This anonymous comment left on the Senate fisheries debate story is one of the best pieces I’ve read on fisheries in a long time:
Did anyone ask real fisheries based questions, such as why has it taken so long to implement a quota share program in the Gulf of Alaska, or if they support aggressive reductions in salmon and halibut commercial trawl bycatch in the Gulf of Alaska, or if they support 100 percent observer coverage in federal fisheries to ensure fishery conservation measures, or if they support the attempt by rural Alaska Natives to shut down or severely restrict the lucrative Bering Sea trawl fishery because of king salmon bycatch and its perceived devastation to Yukon and Kuskokwim river king salmon populations? Probably not in any great detail because actual fishery issues are often absent to a large degree in fishery debates and conversations these days in Alaska.
Or instead, did we get questions at “fishery debates” from hip commercial fishermen poised against and criticizing any and all other natural resource industries in Alaska – oil and gas industry (Bristol Bay, SB 21, TAPS, OCS Arctic), mining (Pebble, Red Dog, Donlin, Greens Creek), forestry (Tongass, Chugach), and tourism (cruise ship initiative, dismemberment of ATIA, Cook Inlet fish wars).
Commercial fishermen nowadays portray themselves as the frontline, green environmentalists of Alaska (whether or not they are actual residents) in opposition to every other natural resource industry in Alaska. Except of course the state’s commercial fisheries, which they benefit from and would not exist without constant annual government subsidies for management, research and capital investments (harbors, dockside facilities, remote airports). If you are not out on the high seas these days as a high liner killing machine whacking and stacking them by the metric ton, well you just don’t qualify as a real Alaskan environmentalist and have no ocean cred.
Yet the welcome mat in Alaska’s commercial fishing industrial complex is open to the largest annual influx to non-resident, seasonal, minimum wage exempt seafood processing workers (Lower 48 and international, many on student worker visas), beholden to large domestic and international seafood processing conglomerates. An equally large contingent of non-resident commercial fishing harvesters come from all over the country as limited entry and quota share holders to cash in on a publically owned resource (if we own the oil, do we not also “own” the fish) that returns less in state and local taxes to Alaska than the costs of managing this renewable public resource. Alaskans subsidize commercial fisheries in Alaska.
Outside of the North Slope, the Cook Inlet region is the next largest in Alaska for the oil and gas industry (actually about the only other area). The co-existence in Cook Inlet seems to work fairly well between oil and gas and the commercial fishing industries, in the area of the state with the second largest tides in the world. However, according to most of the propaganda from the Alaska commercial fishing industrial complex, that co-existence cannot occur anywhere else in the state or with any other industry.
Pebble will create about 1,000 year round jobs for two to three generations of Alaskan workers, with year round employment and six figure incomes. That is about 1/10 of the number of commercial fishing permit holders in Alaska. Pebble will contribute more in state and local taxes than the whole commercial fishing industrial complex does currently to the state of Alaska. One can see how threatening those numbers really are.
But hey, as long as our “fisheries” debates in this state are about everything and anything but actual fisheries, move along, there is nothing to see here.
Look over there – it is a birdie. I like birdies…