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John Enge

Oregon salmon and Alaska fishermen are endangered

July 27, 2006

The new recovery plans for the Columbia and Snake River salmon runs sounds like business as usual. Just like the new Gulf of Alaska rockfish management plan sounds like the fisherman-devouring "Crab Ratz." Enge

The fishing and processing port of Pelican narrowly escaped becoming a ghost town. A lone entrepreneur found a foreign company to finance it's start-up, with him in charge of course. More power to him.

I don't know what excuse NOAA/NMFS uses to make it so hard for salmon to live in those rivers, maybe big power companies. But I know why they make it so hard for fishermen to live in Alaska; big seafood companies.

Now with the lone fisherman/tenderman off the North Pacific Council, the processors have the whole Council to themselves. Not that one vote made any difference anyway, and not that he was without processor linkages. Just like the fishermen in Oregon who wanted to privatize and formally link the fish to the processor of hake. They are tight with the processors, and EVERYONE loses but them. But they are fishermen by virtue of working on boats and drinking lousy coffee at 3:30 AM.

Nobody is going to radically change the way fishery management decisions are made, such as getting an "accountable" Council or holding anyone in the Federal government personally liable. Remember you can't sue the federal government unless they agree to it. We're stuck with fisheries management by political contribution. The federal judge may be the solution for the Oregon and California trollers and their communities. In Alaska, it will be the electing of Sarah Palin for Governor so she can clean house, no pun intended. The cronies know it's no pun and you're seeing a lot of bizzare behavior as they see their grip on power slipping. Attacks on honest reformers will probably get worse before it gets better.

Check out the letter from a longtime freedom-fighting fisherman in Kodiak:

"Dear John,
I fished Kodiak waters for 15 years before I saw my first Cod. There were none. Then one year Kodiak's bays filled to the heads with small ones, and a few years later the fishery began. It's been going on for a long time now, and if we checked the data acumulated over the years we'd probably see a very clouded future for the Cod buisness.

But it's like pulling hen's teeth to get some idea of "what's out there". We have Julie Bonney's DATA BANK, and a gaggle of State and Federal fish managers and biologists who like their jobs and so remain as mum as possible. It's like a chess game getting anything out of them. Much of what the public ultimately gets about "what's out there" is from Julie Bonney, who parcels it out to various media outlets. It comes back to us in fish newspapers and radio broadcasts. I'm sure the information she conveys is correct, but it's arranged so that we in our ignorance will let the "Rockfish Pilot Program" (RPP) slide through on Jan 07. For all her Trawler/Processor cabal cares, we can argue about Gulf Rats and Codfish till the end of time.

It hardly needs to be said that the name of the RPP was carefully chosen. "Pilot" means, "Don't worry folks, we're just trying this out", and "Rockfish" says it's Rockfish, which it isn't. It isn't a "Program" either. It will be law for all time if it's implimented on 1-1-07, and the economic impact will be Gulf wide in all species, least of all Rockfish.

All The Best"

Just a note on Pacific cod. When I was out in the Aleutians in 1970 on a floating processor I heard of a lot of shrimp and P. cod. One shrimp trawler we passed was right outside Cold Bay. They talked of tows of 50,000 lbs. of shrimp a few years later. The cod were there in good numbers according to my source at the time, Nelson, the owner of the floater "Nelco II" of Tokeland, WA. I remember driving out to see him in Tokeland that winter to ask him specifically what species were up and coming.

It's hard to go by anecdotal information like that, except he was as much in the know as anyone, six years before the 200 Mile Limit Law. When the Japanese fleet was hammering the Pacific ocean perch in about 1968, a bush pilot flew out over that fleet and took pictures of what they were catching. Nobody knew. The late Ted Evans chartered a Lear Jet and flew over the Donut Hole to get a video of Russian trawlers targeting our pollock.

That's one reason I keep saying free market forces are more efficient in solving industrial problems. They are more innovative and timely in responding to changing conditions than bureaucracy is. Especially the bureaucracy in Washington D.C. And their henchmen, and women. Like the Chairwoman of the NPFMC says, "processors need fishermen," right after she axes one thousand of them from their employment. Go figure. When history repeats itself, it's more expensive the second time. You won't even want to see what will happen in the Gulf of Alaska if the RPP goes through.

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John lived in Alaska for 50 years and has run commercial boats and processing plants. John also served as a loan officer and economist for a "fishing bank" and served as the only Fisheries Infrastructure Development Specialist the state has had. He has owned a marine design and fabrication business and created the best-selling "Passport Alaska." All photos on his blog are his own, unless so noted.

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