Longline Catcher Processor Cooperative Act stalls in House subcommittee
July 27, 2010 Washington DC – the U.S. House Resources’ Subcommittee On Insular Affairs, Oceans And Wildlife took up the issue of HR3910, the Longline Catcher Processor Subsector Single Fishery Cooperative Act, for the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands ‘Pacific cod’ fisheries.
Eric Schwaab, assistant administrator for fisheries and director of NMFS under NOAA, said “NMFS supports the intent of the bill, but does not support the bill itself. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council already has the authority to recommend cooperative management for this fishery, and NMFS believes that it is preferable for such a change in fishery management policy be developed and implemented through the open and collaborative processes maintained by the Magnuson-Steven (sic) Fishery Management Act rather than imposed by statute.”
Quote from Dave Little of Clipper Seafoods answering Congressman Robert Wittman about cost of delaying the cooperative because of going through the slow NPFMC process without this legislative end-run:
“We think that there would be an immediate increase in the value of the retained catch – in the form of byproducts and other by-catch caught halibut – that could be as much as $50 million per year, which goes directly to the crewmembers and the families that they support.”
Yeah, sure ya betcha – we’d like to see the crew labor component benefit from rationalization some day… and just how is the NPFMC going to make that happen given their historical failure re fair and equitable distributions? Does this qualify as giving false testimony or just the wrong impression to Congress? We’re glad Chairman Bordallo suggested the NPFMC handle things, particularly since Little also said no other sector has any opposition to this ‘cooperative’, i.e. rationalization (kleptocracy) regime.
Groundswell received word that Chairman Bordallo “outright said this was an inappropriate thing for Congress to look at and they need to keep it at the council level. Others on the subcommittee were clear they would not pass it because it would open up the flood gates for others (nationwide) who want exceptions to what the councils decide.” So, at this point, it appears HR3910 is stuck in cold tar and likely not to get any traction in Congress.
Given the recent NPFMC action on Rockfish in the Gulf of Alaska — limiting the duration of the annual cooperatives program to 10 years, not going for IFQs, delinking boats from particular processors (in law at least, but in practice we’ll see what continues) — the BSAI Freezer Longliners will face an uphill battle. The Pacific cod is already cut up into many sectors and allocations, and bringing this through the open Council process would mean involving Aleutian Island communities, pot and jig fishermen, and other voices.
Yeah, we know the picture above mentions ‘black cod’, and this bill wasn’t about that, but it is about Halibut bycatch, as they lie on the bottom with cod, too, at these depths – and yet the bill would do nothing at all to set guidelines to reduce such bycatch. A bill sufficient to such purposes might simply state “the cooperative must reduce bycatch of halibut by 10% per year for 5 years or pay a penalty for overages of $20 a pound” – and have to meet this 50% reduction goal. A bill sufficient to stop crews from not getting enough rest might instead simply say “Catcher processors must stop processing from 10 pm to 6 am or a similar 8 hour period every 24 hours to allow the crew to rest.” I.E. there’s nothing a giveaway of public resources will do that guarantees resolving the very problems which the coop requesters cite as a reason they must have exclusive rights. It’s just the same old greedy Alaskan fishery privatization mentality at work, and a good thing Congress has had enough of this mindset.
The desire for this cooperative and quota shares goes back to the American Fisheries Act’s negative effects on other BSAI fisheries, and to the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2005 wherein the vessel buyback funds were established for this longliner subsector. In a reactionary fashion, who could blame others for wanting to get in on government giveaways of public resources, if the government was going to continue this insane management by private ownership practice?!
Here’s a copy of the bill:HR3910_Longliner_SingleCoop And Eric Schwaab’s testimony: testimony_schwaab_July27-2010 which may interest readers for its coverage of the Ombudsman Act (HR5180) that should give the fishing public a better chance at being heard, say when a council fails due process by not doing a complete impact statement prior to acting. NOAA opposes the ombudsman bill, though.
Here’s Clipper Seafoods, Dave Little’s testimony in favor of the longliner CP coop bill: testimony_little+LongLinerBillHR3910 so you can see the propaganda cries of the “we were forced to race for fish” crowd, who have really been racing for quota shares, and already got a buyback program in CAA2005 special legislation. We’ve got a question they can ask him: “How many of you longliners freeze your product, take it right to the Occupied colony of Dutch Harbor airport, and ship it direct to Korea without creating more jobs in the USA?” Let’s get a look at their real global books! And have the CDC verify safety problems are related to lack of ownership rather than vessel construction and operation considerations that dockside inspections can resolve – as they did for crab vessels long prior to IFQs, despite propagandists trying to credit “rationalization” as the elixir for fixing all their symptoms.
The longliner cooperative (exclusive catch shares) bill was first introduced to the House on October 22, 2009 in an attempt to authorize a single fisheries cooperative upon the request of eligible members of the subsector holding at least 80 percent of the licenses (LLPs) for that subsector. It would have established a coop, and prohibit any member from harvesting a total of more than 20% of the Pacific cod available. TAC setting is determined at the Council level. The limitation was not to apply to harvest amounts from quota assigned explictly to a CDQ group or part of a CDQ allocation to an entity established under section 305(i) of the MSA.
Groundswell opposes the build-up of special exemptions given to these Community Development Quota groups (65 communities) mainly because they are highly discriminatory against the other communities of Alaska’s coast, where traditionally fishing was a larger part of their livelihood. It is wrong for government to create such special interests at the exclusive expense of other fishermen, when the social needs of those communities (and the ones left out) are the entire state’s responsibility. If they are supposed to get 10% of the Total Allowable Catch, that should be sufficient. But they then use their non-profit status and royalties from fish allocations to then compete and buy up more quotas, and next want exemption for all they can accumulate. This paradigm violates the “fair and equitable” distribution requirements under the MSA. To make matters worse, they then want full exemption from federal taxes on the for-profit joint ventures they create with regular fishing interests. This tax-free resource grab is pure lunacy once combined with exemptions (like in this bill) from quota restrictions.
At the May 2010 Anchorage meeting of all the regionals, at the Council Coordinating Committee event, Groundswell discussed the Rockfish Pilot Program, Adak Pollock, as well as Crab Ratz, as being legislative end runs of the Council process and MSA, too. This longliner bill is of similar ilk. We said that there’s little use for regional fish councils if everyone can run off to DC to use lobbyists to create legislative go arounds, and there would be little reason to believe in the MSA as any kind of important law to uphold. So, we’re happy this bill hit cold tar, and NOAA chimed in to protect the council process.
Soon, the long-withheld Steller Sea Lion Biological Opinion will be released. It’s clear that a few environmental leaders may immediately request that this cod fishery be reduced in order to keep feedstocks plentiful for SSLs near marine mammal haul-out rookeries in the Aleutian Islands. A lot of this BSAI cod is caught in state waters as well, so the ‘parallel fisheries’ issues that the NPFMC regularly addresses are important to understand. For these reasons and others, for the requesting quota recipients, the end-run legislation becomes preferable to council action where such multi-issue awareness would enter the debate. But for now, it looks like the one shot window of opportunity was closed, and rather appropriately so.
Thanks to NOAA for getting this one right; and thanks to Bordallo and the other subcommitee members who get it. It’s time to end the myths of the snake oil quota salesmen of carpetbaggers of Alaska’s fisheries. Or was Chairwoman Bordallo’s sentiment reflective of the increased national dissatisfaction with special favors from Congress, reminiscent of ethics cases like Charlie ‘the Tuna’ Rangel and Maxine Waters, and Senator John Ensign et al? It’s about time fisheries laws leave the Ted Stevens era behind, and that Don Young also pay soon for his crooked ways.