Thursday, March 31, 2011

insanity is... that I'm out of day-to-day life in Philthydelphia, I've slacked off on keeping tabs on what's going on with Aker Philly's wrap-up shipbuilding program. Aker's 4-year blitz of building OSG tankers is in it's twilight, and, with nothing on the books, and the next potential customer being only potential, and 3 years away from keel-laying, it looks grim for the folks at Aker.
I'm a fan of the Jones Act, the law that requires that port-to-port calls in the US be carried preferentially on American-built and operated tonnage. I interact regularly with foreign-built and manned ships, and, while the construction of these vessels is usually superior to ours (sorry, my opinion), the manning is insanely variable- Filipinos and Indians make up the largest proportion of unlicensed crew in the world, and have a high standard of training that makes them good seafarers- other guys? Not so much, IMHO. There are a lot of North Africans and Russians that do scary stuff while I'm in eyeball range as part of my job... but for $500 a month, sometimes less, what do you expect? The absolute shit treatment that unlicensed international crew can expect to receive is not conducive to productivity. I've been fortunate enough to work with some good companies that do better for their people, and the variation of quality in the help is far less.
So, I'd rather see well-paid and well-trained people out on deck on all ships- American ships should have ultra-superior crew, considering the pay, though this is not the case. The truth is that most American unlicensed crew can make more money shoveling elephant shit for the circus.
Now, with the market being what it is, and the supply of tonnage to haul oil being sufficient to meet our needs, there's no demand whatsoever for new ship tonnage in the US. This is seen in the current rates for small- and medium-sized parcel jobs on the spot market. The economy of scale here in the US favors smaller vessels. While ships can deliver large cargo to market in bad weather faster than smaller ATB's and tank vessels, the market still favors the cheaper-to-build (and maintain, operate, crew and insure) limited-tonnage vessel for Jones Act trade.
So, in order to keep the shipbuilding talent pool local, Aker Philly, a subsidiary of the nordic superconglomerate Aker companies, is building two more ships on speculation... meaning on speculation that they'll find a buyer. This is insane on many levels, but more on that later.
Now, unless a military contractor is secretly operating under the table elbow-deep in Aker's operations department, I can't think of anyone who wants a $130 million dollar tanker for Jones Act trade. It's not like they're building homes on spec, where eventually a buyer will be found... oh, wait, yes it is. It's exactly like that, where NO ONE is doing such things anymore.
Aker, to their credit, offered up a sacrificial lamb this week, by putting an inexperienced 20-something year old kid in charge of the shipyard- said kid, of course being a scion of Aker's CEO. I was impressed by both the ruthlessness of this move and the political deck-stacking that this does for the Aker family. It's not a novel idea, putting a new captain on the titanic somewhere between the time of the iceberg and the mandatory swimming lessons- it's a good way to learn, when there's almost no chance of success- failures can be pointed at as the fault of the last administration, while any modicum of success is all your own... much like the current US President's administration.
Anyhow, because shipbuilders are in high-demand in other trades (imagine an apprenticeship where you are given an education in steelwork, electric, pipefitting, HVAC and plumbing all in one... making you a polyglot of the building trades), a closed yard creates a diaspora in the talent pool. Aker is trying to avoid that, even though there's still not enough work to get them to the next potential shipbuilding contract.
Enter the insanity. Aker isn't going to pay for this crazyness. The City of Philadelphia is. The people of Philly are paying for two ships that no one will want. In a city where poverty is the norm, two 600-foot long white elephants are being built for fun and profit...for a European family. Yes, the tradesmen will be kept working for another year... but should taxes be used to keep tradesmen working, when those tradesmen are the most desired and sought-after tradesmen available? It's not like the city is taking an ownership stake in the yard. Exactly what are they getting for their efforts. And not to belabor a point, but if someone wanted a Jones Act Tanker, there's a 90% complete twin-engine variant sitting in Mobile, AL, available for a fraction of the cost of one of these Aker ships courtesy of a bankruptcy auction... why buy a new economy car when you can get a Cadillac for 1/3 of the price or less?
Anyhow, I'm saddened and disturbed by all this, and, as someone who spent almost 2 years working around the Philly waterfront, I know that there are plenty of kids who are going to bed hungry in that city,and $200,000,000 would buy a lot of dinner.
On the other hand, let me give a pre-construction congratulations to MARAD and the Military Sealift Command, who will now be given more federal tax dollars after next year to care for these ships that no one wants. I suspect that MARAD won't exist after next year, so I'm assuming that MSC will take over for them.
So then, I guess, these aren't just Philadelphia's tankers. They're everyone's. Your tax dollars at work.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Not every evolution on deck can go seamlessly. From my limited (read: nonexistent) tugboat experience, I make a great effort to keep my mouth shut when I watch a tugboater struggle in mooring or un-assing. I haven't been there, simply put, so it's not my place to comment.
Unfortunately for me, I'm also not a saint. When frustrated, barring relief, I'll lash out as much as the next guy. So this morning, during a not-so-smooth mooring evolution, I got frustrated. The details are irrelevant. I didn't lash out, thankfully- the man at the wheel didn't deserve a raspberry from the peanut gallery; I guess the morning fell under the category of "shit happens," or, as is said here, "Tugboating is a contact sport sometimes." From the tug's vantage point, I probably looked like a meth addict tweaking on deck, however, as I was absolutely cursing aloud and throwing bits of ruined hawser everywhere. I hate, fear and loathe a parted mooring line.
SO, I walk away with two lessons learned:

1. I'm glad I wasn't the man at the wheel of that tug today- the man had a tough job and even though I didn't communicate with him, I'm sure that seeing me fuss about was not helpful or welcome.

2. I know full well I could not have done a better job, parted line or no; all the same, there is always an aftermath when you experience that tangible frisson that enervates you at the moment when you realize that the moment of shit happening is imminent, and there isn't a single thing that you can do to protect your property. It's human nature to get defensive at that point; I credit the man at the wheel for smoothly making the transition from shit sandwich to a controlled evolution after the fact, and not saying a word about it after.

Friday, March 25, 2011

at first I was all like, yeah, but then I was all like, no.

In my spam filter was an email for "Angelina Jolie free sample." the other day.

I haven't been so tempted to open a spam mail since I first infected my first computer back in the day. I almost gave in to this one. I mean, it could be anything related to Angelina Jolie, whom I find attractive, incidentally. Anyhow, with great reluctance, I deleted the email, and will be forever questioning what was in there. It was probably something good, like candy.

Anyhow, today I get another email from the same address, entitled "Ellen Degeneres free sample." And thus, the temptation dies.

I'm almost certain that that one didn't have anything good in it. There was almost definitely no candy there.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


1. We had 2 days of sleet, rain, and snow. There was some lightning and hail in there, too. What a nice feeling when I woke up for watch before noon and saw the sun for the first time in I don't know how many days.

2. I know I've been writing about food too much, but today, with a 12-hour gap between loading cargo and discharge, I threw together some stuffed peppers for 2:

What a shock to discover that I missed Wednesday, being Prince spaghetti day. I really have no idea what day it is most of the time I'm out here.

3. There's an awful lot of silence coming from the media about the President's decision to bomb Libya without informing Congress first. I'm no constitutional scholar, but doesn't he have to do that first?

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Invasion

In the era of sail, when the officers of one ship would be invited to dine on another, the crew, with the complicity of the Captain of the mess, would refer to the luncheon as an 'invasion.' The rigid and extremely well-enforced rules of communal dining aboard ship were followed, including the rules which dictated where and when rules could be relaxed.
One thing that stood out, at the time, was that if the hosting senior officer decided that everyone was going to get well and truly stinking drunk, there was little choice in the matter. This led to world-class hangovers and good times, apparently, for the most part.
Well, the days of drinking afloat are dead and gone forever, but the invasions continue. Yesterday we hosted a visiting officer for birthday cake, his 36th birthday having come while his vessel was moored alongside us. As the old doryman's creed of "share and share alike" is still obeyed here, today we're invited over for a lunch of lasagna with peach cobbler for dessert... something to brighten up the day here, which, being a rainy mess of a nor'easter, is eagerly looked forward to.
If we're still here tomorrow, I'm going to make some Brazilian stroganoff, in an effort to one-up our Italian neighbors here in the anchorage.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Lazy Sunday

Not since my days on the tanker Ner River have I been really able to enjoy a Sunday at sea.

In the heyday of the British navy, Sunday was always something special. In the morning, the crew would turn out to scrub and clean everything, including themselves- nonessential work was let go in the afternoons- provided the crew was clean, shaven and their areas tidy, after the captain's weekly inspection of the appurtenances and crew, and lunch, the crew was given a double tot of rum. Man who had saved up their daily tot might then enjoy the afternoon in a state of drunkenness, or barter or sell their tot to those who wished to catch a buzz. This was done for the most intelligent of reasons: despite the comfort of routine, the hardest of men can become brittle under heavy stress, and need time to calm down.
Being here, and being on a management level now, I can't have a carefree Sunday quite like I used to when we manage to have a free day, but I can manage something.

We had a nice system on Sunday. Both of the Chief mates were fairly lenient- I surprised myself by becoming a sea lawyer when one of them took away our Sunday at sea under duress from the home office- I didn't so much sew discontent as I did become a loudmouth prick about it; in hindsight I'm ashamed, in fact. The mate in question was a fine person, and caught in an unenviable position between being harangued by the office over the state of repair of the vessel, and a near-visible fug around the crew when he had to push us to work through a Sunday at sea to shut up the talking heads (in our defense, there was no overtime involved except for any individuals who happened to be standing watch that day were working in their off time).
Needless to say, being disappointed wasn't the best motivator for the crew, and morale and productivity suffered. In a short time, we were able to get our Sundays back, and morale improved. I'm fairly certain that the mate in question probably got some shit for it, but it did make us a happier bunch, and more productive come Monday.
Our Sunday ritual in the deck department was as follows:
0720: Wake up calls
0720-0800 Breakfast
0800 meet in the unlicensed crew mess hall. Complain. Then morning meeting with Chief mate and bosun. Praying for announcement that today will be a clean-up day until noon.

0800-0900 Hurriedly and with gusto, clean, wipe down and mop out the Cargo control room, Inert Gas Generator room (sometimes), deck department communal head (this was an old ship; there were no personal heads for unlicensed crew) laundry and TV room, and crew deck passageways. Complain about the QMED's, who never, ever clean their head or passageway, or the TV room. Or laundry.

0900-1000 laundry, hide in one's room
1000-1030 Coffee break. Hang out with steward, complain about things, argue with steward's helpers.
1030-1150 Hide out in room, work on personal projects, visit other crewmen's rooms, complain about things.
1200-1300. Lunch. Complain about soup, possibly complain about fat and/or salt content of lunch. Depending on which steward was on board, there was a 50/50 chance that Sunday lunch would result in stomach cramps and diarrhea.
1300-1500. Nap, clean, play video games, watch movie, complain.
1500-1530. afternoon coffee. Listen to steward complain that we were all going to come too early to Sunday dinner, and make him stressed.
1530-1600. Fire drill and safety exercise. In summer, this often ended in rinsing the ship off using the fire monitors.
1600-1630. Stow hard hat and gumby suit, watch TV.
1630-1645: instigate an intense argument between Pumpman and someone from the Steward's department while waiting for dinner. Eat all the dinner rolls set out by the Steward, possibly start a rumor that the officers were getting better rolls.
1645-1730. Dinner and conversation. Thank the steward, then hope that the captain put porn on the TV again.
1730- relax, prepare for night watches if on watch that week, or watch movies.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

You're Effing Welcome

... while I was home, I dutifully paid my taxes to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue and Ministry of Love.

...considering that I spent less than 16 weeks in Massachusetts last year, and they got 5.3% of my income, I'd say "You're welcome, and I hope you choke on it." 16 weeks of shitty roads, traffic, no political representation, a 20% increase in sales tax, a frigging SHOOTOUT the next street over, learning that Massachusetts taxes you extra if you die, including taxing your savings twice... WTF? When I showed Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife how much we were forking over to the People's Republic, my wife finally folded and said that we could buy a house in Florida if I wanted.
Something about being able to buy a car with the money that we hand over annually with absolutely jack shit in return (really, does anyone think that no one answers 911 when you call in a no-state-tax state? So far as I can tell, the only ones who lose in a no-tax state are the welfare bums and the unions) finally pushed my wife into my corner. Plus, for the money I would spend on a shitbox house with no land here, I could buy a home with an indoor pool in Florida. I've looked.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Vamos a Brasil!

Tomorrow starts another voyage, and with this too-short week at home at an end, I'm dreading going back to work. Like was said before, "Like a dog to its' vomit, so goes the fool to his folly." My folly this time being my bread and butter, I can take great comfort that I've got a job to go to.
There's been a festive atmosphere at the Ant Farm, when we weren't lamenting the impending tomorrow- I gave up half of my vacation for a good reason: The B family is going to Brazil in July! Tickets are purchased, visas applied for, and reservations reserved. Now comes the hard part- paying for it all!

Anyhow, in a fit of appropriateness, the good Lord has seen to make tomorrow's drive to the Big Apple one that will be carried out in driving rain. Maybe it's enough to take the lead out of my pencil, but pee on my parade or not, it's been a good week home.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tug Life

Tomorrow morning I'll eventually make my way back to my truck, throw my seabag in the bed, and head off to fight traffic and make my way home. This is good.
Setting out to work a 5/1 week rotation was a lot like going to work on Monday with the sure knowledge that the weekend is going to be more of the same when I was a working stiff ashore. In a great plot twist, I ended up being the AB on a tugboat for a week, something I know little about. Knew little, I guess. I did OK, I suppose.
Being AB on a tugboat is mostly about cleaning, from what I can tell. I didn't make any voyages, being on a harbor boat, and I've undoubtedly gained a few pounds in such a few short days. Unbelievable food here. Honesty, for a foodie, this would be a dream job.
With only one week to spend at home before I'm due back at my regular position, I've got a bunch of crap to do, and not much time to do it, so I suppose I've really got to focus on having a good time with such time as I've got. I'm not going to make this a detailed post, as, honestly, I'm burnt out pretty bad.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The dirty politics of the environmental movement OR How to destroy fisheries for fun and profit!

This is a wholesale reprint of Nils Stolpe's fantastic latest article on NOAA's complicity with Green, Inc. to hijack the commercial fishing industry for their exclusive profit.

Is this the future of fishing?

Nils E. Stolpe/FishNet USA
February 2, 2011

What’s the probability of a federal agency becoming involved in an attempt to wrest control of a public resource-based industry away from the communities that have built up around it since colonial times - an industry with a Congressionally mandated role in the management of the resources it depends on - and turn it over to private “charitable” foundations and the business entities they are linked to? If your answer is “pretty low,” give some serious consideration to the following.

The David and Lucile Packard Foundation commissioned a study, Financing Fisheries Change: Learning from Case Studies, by Manta Consulting, Inc. that was completed last month (January, 2011). The report, which is available as of this writing at (if it disappears, contact me and I’ll provide you with the file) lays out in 119 pages how foundation supported ENGOs and the “green” businesses they support can take over recreational and commercial fisheries. This could have the effect of reducing people who were previously independent vessel or fishing-related business owners/operators to wage slaves working for the environmentally correct “company store,” being forced to adapt their methods, their technologies and ultimately their lifestyles to what billionaire industrialists and their heirs deem they should be. Is this anything but elitist social engineering at its worst?

“The expectation is that the lessons from each (of the presented case studies) will help new innovators and entrepreneurs to adapt and design their own investment and governance structures to achieve significant change on the water.” (Packard/Manta report, pg 7)

How is this to be accomplished? According to Packard/Manta, “foundations in the field are now looking to support this transition from fisheries conservation as a purely philanthropic investment to a blended conservation and business investment by encouraging non-profits, social change leaders and business entrepreneurs to create innovatively structured projects that can both build value for private investors and improve the speed and scale of fisheries conservation impacts.”

In the report, several examples of “sustainable” seafood marketing companies are cited. They got an initial boost from the Sea Change Investment Fund, launched by Packard and California Environmental Associates. It “is funded equally from low-interest Program Related Investment debt from the Packard Foundation and private equity from independent investors.” How would you like to be an owner of a truly independent business and have to compete with a business on the next block that has the Packard Foundation behind it?

It’s glaringly obvious that when foundations have billions of dollars in assets, an unprecedented amount of political clout and highly effective PR machines, the potential “encouragement” they are able to offer to what they have decided are acceptable businesses is going to be staggering. It’s going to be particularly staggering if you’re the owner of or if you’re dependent on one of the businesses that is about to find itself with a competitor of such Brobdingnagian proportions.

Mega-foundations whose directors in their ivory towers are convinced that they know more than the hundreds of thousands of people who depend on fishing and on healthy fisheries to support their families and their way of life is an issue that’s been studiously ignored by the main stream media. A handful of these foundations have spent tens of millions of dollars pushing their dream of catch shares, the form of fisheries management that is most amenable to this kind of “encouragement,” with no apparent thought given to the human repercussions.

Then there’s the role being played by ex ENGO super-star Jane Lubchenco and her no-holds-barred campaign as head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to convert every US fishery she can to catch shares, whether the conditions of the fishery warrant such a cataclysmic change – or any change, for that matter - or not. (Relative to any so-called necessity for massive changes in how we manage our fisheries, I recommend reading an interview with recently retired NOAA/NMFS head scientist Steve Murawski. In it he announced that by the end of this year overfishing would be a thing of the past in U.S. fisheries. It’s at

But is that all there is? Not hardly.

You’re probably aware that some of these “charitable” foundations, generally characterized as anti-fishing by fishermen, are associated with what they call sustainability guides rating various fish and seafood species. Packard is one of them, through the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch. These guides are compiled with seemingly scant consideration given to whether the fishery is pursued in compliance with the appropriate fisheries management plans, whether it is free of overfishing, or whether it is anything else, apparently, other than what the whims of the people doing the rating dictate. If they like the way the fish are harvested – or perhaps if they like the people who are doing the harvesting – they’ll stamp the products of that fishery as acceptable. If they don’t, they’ll give them the thumbs down.

With the increasing market focus on the sustainability of fish and shellfish, itself the response to a huge investment in PR by the same foundations, these “thumbs down” ratings have a significant influence on the demand for the seafood products being rated. This is reflected in the prices that are paid for those products from the boat all the way up the chain.

So we have huge foundations spending millions of dollars to convince the public that what they’ve decided is “sustainability” should be the critical criterion when buying seafood and spending other millions of dollars on supporting rating programs that grade whether seafood products should be embraced or avoided by seafood consumers, we have fishermen who are fishing well within the letter of the world’s most stringent array of fishing laws here in the U.S., and there is no connection between the two. The fish labelers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium are ready, willing and able to brand a product “avoid” simply because they don’t like how it’s caught.

Take monkfish as a case in point. The National Marine Fisheries Service monkfish page on its own seafood rating website, Fish Watch, states “monkfish are primarily caught with bottom trawls and gillnets. Dredges also account for a small percentage of landings. Monkfish habitat has been determined to be only minimally vulnerable to these fishing gears,” and continues regarding bycatch in the monkfish fishery “measures have been implemented to reduce any impact.” Yet the Monterey Bay Aquarium warns consumers against eating monkfish “due to high bycatch concerns and severe habitat impacts.”

Needless to say, the National Marine Fisheries Service doesn’t have anything approaching the dollars that the Monterey Bay Aquarium, with its connection to the Packard Foundation (in 2010 the Aquarium received $36 million from the Foundation) has. So the federal agency with the responsibility to manage our marine fisheries is saying to go ahead and buy and enjoy monkfish with a clear conscience and the Monterey Bay Aquarium is saying don’t you dare. Guess which message is reaching more consumers?

Why the discrepancy?

To collect its own data, the aquarium could have a fleet of research vessels manned by a crew of scientists that no one knows anything about, but operating in a low-profile stealth mode is uncharacteristic of the foundation funded crowd. As the Pew/Oceana folks showed us in the Gulf of Mexico during the BP disaster, when going down to the sea in ships they want their creature comforts with them and they want everyone to know – see The Oil Slick – Oceana scientists “roughing it” in the Gulf at the bottom of the page at Minus collecting their own data, the Monterey Bay Aquarium fish raters must be using the same information that NMFS is using. They’re sure coming to different conclusions. So having their own, independently gathered information is probably out.

Is it because they don’t like gill nets and otter trawls? They rate black sea bass as a “good alternative,” and they’re caught with otter trawls, as are silver hake (“good”), Alaskan pollock (used in surimi and rated “good”), sand dabs (“good”) and lingcod (“good”). They rate Atlantic croaker a “best choice,” and they’re caught with gillnets, as are bluefish (“good”), Spanish mackerel (“good”) and salmon (“good” to “best”). It’s apparently not the gear being used.

Whatever their reasons for this rating, it puts a dent in the demand for monkfish. That’s why they are doing it. This dent in demand is translated into a lower price for the fish that is felt by everyone from the fishermen to the retailers.

The monkfish fishery is one of the initial candidates for Jane Lubchenco’s catch shares revolution. As I’m writing this, a series of public hearings are being held from Maine to North Carolina so that federal regulators can gauge the interest in catch shares in the fishery. If she is successful, rights to the annual monkfish harvest will be divided among some of the “historic” participants. Fitting in with the Packard Foundation’s grand plan for “saving the fisheries” while at the same time turning a profit, this could open the door for green organizations and individuals to start buying control of the fishery. The Packard Foundation has now provided them with a roadmap of how to do this and, based on past actions, might well be willing to provide them with financing as well.

The lower the consumer demand for monkfish, the lower the cost for outsiders to “buy” into the fishery.

Putting the icing on this particular cake, monkfish are classified as a data poor stock. In other words, the fisheries scientists claim they don’t know as much about the condition of the monkfish population as is necessary to manage them adequately. This being the case, the monkfish quotas are set extremely conservatively. If the scientists were more comfortable with the condition of the stock, if the uncertainty was less, the quotas would be increased, and they’d probably be increased significantly.

The level of knowledge that scientists have about any fish stock is determined by the amount of money available to collect and analyze data about that stock. Given adequate funding, monkfish could be taken off the data poor list in fairly short order. What would result? It’s impossible to believe it would be anything other than a significant increase in the quota. Ms. Lubechenco has taken millions out of the NMFS research budget and put it into her catch shares campaign. At least for the time being, it’s apparent that monkfish are going to continue as a data poor stock. (Note that I work for the Monkfish Defense Fund, an industry trade group.)

It’s safe to say that less data = lower quotas = less income to the fishery participants = lower price for acquiring catch shares in the fishery.

But is it possible for a foundation – or an ENGO that it supports – to decide to start supporting a massive monkfish survey effort as soon as it becomes a catch share fishery and a bunch of those shares have been acquired by the “right” kind of people, businesses and organizations? Why not? And then monkfish could be taken from the data-poor category, the allowable catch could be increased significantly, monkfish could be promoted to a “best choice” by the fish labelers, the value of the catch shares could increase dramatically, and everyone would be happy – except for the fishermen and the other folks who would be casualties of this green takeover of their fishery.

So we’re looking at a possible scenario where the value of the shares in a fishery can easily be driven down by a combination of government and foundation efforts and where the value of those shares can just as easily be increased by making a few adjustments in consumer ratings and research funding levels.

It’s not just monkfish.

In spite of formidable and totally justified political pressure to do so, the Secretary of Commerce has just refused to allow Northeast groundfish fishermen to catch significantly more of the uncaught 80% or so of the target Total Allowable Catch that a complicated web of extremely harsh regulations presently prevents them from catching. The groundfish fishery is in a tailspin because of this government mandated underfishing, and thanks to a catch share system instituted at Ms. Lubchenco’s insistence last year, quota can be acquired at bargain basement rates. (See Chronic Underfishing - The Real New England Groundfish Crisis at

These regulations resulted from successful lobbying by the foundation-funded ENGOs, and their heavy-handed implementation has been guaranteed by a series of lawsuits brought by those same ENGOs. Several of the projects detailed in the Packard report focus on this fishery, and its current dismal condition and future promise (a harvest with the potential to increase at least 400%) would seem to make it a natural for investment. But to allow that investment to be made, guided or encouraged by members of the same complex of foundations, ENGOs, investors and bureaucrats who are responsible for the dismal conditions that exist in the fishery today (and the attendant human suffering) is, or should be, far beyond the pale.

As of now, it isn’t.

It would seem that a couple of amendments to the Magnuson Act could forestall some serious potential problems. The Act already requires that before any individual quota system is put in place by either the Gulf of Mexico or New England Fishery Management Council it has to be approved by two-thirds of the permit holders in a fishery-wide referendum. This should be expanded to apply to all of the Councils, all of EEZ fisheries and all proposed Catch Share programs, not just those dealing with individual quotas. And any quota acquisition by a non-fishing entity should only be allowed with the express approval of a certain percentage (20%?) of the permit holders in that fishery. Without these provisions at the least, it’s very possible that the type of speculation that destroyed the U.S. housing market could be inflicted on our commercial and recreational fisheries.


Trouble in the catch share paradise or something else entirely?

The Alaskan halibut fishery, which has been operating on a catch shares basis for several years, has been held up as one of the examples of what a superior form of management it is; in fact, the only system that guarantees sustainability. On December 10 Craig Medred wrote in 2011 halibut quota cut nearly in half:

"Fishermen who borrowed money to finance the purchase of "shares" of the allotted halibut harvest are struggling to make payments as the value of those shares goes down along with the harvest.

Everything was rosy in the commercial halibut fisheries off Alaska's shores as long as it was rosy. Now the dark side of what is called "privatization" has begun to emerge.

Commercial fishermen who borrowed money to finance the purchase of "shares" of the allotted halibut harvest find themselves struggling to make payments as the value of those shares goes down along with the harvest.

Shares looked like a good investment in 2005 when the International Pacific Halibut Commission, which sets catch quotas for the water off Alaska and Canada, set a limit of 10.93 million pounds for Area 2C in the Gulf of Alaska off the panhandle. Catch quotes, however, have been going doing down ever since. The commission is recommending a catch of only 2.33 million pounds for next year. The area had a 2010 quota of 4.4 million pounds this year”

(Alaska Dispatch

Friday, March 4, 2011

tug life

I was given my choice of assignments for this week- I could be an AB/Cook aboard a coastwise ATB, or I could work as an AB on a harbor tug.
I asked for an extra week's work, in part because of the ridiculous tax rates in Massachusetts, where I reluctantly reside- this being tax season and the annual ritual of taking it in the seat for the Massachusetts Revenooers, I found it necessary to get some OT in.
So it was with a hesitant yes that I agreed to get myself onto a tug. I have the credentials to work here, and the theoretical knowledge, but the practical trumps all that- tugboat life requires different work altogether. Someone maybe thought it would be good for me; I certainly did.

Three days in, and I'm enjoying myself; I've been more social here than I've been in months; falling in with a good crew helps. I find that I can do the work; it takes me an extra throw or two to get lines to cleats and bitts for sure- tugboating requires a disconcertingly accurate throwing arm when it comes to line throwing, and I'm a 50/50 man at best. At very best. I'm probably more of a 33/66 man, if we're being honest here. Luckily for me, I've been working with some very encouraging and patient people.
The food, though. Mein Gott. I'm eating well. No wonder southerners wear giant belt buckles; there's a lot of strain on my belt. It's going to be hard to go back to rabbit food once my week is up.

...and now for something completely different

I am working an extra week this trip, as an AB (Able Bodied seaman, to the non-mariner) on a tugboat- this is a novel experience for me, as I've worked my way up on ships, not tugs, and seem to be all thumbs here. All the same, I'm enjoying it, but more later. For now, I've got an opportunity to sleep...