A public watchdog and advocate for fishermen and their coastal communities. Taufen is an "insider" who blew the whistle on the international profit laundering between global affiliates of North Pacific seafood companies, who use illicit accounting to deny the USA the proper taxes on seafood trade. The same practices are used to lower ex-vessel prices to the fleets, and to bleed monies from our regional economy. Contact Stephen Taufen
May 21stQuota-based fisheries produce private Holy Grails
After reading Jay Stinson's piece on quota-based fisheries in the Kodiak Daily Mirror, I was inspired to go see The Da Vinci Code - or was that 'conspired to'? Maybe it was the lack of a comma then the disclaimer 'Fiction' after the words Opinion piece? But probably not, as Groundswell has tremendous faith in readers' ability to reason, and that they are already on a path to greater truth.
It certainly wasn't because his incomplete title had a grain of truth in it: "Quota-based fisheries [can] produce high-quality seafood products." That's no reason to go looking for an epiphany-a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into reality or the essential meaning of something. Non-quota based systems can produce high quality, too-if a good price is paid to fleets and proper care is taken.
No, I just wanted to go see the movie-and watch how people enjoy being gullible after they willingly drop 'the fourth wall,' sip on a super-sized blood sugar rising straw, and let their imaginations run wild as a fish. Just like with our regional fish councils, folks will pay a lot to just sit and watch the show.
At the end of the show, most of the faithful looked rather like agnostics who hold that "the existence of the ultimate cause and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable." And Dan Brown's script was hardly above Stinson's run-of-the-dock pulp-even if appearing about a hundred times more credible.
Yes indeed, "Kodiak is a special fishing port because it lies near some of the most abundant and productive [propaganda] grounds in the world." And true, too, "we all know that seafood industry"-like a blood line-runs a North and South path through the center of the community.
But just like in Brown's grand fiction, the more statistics absent context and levitating facts you can wrap around it, the better the diversions seem to prevaricate: mislead the audience from the truth. Yet, it is indeed a similar quest for a holy grail of sorts. But pagan Jay leaves out the inconvenient - such as 1) the immense growth in population that underlies a vast future shortage in global protein, and 2) the 200-mile zone's resources belong to that global population, and are merely temporarily under the care of the United States.
He forgets the Nation does not 'own' the fish, so-guess what?-he can't either. Not in the long run.
Likewise, it is not wholly true that "seafood is a global commodity," especially if we're talking about the essential symbol of an envisioned value-added product line: which, of course, they could always have chosen to produce, at any time. Has it not been the draggers who have made certain that the lowest value possible was derived by delivering it to foreign protein thieves who do not respect its true value as defined by best use and quality? Look no further than the process of roe stripping. They certainly don't want you looking at the squished fish in the cod end, and how much fills their presumed rights to Prohibited Species Catch. No, that has to hit the edit floor or the audience might put back up the fourth wall and walk out of the theater!
Stinson also diverts the audiences eyes into the dark corners, where modern film makers also spend excessive time, in order to keep you from hearing about the immense "bycatch mitigation toolbox" that the federal councils already have at their disposal. It lists over a dozen tools from time and mesh restrictions to (almost) writing nonfiction novels. No, the only 'new tool' the draggers quest for is a chalice - made of gold, and filled with millions of dollars stolen from the People and our Treasury - that has his family's name deeply and forever engraved on its base plate. He wants to become a multi-millionaire. To hell with what's good for the People.
And they want even less to do with trying to join with their community and fight back against the entire illegal privatization package from pollock to crab. That's the way to keep those Bering Sea trawlers from encroaching on Kodiak BECAUSE they have quotas out West. But, restoring a free market doesn't look so easy either. Instead, they follow the irrational model and ask for chalices of their own. The greater community be hanged for blasphemy for saying otherwise, as to them the only important businesses are their processor-tail-sucking boats.
Now, they help fight off greater Gulf of Alaska observer coverage (it is next to nothing) and join in the Council's game of worker hatred against the observers, whom they don't want to have to pay overtime. Yeah, we know, crab boat owners don't want crewmen to make any money either. But to ask Ted Stevens and Don Young to get an exemption from the federal Fair Labor Standards Act is going a bit far, and using it as an excuse for not increasing observer coverage is worse yet. The F/Ts have already been paying it, for 82% coverage out West, but they also want to "cut costs" (i.e. greater worker alienation).
But, that's "processor think" for you. All those 'cannery workers' who forgot when Wards Cove got Stevens and Company to get them the only exception from the 1991 Civil Rights Act should get in touch with the wiser Filipino union leaders and find out that tomorrow is just around the corner for lower plant worker incomes, too. So that drag pinkos might get more, and far more for the Padrones.
Let's also check the truth about that "pulse" fishery, by comparing it with the early 1990's when I managed an electronic weight-grading plant, using European technology, for factory trawlers who produced fine fillets. Skipper's restaurants (in the upper Mid-west and California markets) were the customers for most of those fish-and-chip products; but Canada got "global" products too. Our owner was the sales manager for three factory trawlers with an entire line of products-the kind Jay and the draggers and shoreside plants could have chosen to produce long ago-but it would have meant paying fishermen and plant workers more, and paying taxes like local small businesses must, instead of working to assist tax-dodging foreign economic enemies.
We computed that those F/T companies would have usually made much higher incomes - and paid larger United States taxes - if they would not have roe-stripped, but produced fillets and high quality blocks, instead. Talk to any F/T company today, and they will tell you how much more they can make if they don't have to predominantly produce surimi at foreign command (just because of surimi equipment mortgages).
It was not a lack of tools (except sufficient law enforcement) that prevented our plant from staying in business. Jay's right, it is a global world - one of global directive and control, and tax-avoiding strategies of transnational corporations over states and communities' rights. It was the greed and tax-avoiding schemes of the Japanese and Korean firms who had second mortgages on many factory trawlers, and their first-right of refusal contracts that ordered the managers of those fish-and-chip firms to stop supplying Skipper's and building the U.S. marketplace in ways all the F/Ts are now doing. It was a protein war and certainly is a greed war, now that the fish is almost all divvied up.
And no effort was being made to treat our stewardship over U.S. fisheries as a nationally strategic protein industry (see earlier writings). Domestic banks could not enter into the game, not because profits could not have been made, but because tax enforcement was near zero and you can't compete with a bunch of global thieves. Maybe embezzlers is a better term, because it all involved rigging the accounting books to hide the stolen billions?
At NEFCO back in 1978, our global fishery experts outlined that the best way to produce the pollock would be aboard at-sea Factory Trawlers, and that the conservation issue of the Steller Sea Lion was a leading reason why there should be no shoreside catcher-only vessels and plants for the majority of the bottomfish industry. There was talk about the low quality of products that CVs would bring ashore, unless they were of sufficient size to head and gut on board. Now wouldn't those have been real fishing jobs?
Likewise, the Arthur D. Little consultant study on "The Development of a Bottomfish Industry: Strategies for the State of Alaska" for the governor's office talked about four day trips for CVs who would do the H&G and icing on board. They would share the sea with the F/Ts with the former seeking more cod, rockfish and flatfish, and the latter more of the pollock. But, it has become clear that since 1999 that the Alaska Groundfish Databank and the major shoreside processors (primarily foreign owned) have conspired vertically and horizontally to gang up on other gear groups. Like the gulls in Nemo, they've loudly screamed "Mine! Mine! Mine!" every time discussion of the chalices or Prohibited Species Catch came up.
Jay not only doesn't want to use the bycatch mitigation and season-stretching or other tools already in the box, but has also figured out that unlike the Pacific Council, the corrupt North Pacific Council won't embrace them either. That would mean restricting trawl smashing destined for shoreside deliveries in favor of product that has better uses, among the other tools. Or giving the future to direct marketing small operations and gear types that bring up and deliver ashore a much finer product-often to their "non-major" competitors.
The only new tool on screen is that golden chalice each dragger hopes to hold in his private hands forever. And to seek it, what could be better than a good fiction all wrapped in statistics? They couple that with looking only at recent history, for years that their boats hold the log entries. They surely don't want to follow NEFCO's "strategic national resource" protections, nor the Arthur D. Little study's suggestion to have planning horizons of at least twenty years, or at least avoid that economic analysis might show of how many millions would end up in pink pockets over the next two decades: and how little in local businesses.
Stinson's propaganda laid down covering facts not unlike in Brown's script-where a fiction is woven tightly covered by lots of mere observations. It's a novel trick that works well on dumb audiences who must sit in silence. But in case he hasn't looked around at the recent fish meetings to see the greater truth (the clarity of all the opponents of any more soviet-style privatization schemes), then maybe he and fellow draggers will finally get their pink washed off at home this coming month when the Council meets in Kodiak.
Epiphanies can happen anytime, even in the end game. But, as Brown points out, it's a long-known truth that, "Only the pure can find and hold the Holy Grail."
Stephen Taufen - Groundswell Fisheries Movement