Terry Haines is a Kodiak deckhand and representative for Fish Heads, an advocacy group dedicated to preserving the vitality of Alaska's fishing communities.
No Fisherman Left Behind
Should the Gulf of Alaska trawl sector be rationalized all by itself? Spokesmen for the trawl sector have said that the fixed gear fishermen "haven't done their homework" or "want a better deal". It has been said that the trawl sector needs the rationalization "toolbox" to fix its ailing industry.
Bull. Crab Rationalization has clearly shown that privatization of the resource and outlawing the free market have terrible inadvertent effects on fishermen and their coastal communities. The idea that groundfish trawlers need to hurry up and duplicate a rotten system is outrageous. And why, if the industry is struggling, do trawlers continue to get bigger and bigger? Floating football fields show up in Kodiak before every opening.
The truth is the bulk of the fleet isn't even from Alaska. Just read the homeport painted on the backs of these titanic trawlers. The few local trawlers left have been seduced by the promise of a big paycheck at the end of the day. So called "Co-Ops" embedded in the plan will allow many of the owners to retire their boats, fire their crews, and have their boats bought back by the Federal Government. Then it's lay back in the La-Z-Boy and collect your money. For this they have agreed to sell their souls to the processors, most of whom are gigantic Japanese corporations. These processors, through linkages, will own the marketplace. In America! The supposed land of the free.
Fixed gear fishermen tend to live where they fish. If they are concerned about what will happen to their friends and neighbors, their churches and businesses and way of life in the towns where they live, is this wanting a "better deal"? I guess it is. Jay Hammond wanted a "better deal" for Alaska too. And he got it.
I would suggest that local fishermen who want to fix rationalization before implementing it show that they have done their homework. Make no mistake. Fixed gear fishermen will be richer after rationalization, too. They just realize that their quality of life will be diminished in a ghost town.
It is easy to understand the frustration of fishermen who just want eight years of work on GOA rationalization to end. And most of the people involved have worked long years in an unforgiving industry, and are justified in their desire to be involved in fisheries management. But if you are looking for the North Pole, it doesn't matter how many years you walk south. Sticking a flag in the first icy patch you find doesn't mean you got there.