Grachek – American Seafoods Group: What made America Great?

American Seafoods Group: What made America Great?

by Dick Grachek


One of these times, after one of these failed empires, the financial luminaries—that seem to want to run the world—might realize that not everything can be market- capitalized. Fishing, for example, simply does not lend itself to consistent quarterly profit numbers, or to huge monthly payments on mega-fleets targeting one or two species. Industrialization of wild fish is not good for the fish, the consumer, or even the I’m-fated-to-be-a-mogul Yale MBA grads that perpetrate these debacles.

This government/NGO blitz to eliminate “artisanal” small-boat fishing operations is occurring in deference to this consolidation, privatization, and corporatization-of-everything craze. It’s a big-biz blitz that’s devastating so many industries and undermining, for instance, the small fishing businesses’ resilience. Fishing is an endeavor where many—maybe not so profitable—small-boat independent businesses, resilient on many levels, are essential to the survival of this industry.

And also, even if a few small operations do go down, they don’t take one third of the industry and thousands of jobs with them, as is the case with these “vertically integrated” mega-companies like American Seafoods Group.

For centuries fishery production has survived by virtue of small-scale family owned and family financed operations. Operations that over the years have developed an ability to deal with the natural boom and bust cycles of fishing. Flexibility and nimbleness (switching fisheries quickly) have been effective in answering the capriciousness of catching fish for a living—and, coincidently, not fishing on scarce stocks in a particular season, but focusing on abundant species, happens to be an effective built-in restraint and conservation measure.

Thanks to the privatization push by EDF and NOAA called catch shares or Individual Transferable Quotas (ITQs), this flexibility and nimbleness has all but been eliminated for independent fishermen. The catch shares ITQ scheme has proven to accomplish the exact opposite of what their champions promised: safer and more profitable fishermen, more flexibility, and healthier stocks.

What catch share ITQs have accomplished though is a separation of the fish from the fishing license and making fish shares or quota a free floating commodity, to be bought and sold by anyone with money. This consolidation of fishery quota into fewer and fewer hands is an invitation for a huge company, such as American Seafoods Group, to come in and buy up quota—putting hundreds of small fishing operations under. Then, through some high-finance sleight of hand and a lot of over-reach and a few Chapter Elevens, the very costly enterprise might well wind up “sinkin’ like a ship”. The preppy perps (corporate officers) slip out the back door with a few $mill. —and maybe run for office, next time around.

The only way corporate control and industrialization of fish would have a chance to render the consistent results that Wall Street financing demands is if the fish are grown in a tank or cage and fed questionable food and medicines. And that might explain the motivation for the unprecedented NOAA push and the various corporate funded NGOs affinity for aquaculture—Control the fishes’ natural life cycle from spawn to harvest and Profit, Profit, and more Profit! At least that’s the privatize-and-control-everything economic theory. Only trouble is we’re not that smart or technically capable. The unfortunate stressed animals raised in “captivity” need gobs of chemical medicines in order to survive being on the receiving end of this egotistical outsmarting-of-nature delusion or playing God for the wildest of ocean creatures such as Tuna and Salmon.

Also government collusion in service of natural resource corporatization, thoroughly undermines the opportunity for everyday people to become entrepreneurs. The “too big to fail” and “private profits; but public losses” (bail out) ideas completely undermine true free enterprise, where businesses are responsible for their own losses.

The entrepreneurial opportunity for everyone, an idea that so many of us love to tout as “…what made America Great!”—is being stolen right from under our noses.

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