Just Take a Trawler and Processor Lobbyist’s Advice

Here’s Groundswell’s most recent Letter to the Editor in the main publication on the island, the Kodiak Daily Mirror, first posted on its website, then in ink the following week.

Just Take a Trawler and Processor Lobbyist’s Advice


As reported about Monday’s (July 15) fishery working group meeting, anthropologist Courtney Carothers’ preliminary survey findings showed 77 percent of respondents believing fish privatizations lead to a downturn of the local economy. The National Science Foundation funded study does not support a finding that fisheries would be better managed if they were private rather than public resources.

What saturated the results was a widely held opinion that privatization’s negative effects are hard-hitting on captains and crews. On-board fishermen, participating harvesters, are independent small businesses whose incomes drive regional economic benefits. Ex-vessel prices and crew trip settlement fair incomes are crucial.

Private quota lords simply charge high rents, mostly exported to a few rich winners — extracted from creating other regional jobs that spark all our livelihoods. Forced linkages to certain processors are simply restraints of trade, and encourage price-fixing.

Julie Bonney — representative for the largest, mostly foreign-controlled subsidiaries; manager of rockfish boat cooperatives, as well as owner of the Alaska Groundfish Data Bank — also gave a presentation to praise the virtues of the Rockfish Program.

Local fisheries consultant Denby Lloyd reminded everyone that the Rockfish Program has no permanent linkages between vessels and large shoreside processing plants, and a potential 10 year sunset date.

Lloyd stated that — conspicuously — the revised Rockfish Program was not privatization. Absent are the coveted Individual Fishing and Transferable Quota rights. Lloyd stated that the confusion comes in the contrasting words: management or privatization. As proven with Rockfish, better management is possible in public fisheries.

That means that industrial lobbyist Bonney’s persistent refrain that the trawling fleet must have private quotas, to reduce bycatch and better manage fisheries, has been hogwash all along. Her praise of the Rockfish program contradicted habitual talking points about the critical need to privatize public resources.

Bonney’s two-faced messaging should guide the federal council to deny private quota shares in the Gulf of Alaska groundfisheries for trawling, whatever the fishery. Then, if we can just convince foreign-controlled processors to start doing more value-added, job creating products inside the USA — in Kodiak — our economy will get a fairer share from the nation’s fisheries.

Kodiak’s public officials should steer the federal council to take the management not privatization course, and start reducing not allocating bycatch. Just follow Bonney’s praise of Rockfish being a splendid management program, and Lloyd’s reminder that private quotas need not be a part of the Gulf groundfisheries solution.

Stephen Taufen is president of the Groundswell Fisheries Movement, which advocates fisheries issues on behalf of fishing industry workers.

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More accurately, the Groundswell ‘think tank’ educates and advocates on the behalf of citizen-taxpayers. The major topic is Abusive Transfer Pricing, where foreign-owned corporations are using accounting trickery across international borders for fish exploited by their subsidiaries in Alaska, and how tens of billions of dollars have been taken since the Fishery Management and Conservation Act (now MSA) went into place in January of 1977.

Our website may be found at www.groundswellalaska.com & Stephen Taufen is a featured writer on the FisheryNation.com website. Groundswell has on many occasions hosted featured writers and expressed the ideas of fishermen who could not put their name to ink. Prior writings —punditry to political hardball pieces— may also be viewed at AlaskaReport.com.  Taufen plans to update the Groundswell website with over 100 writings from The Fishermen’s News and other venues.