Comment of the day: Any ‘real fisheries based questions’ asked at the debate?

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…


8 thoughts on “Comment of the day: Any ‘real fisheries based questions’ asked at the debate?

  1. Garand Fellow

    This anonymous comment is a forthright and accurate, and therefore politically incorrect description of the Alaska commercial fishing industry.

    Commercial fishermen own a franchise that allows a portion of a natural resource – fish. Those franchises were handed out for free, and now they are bought and sold in a market financed with oil dollars. A relatively large state division finances the buying and selling of these franchises and of fishing equipment.

    Petroleum revenues allow this industry to prosper. It’s as if the general population of Iowa grew corn and hogs, and then a select few Iowans had a franchise to harvest and sell that corn and those hogs. Transitioning to having the commercial fishing industry pay its own way is just one of the painful legacies we can expect to see in a post-petroleum Alaska. All Alaskans should expect to be corked off several times during the debate.

  2. Tom McGrath

    This essay is one of the best I have ever read about the myth of the “Alaskan” Commercial fishing industry. We are still a colony of Seattle in many ways and somehow they get all our Congressional Candidates to buy into it.

  3. Pat Race

    The candidates talked quite a bit about fisheries and brought up several of the issues mentioned here. I think there were certainly some distractions but that’s probably a result of this debate being one of the first chances for these candidates to lock horns. Particularly true with Dunbar and Young.

  4. Joe Barnard

    Real Commercial fishermen are the miners/loggers/oil drillers of the oceans. That’s why so many stocks outside are ruined. Alaska likes to pride itself being so much more enlightened but that’s not the case. We’re just bigger so it takes longer to mess up. The yukon king/cook inlet/name the species issues are a taste of the future as we gradually mess up alaska as bad as it was done outside. Vote Democrat or Republican but it doesn’t really matter when money is involved.

  5. Just wanted to point out...

    That this was shared:

    “The co-existence in Cook Inlet seems to work fairly well between oil and gas and the commercial fishing industries”

    On the very day a platform is on fire in the middle of Cook Inlet. Yeah no worries what soever. Fishermen bad, oil and gas good.

  6. anonymous

    2 or 3 generations of 1000 jobs doesn’t even count the countless generations of jobs from the super fund cleanup that’ll be required. Think of the jobs bonanza!

  7. Alaska Cod Piece

    Husker, for someone who didn’t bother to listen to or watch the fish debate, you sure have a lot to say.

    If you hold Alaska ‘s fishing industry and fishermen in such arrogant contempt, go back to corn country, like Ohio.

    It is disappointing to realize Ms. Coyne feels the same.

  8. Alaska Cod Piece

    Pretty harsh comments from someone who didn’t bother to tune in to the fish debate.

    Husker, if you hold Alaska’s fishing industry and fishermen in such arrogant contempt, go back to corn country, like Ohio.

    It’s sad to realize that Ms. Coyne feels the way.

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