Seth Macinko – Challenges facing small-scale fisheries – The Privatization Model, Ocean Grabbing

Rhode Island University Associate Professor Seth Macinko delivering his keynote speech to the delegates of the 6th World Forum of Fisher Peoples (WFFP) General Assembly. Published on Sep 2, 2014 09:34

2 Responses to Seth Macinko – Challenges facing small-scale fisheries – The Privatization Model, Ocean Grabbing

  1. DickyG says:

    Thank you Seth Macinko. Since I’ve been reading your work, over several years of Fish Wars, it has always been gratifying to see that there is at least one person in the URI Economics Department and Department of Marine Affairs that values truth and integrity over personal economic gain.

    Privatization is in the service of corporate investor profit. And when Profit is the only thing that matters, when it is the sole ethic governing business and government behavior, the power of trillions of “free-market capital” dollars becomes a devastating tool in the hands of a few individuals whose only—and I mean only—ethical standard is to produce more profit and more power.

    One recent estimate is that there are 34 trillion dollars in offshore accounts worldwide not being invested back into the economies that produced that capital. It’s being hidden from “mainland taxes” and being moved around on a daily and sometimes a minute to minute basis— for example, capital creating more capital through micro-burst high frequency algorithmic computer trading, working currency exchange rates, hostile takeovers, “creative derivatives”, etc. This is money not doing anything worthwhile for most people, such as reinvesting in manufacturing and jobs and producing necessary everyday products—such as healthy food.

    The effects of this hungry and homeless capital, administered by managers obsessed only with its rapid growth, is what is behind much of the chaos in the world’s economies today. But, closer to home, regarding the “National Ocean Policy”, the energy policy “Smart From The Start”, and NOAA’s wacky fishing “science” and
    regulations, it becomes clear that the mammoth tax-sheltered
    energy industry’s corporate “investments made in the environment” is essentially the money behind the fish-saving ENGO “Funds” and “charitable” Foundations.

    ITQs or catch shares privatization, is nothing more than a not very well disguised hostile takeover of the ocean perpetrated by coveys of unscrupulous lawyers in order to create a new home for the above mentioned hungry capital.

    This enviro-capitalist resource takeover or privatization usually involves a quite ruthless process of buying off or cajoling or crushing any opposition as their “ocean business plan” rolls along. It’s the money “experts” scamming, for all their worth, to create a new opportunity, a new economic driver, for investors with no regard whatsoever for the people who have to live with the consequences, and no regard for where exactly the money came from or how it was “made”. Just pour it in!

    Investors will lustily dump millions into just about any “new opportunity” that has some promise of “rapid growth” which is where the big money is to be made. Remember David Festa, EDF VP of finance, at a Milken Institute conference, promising investors at least a 400% return on investing some dough in order to “grease the skids” (they had “people on the inside” he let on) and implement this ITQ aka catch shares scam?

    Whether it’s a consolidated into oblivion fishing industry in the hands of a few market-capitalized behemoths like Pacific Andes’ China Fishery and US Seafood, or windmills and oil and gas rigs off the east coast beaches on prime fishing grounds, the specifics of the consequences of the “investment opportunity” doesn’t seem to matter as long as the “Moneyed Monsters” can gorge.

    The first order of business though, before any of these “new ocean frontiers” can be exploited, is to get rid of the indigenous “little people”, the local “artisanal fishing communities”, the “itinerant part-time and usually alcoholic” ocean squatters (according to Festa).

    With an enviro-capitalist religious zeal (profit worship) enter CLF, EDF, Pew, Oceana, etc., wielding some of those hungry investment billions looking for a “growth opportunity”, and if they can’t find a growth opportunity, they’ll create one, by “greasing the skids”, producing campaigns of anti-fishing misinformation, spending millions to push catch shares or ITQs, commodifying, capitalizing, profitizing, using every trick in the book and buying everyone who can be bought in order to achieve their goal of transforming our public trust ocean into an Industrial Playland, into a “rapid growth investment opportunity”.

    NOAA and other agents of our government seem to be the willing dupes and pawns in this process, they are either “greased up” and/or cowed by self-serving oligarchs and ENGO lawsuits enough to go along with “the inevitable” ocean industrialization. They are failing to ask the obvious but crucial questions that are essential to a representative democracy: Is any of this “progress” in “fishery efficiency”, are any of these ocean wind farms, oil/gas rigs, deep sea minerals mining, Marine ‘Protected’ Areas, is any of this in the Public’s interest…the Public whose Trusts the appointed government bureaucrats and the elected officials are charged to protect?

    In the current corporate economic/political system the everyday working people that produce the vital goods and services have no control over that product, how it is distributed, or how the profit from that product is used. That function in our system of unfettered investment capital manipulation is given over to a handful of board members serving their major investors and deciding how to wield that profit which usually involves investing in legislation favorable to their own future profits and to acquire even more investment capital.
    The local independent fishing businesses are from an era before the market-capitalization of everything, before Home Depot, Wal-Mart, and The Exxon Mobil Emerald City. Independent family owned fishing businesses are examples true free-enterprise (i.e. not too big to fail) where accountability for quality of product still exists. Independent fishing businesses are a thorn in the side of this privatize, commodify, and corporatize everything economic scheme. A threat not because fishermen have any political power to speak of, but because of the contrast of their fresh product makes with the corporate garbage (Wal-Mart’s Vietnamese Shrimp and Pangasius) that is being offered to so many unsuspecting people.

    In the case of the fisheries, the money (Pew Trust’s billions) is used to buy lawyers (Shelley and Co.) in order to sue and control the regulators (NOAA). It is this process that secures the lucrative fees of these “conservation lawyers” that are feeding on this dismantling of the local “regulated community” and which, in turn, removes the impediments of local fishing communities and paves the way for the future profits of their corporate overlords. A very nice device.

    That is to say they are all profiting from this scheme (the conservation lawyers, the corporate officers and investors, some bought and paid for scientists, the Non-Profit “Funds”, the bureaucrats, and the energy industry. They are all benefiting from dismantling the communities of independent fishermen who are actually producing something…Fish, that fills a real need…Food.
    Fishermen supply the cleanest, healthiest, and lowest carbon- footprint-per-pound of protein on the planet.

  2. RH says:

    In the 70’s the department of fisheries and oceans started a proactive measure in the fishing industry. They started the freezing of licenses in most sectors of the fishery. Ground fish otter trawling, scallop dragging, and many other. This was to protect the depleting stocks. This was to allow industry to maintain a viable income for all involved. After the stocks rebound the freeze was to be lifted and more licenses would be allowed into the industry. This has never happened and there are many reasons for this. When they froze the licenses it forced the fisherman to fish for what ever species of fish they were allowed. This in turn made them build bigger boats, increase equipment and expand the search for the fish. They had no choice to do so; it was the only option for them to stay fishing. This was granted with public funding through the fisherman’s loan board. Prior to this if one stock was down they would simply switch over and fish another type of fish, not anymore. Then along came quotas, this was going to save the industry. DFO decided that if the limits the catches that this would help bring back stocks. In away this did work to a certain degree. But as most any fisherman will tell you, that when fishing otter trawl you can’t tell haddock to stay out when you want cod or visa versa. So what do you do? Well what any person would do when your forced to fish one type of fish, Grind up or pitch over what you don’t want and keep what you do. So really they didn’t protect anything just looked well on paper. Let’s not forget the ever so popular ITQ’s now this is a honey. Individual transferable quotas, my how I hate them, this was to help fisherman? Really? This has become a money grab from the start. DFO decided to sell quota to fisherman in efforts to cut costs to the budget. Now all the fish belong to companies (Before they are caught) and sold to their own workers to catch. Buy cheep sell high, free cash in the pocket for the wealthy on the backs of the working man. Now I see the Nova Scotia government is going to charge 5 cents a pound for lobster, this is for marketing purposes. All I can say is are you serious? Why are you marketing anything? Your not the buyers or the sellers, your suppose to be for the people who elected you not companies. They want to buy the product let them sell it. Now I see almost the same day you announce that you’re going to charge 5 cents a pound that your also going to buy back licenses from lobster fisherman to limit the amount of people in the industry this making the price go up. All I can say is if the fisherman didn’t build million dollar boats with 700 horse power engines burning 30 gallons of fuel an hour maybe they wouldn’t need higher prices. Maybe reduce size of boats back to a maintainable level. The stocks have increased this is when the fisheries is supposed to be releasing new licenses into the industry as they promised when they put the freeze on. Not the government protecting a few that went so big that the cost is too much for them. All in all, great job in bankrupting entire communities. The ones based on the fishing industry here in Nova Scotia. And keep giving them multi million dollar corporations hand outs and aid packages to keep the real fishermen down and out. Got to get the price up so those few owners and industry heads can make a few more bucks to take down to Florida in the off season. God forbid if you allow the industry to support the communities instead of companies

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