north. Ironically, a later and long time UFA President was a Seattle resident. UFA was revered in Petersburg because those fishermen were multi-species fishermen and now a lot of them have fistfulls of valuable permits, thanks to that original effort. Victor (see a recent blog post for his letter in the Alaska Dispatch)  is from Petersburg, as I am, and I can see why he used that term. You would have been ostracized by the community then if you didn't see things their way.  Like I've said before, many fishermen who pioneered in the fisheries, and many Native fishermen who had fished all their lives, didn't get the prized permit card.

My dad was a business leader there and friend of this first President, who called himself 'The Dog Salmon King,' and later 'The Herring King.' I remember flying with my dad and 'buzzing' his seine boat in a sign of friendship.I also crewed on his seiner once. But the end result was the disappearance of hundreds and hundreds of salmon fishing vessels of all sorts. Especially in the Native villages, ones that even had salmon canneries, now defunct. I know that it's hard to make any progress righting the economic malaise caused by privatization when the federal fishery managers are still promoting the idea.

As privatization programs crop up like mushrooms around the country, folks should take a look at some to the Alaska fishing communities that had long backgrounds in fishing, but not the killer instinct of places like Petersburg. Should lifestyle fishermen be sidelined because they don't aspire to vacuuming up the oceans? I can make a case that the small-time fishermen are better for the oceans and the communities too.

Well, maybe Fukushima will end the whole thing on the West Coast anyway. That or ocean acidification. I do know that the fishing communities will have to be a lot more aware than they have been just to hang on to what they have. The city fathers in the fishing communities have as good a Plan B as the 180 Villages or so that are facing being washed away by global warming. No plan at all.

Victor's letter was great.  One little thing struck me tho.  He called the UFA "much revered" when it was taken over.  Maybe it was revered but if it was it was because people never realized it was a criminal organization as far back as the passage of Salmon Limited entry, maybe even formed for the purpose of saving Salmon LE which was getting turned down by 90% of the fishing communities.  I don't know if there was a UFA before that time, if there was, then it was probably revered.  In Salmon LE days UFA was Hammond, Palmer, Tillion, Daniels, Ricky, etc., and probably it's only member in Kodiak was Oscar Dyson. They saved SLE and destroyed the fleet.
Oh, that's the memo. It might be some fodder to get the word out about what Alaskans really think about privatization for the benefit of the East Coasters. I know there was a lot of hype over how much good it did for Alaska. Nobody ever asked the Alaskans on the street. The article is headlined as 'Anthropologist presents fish survey results to work group." I didn't see the whole article because I didn't sign up to get the paper on line. But I did see that 77% of respondents think privatization is a disaster for the local economy. I'm sure this is reflective of what is going on in the other Alaska ports, from my time as a plant operator, economic developer as a gubernatorial appointee, and constant observer of this issue.

My hometown of Petersburg, AK has similar economic malaise: rumor had it that the big cannery in town wouldn't run a few years ago, and the other big cannery used the excuse of some minor damage to it's dock by the state ferry to stay closed one summer. The economic impact of a major employer in a town of only 3,000 people not hiring for a year is not insignificant. The NMFS has refused to do the economic analysis that was required of them when privatization of the halibut fishery was instituted.

The number one fallacy was that privatization would stop "the race for fish." There was never a race for fish, it was a race to get history to gain the private ownership rights. Anybody that says different just wasn't there when it was all happening, and before when lots of boats of all sizes were making good money and nobody could imagine owining fish as they swam. Petersburg, in this earlier time had the second highest income per capita in the United States in the 1960 census. Petersburg residents were decended from Norwegian immigrants who longlined halibut and cod in Norway and immediately took to this fishery. The same decendents are still there, but the town has fallen greatly in wealth distribution and general downtown business health due to commercial fishing. If federal and state dollars and tourism were taken out of the equation, the town might not be able to provide nearly as many services to it's residents.

Ms. Carouthers, of the University of Alaska, is a little late in this study. The U of A Institute of Social and Economic Research has not been forthcoming in it's concern for it's stated purpose. Politics and not fisheries management science has been the driving force in 'who should fish.' I think it has been a travesty that the fleets of commercial fishing vessels in the Alaska Native Villages has dropped to a mere shadow of their former glory in the 1960s and early '70s. Some of their leaders are pushing the feds now to do some rectifying of the situation, but a whole culture of commercial fishing has been lost there.

I remember it like you said, "we had 300 boats in our little fleet in Kodiak and now it's down to 50. and everyone back then brought home the bacon."As far as not getting top billing for the article in the Kodiak Daily Mirror with the new editor, we have the same problem here. I found out Rupert Murdock own our paper. Very few letters to the editor get in to throw dirt on the GMO folks. I guess we can get some in, not like your paper which quit printing any letters about fishing after the summer of 2008.

You know, salmon privatization crept in about the time the Vietnam War push-back efforts in the  U.S. were kicking into high gear. Lots of distraction, and back door deal-making, like giving out permits to shut people up. without all the dirty tricks Limited Entry didn't have that much success of gaining Legislative support. And of course nobody ever tried to explain it to the public much. And nobody could really forsee that once one fishery privatized, a gold rush mentality would set in and nimrods from far and wide would go out on anything that would float to 'earn history' for the next fishery to be privatized. Been there, done that, just never got the coffee mug and T shirt.

I personally had enough 'history,' starting with skiff fishing for halibut as a kid and going out on the family longliner, to win a federal grant to develop an automatic baiting machine. Obviously I wasn't qualified to earn any quota in the lawmakers' eyes.. And even the federal grant prevented me from profiting from my invention. Not that I wanted to be a professional fisherman anyway: I remember applying for a research analyst job with the state in my twenties somewhere.

I'm not going to belabor this much, but I'll combine our comments for the sake of others.