Me and Bob T. in the Capitol. No, he doesn't lobby for Deckboss.
After this week, the Alaska Legislature will move into the last half of its 90-day session.
Time for all those Juneau lobbyists to earn their keep.
Which has me wondering: Who in Alaska's seafood industry needs a lobbyist?
Deckboss analyzed the new lobbyist directory from the Alaska Public Offices Commission and identified 20 businesses or nongovernmental organizations paying for lobbying services this year:
• Alaska Crab Coalition • Alaska Scallop Association • Alaska Seine Boat Owners Association • Armstrong-Keta Inc. • Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. • Douglas Island Pink & Chum Inc. • F/V Pamela Rae Inc. • Icicle Seafoods Inc. • Icy Strait Seafoods Inc. • Ocean Beauty Seafoods LLC • OceansAlaska • Pacific Seafood Processors Association • Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp. • Rozema Boat Works • Sitka Herring Group • Southeast Alaska Regional Dive Fisheries Association • Southern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association • United Fishermen of Alaska • United Southeast Alaska Gillnetters • Yukon Delta Fisheries Development Association
You might notice the list includes several hatchery operators, who birth and partially raise a large percentage of Alaska's "wild" salmon.
One of them, in fact, the Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp., is spending the most of anyone on the list — $48,000 split between two lobbyists, Kate Tesar and Ian Fisk.
The top fish lobbyist, judging by his tally of clients and fees, is Bob Thorstenson Jr. He represents seven of the listed organizations: the Alaska Crab Coalition; the Alaska Scallop Association; the Alaska Seine Boat Owners Association; Armstrong-Keta Inc., which runs a hatchery southeast of Sitka; Rozema Boat Works of Mount Vernon, Wash.; the Sitka Herring Group; and the Southeast Alaska Regional Dive Fisheries Association.
Thorstenson, a commercial salmon seiner, reports he'll bag $95,500 in lobbying fees this year.
An intense earthquake in Chile has spawned tsunami danger across the Pacific.
Below is the most concise announcement I've seen for Alaska, courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Also, here is the latest tsunami advisory from the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center.
U.S. Coast Guard, 17th District
Feb. 27, 2010
Coast Guard alerts Alaska's maritime community of potential tsunami impact
ANCHORAGE — The Coast Guard has issued an urgent marine information broadcast alerting Alaska's maritime community of a potential tsunami impact to Alaska's coastal regions arriving around 3:15 p.m. today.
The first waves should arrive in Sitka with an estimated 1.3-foot wave height and subsequent areas across Alaska will be impacted throughout the evening. The largest predicted waves of approximately 2.3 feet are expected to hit Kodiak at low tide around 4:28 p.m.
All Coast Guard units have been alerted for any potential impact to Alaska's coastal environment.
Tsunami advisories mean that a tsunami capable of producing strong currents or waves dangerous to persons in or near the water is imminent or expected.
Significant widespread inundation is not expected for areas under an advisory.
Currents may be hazardous to swimmers, boats and coastal structures. Hazards may continue for several hours after the initial wave arrival.
A federal judge has rejected Aleut Enterprise's effort to evict Adak Seafood from the processing plant on Adak Island.
In this 11-page ruling issued Thursday, U.S. District Judge John Sedwick of Anchorage held that disputes involving landlord, tenant and a bank with millions of dollars in loans tied up in the plant are too complex for a quick eviction.
The judge further held that because Adak Seafood might hold some equity in the plant because of past improvements, this also precludes eviction.
So, it appears if Aleut Enterprise truly wants to boot Adak Seafood out of the building, it'll have to prevail in a longer legal proceeding.
Brewster Jamieson, attorney for Adak Seafood, told Deckboss in an e-mail today:
"Adak Seafood is very pleased that Judge Sedwick was able, in very short order, to grasp the facts and legal theories and to disregard Aleut's latest attempt to destroy the economy of Adak. Adak Seafood now intends to get on with its business, and we hope that Aleut Enterprise will stop their illegal campaign of intentionally interfering with Adak Seafood."
Alaska's groundfish industry had been anticipating next Monday with considerable dread.
That was the day the National Marine Fisheries Service was supposed to unveil a new biological opinion (BiOp) potentially calling for further restrictions to the pollock, cod and Atka mackerel fisheries as a way to preserve food fish for endangered Steller sea lions.
Tonight, however, comes word that the long-awaited BiOp is on hold.
A friend passed along this update from Chris Oliver, executive director of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council:
Hi all —
I just spoke with Doug Mecum and the release of the draft BiOp has been delayed. Not sure how long, but at least a few weeks. There is still a chance the Council can review it at our April meeting, so for the moment it is still tentatively on the April agenda. Not sure how that relates to potential Committee review/involvement, but we at least will get an update in April, if not the BiOp itself. I think action from that point depends on what the BiOp says, and whether there are 'surgical solutions' for the near term. It is also possible it will not be done in time for the April meeting, but we will see how that plays out. For the moment it seems that a meeting of the SSLMC March 9-11 is unnecessary and should be cancelled. That is what I know today.
Doug Mecum, FYI, is the acting NMFS administrator for Alaska.
Also, SSLMC refers to the council's Steller Sea Lion Mitigation Committee.
Earlier this month, msnbc made quite a splash with a big story on Todd Palin's influence during his wife Sarah's administration as Alaska governor.
The story was based on 2,544 pages of e-mails msnbc obtained through public records requests. The e-mails were among the Palins and members of the governor's staff, and are collected in a searchable archive.
Naturally, Deckboss went fishing in the archive and found a few items of interest to the commercial fishing community.
The items make it clear that Todd Palin, the "first dude," was very much a player in state affairs involving the industry.
My search also turned up some valuable insight into something Gov. Palin made quite a bit of noise about: allowing foreign ships into state waters to process salmon at Bristol Bay.
The Palins fish commercially in the bay, and like many of their fellow gillnetters, they hate it when the domestic processors cut back on buying for lack of capacity.
Gov. Palin told me back in 2008 that she had a "much more open mind" than prior governors about letting in foreign processors to buy fish the bay's existing processors couldn't handle.
I included her comments in this article published in the Anchorage Daily News.
After that story was published, Ivy Frye, an aide in the governor's office, made sure to forward it to Todd Palin, who evidently was away fishing.
Todd Palin's e-mail address, by the way, was email@example.com, reflecting his success as an Iron Dog snowmachine race winner.
Frye for a time was director of boards and commissions, an important post because of the many people seeking the governor's favor for an appointment.
Frye sometimes would ask Todd Palin to recommend people for the boards of agencies such as ASMI, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, as this redacted e-mail shows.
Another administration official who communicated with Todd Palin was the governor's adviser on fisheries policy, Cora Crome, now Cora Campbell.
Here's an update Crome sent Todd Palin summarizing her inquiries within state government on prospects for foreign processors coming to Alaska.
In another message Crome passes along material from lobbyists for domestic processors laying out the "risks and downsides" of allowing foreign processors into Bristol Bay.
Finally, here's a revelatory e-mail in which Crome tells Todd Palin state lawyers had advised that making a decision on issuing a permit to a foreign processor would raise ethical questions for the governor — presumably as a conflict of interest. Crome wrote "it could be an extremely sticky situation."
We should note that no foreign floaters ever were seen off Alaska's shores during Palin's short term as governor, apparently because none asked to come in.
Deckboss can't say whether these e-mails really prove Todd Palin was a "shadow governor," as some have observed.
Yesterday a crowd of mostly East Coast commercial, charter and sport fishermen marched on Washington, D.C., to voice their general discontent.
Here's an AP story on the event, which didn't seem to garner a great deal of media attention. That's not surprising, given the many rallies the capital sees.
You know, I wonder if anybody ever marches on Washington who's actually happy about something.
Anyway, the fishermen's march did hook the attention of Eric Schwaab, our new National Marine Fisheries Service chief, who issued the following:
February 24, 2010
Statement by Eric Schwaab, NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, on Today's "United We Fish" Rally at Capitol Hill
I am here today to listen to those who have come to rally Congress. I know the key to any successful fishery management program is active involvement by commercial and recreational fishermen as well as other interested stakeholders.
Marine fish and fisheries have been vital to the prosperity of this nation's coastal communities for hundreds of years. Today, however, more than 20 percent of the nation's fish stocks are overfished and need to be rebuilt to larger, healthier populations so that they can produce their full economic potential for fishermen, coastal communities and the nation.
In 2006, Congress reauthorized and strengthened the Magnuson-Stevens Act to meet that important goal. This reauthorization was groundbreaking in many respects, including the requirement that we use science-based annual catch limits to end overfishing on all stocks. Ending overfishing is the first step to allowing a fish stock population to rebuild to a level where the stock can be fished sustainably for the long term.
I recognize and appreciate the sacrifices being made today by the men and women in the commercial and recreational fishing industries to end overfishing and rebuild marine fish stocks as required by Magnuson. These sacrifices have the potential to result in significant long-term economic benefits to fishing communities and the nation as well as benefits to the overall ocean ecosystems. Recognizing the sacrifices being made to transition to more sustainable fishing, NOAA and Congress has made a commitment of $18.6 million to assist in the transition to sectors in the Northeast groundfish industry.
Rebuilding stocks has already led to important successes and significant economic benefits for fishermen, coastal communities and the nation. Some examples are the sea scallop, monkfish, bluefish and Gulf of Mexico king mackerel fisheries. The dockside value revenues in the sea scallop industry have increased from $84.7 million in 1994 when the stock was overfished to $370 million in 2008. The healthy bluefish stocks on the Atlantic coast provide consistent, reliable fishing opportunities for shore and party and charter boat anglers and the related economic benefits of sportfishing to a wide variety of shore businesses.
We estimate that once the nation rebuilds all fisheries, which we are on a track to do and required to do by law, the dockside value of our commercial fisheries would go from $4.1 billion to $6.3 billion annually, a 54 percent increase. Rebuilding recreational fisheries will help improve the economies of our nation's coastal communities; saltwater angling generated $82 billion in sales and supported more than 500,000 jobs annually in NOAA's most recent report.
I understand the criticism of the 10-year rebuilding timeframes in Magnuson. However, I believe Magnuson already contains the flexibility we need for rebuilding stocks by allowing certain exceptions based on biology and other issues. Balancing rebuilding for the long-term health of coastal communities with the immediate economic effects remains a challenge for everyone involved in implementing the act's mandate to end overfishing and rebuild stocks.
Although I've only been in my job as head of NOAA's Fisheries Service for a little more than a week, I am familiar with fishing communities, their proud traditions, and the challenges we face in keeping them vibrant for future generations. I am interested in hearing the concerns of everyone involved, and I look forward to a cooperative and productive relationship.
Judging from the bluster of this Gloucester Daily Times editorial, you'd think the Obama administration had snubbed the local favorite for some guy from, oh, Alaska to run the National Marine Fisheries Service.
You may know it as The Salmon Trampoline or The Flopper, but whatever you call it, Dave Hansen's innovative product has been attracting a lot of attention. The recently renamed SalmonSlide intercepts fish between the net and the deck as they are picked; slides them into a chute mounted immediately below and aft of the drum; then directs the fish toward port or starboard hatches (or both).
Last week, Hansen demonstrated the SalmonSlide for processors and a handful of interested fishermen in Bellingham. The demos took place on two vessels, Pete Biazavich's Lady Kate and Kari Toivola's Magnum. Attendees seemed unanimous in their praise of the SalmonSlide, noting its potential to prevent damage to fish and to reduce wear and tear on the crew.
In order to accelerate adoption of the SalmonSlide across the fleet, Hansen is currently nailing down bulk orders from several processors. The BBRSDA is not in the business of promoting individual businesses, but this innovation has potential to improve both quality and handling practices in the bay. We will provide occasional updates as Hansen and his processor-customers clarify their plans regarding supply and distribution.
The Obama administration today named Eric Schwaab, a Maryland public official, as the new head of the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Schwaab takes over for Jim Balsiger of Juneau, who long held the position on an acting basis. Balsiger is returning to run NMFS in Alaska, source of more than half the nation's commercial fish landings.
Not trying to brag, but Deckboss reported back in December that Schwaab looked like the guy for the top NMFS job.
Anyway, here's the official announcement on Schwaab's appointment:
Feb. 10, 2010
Announcing the New Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries
Message from NOAA Administrator, Dr. Jane Lubchenco
It gives me great pleasure to announce Eric Schwaab as the new assistant administrator for fisheries, starting February 16. We are excited to have someone with Eric’s experience and proven leadership to bring a fresh perspective to the management of NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service. Eric will lead NOAA’s efforts to rebuild our fisheries and the jobs and livelihoods that depend on them. His immediate priorities include improving outreach and relationships with recreational and commercial fishermen, better aligning federal and regional fisheries priorities, restoring confidence in fisheries law enforcement, and promoting management approaches that will achieve both sustainable fisheries and vibrant coastal communities.
Eric brings more than 25 years of experience in local, state and federal natural resource management. He has spent the majority of his career at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, where he began as a natural resources police law enforcement officer in 1983. He eventually served as director of the Maryland Forest Service; director of the Maryland Forest, Wildlife and Heritage Service; and director of the Maryland Fisheries Service. In 2003, Eric left the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to serve as resource director for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies until 2007. He then returned to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources as the deputy secretary. Eric has also served as a member of the U.S. Department of Commerce Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee.
Eric is a creative and proven manager, consensus builder and leader. He has developed and implemented solutions to address challenges in regional habitat restoration, including Chesapeake Bay restoration issues, fish and wildlife conservation, public lands management, natural resources law enforcement, public agency administration, strategic planning and leadership development.
I am excited to welcome Eric to the NOAA family. He will work with NOAA leadership, the fisheries service, his fellow assistant administrators and our many constituents to further our efforts to protect and manage the nation’s fisheries, our other trust resources including marine mammals and sea turtles, and the ecosystems upon which they depend. Welcome Eric!
I would also like to take this opportunity to express my deep appreciation to Dr. Jim Balsiger, the acting assistant administrator, for his superb and sustained leadership. Jim has led the fisheries service for over two years in this capacity, far from his home in Alaska, and done so with distinction. He was especially instrumental in engaging the fishery management councils in the process of developing the draft catch shares policy. Dr. Balsiger will soon return to his position as NOAA Fisheries’ regional administrator for Alaska, but before doing so will assist Eric with his transition into the fisheries service and NOAA. I’d also like to thank the entire team at NOAA Fisheries who have done an excellent job during this period.
Dr. Jane Lubchenco Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator
Deckboss visitors know we've been keeping pretty close tabs on the standoff between Adak Seafood and its reluctant landlord, Aleut Enterprise.
Thus far the dispute has been waged vigorously in the bankruptcy court, the state courts and U.S. District Court.
Now Adak Seafood is taking the fight to a new arena, filing this formal complaint today with the Regulatory Commission of Alaska.
A lawyer for Adak Seafood, which is trying to re-establish fish and crab processing in Adak Island's lone packing house, accuses Adak Petroleum of abusing its monopoly by refusing to sell diesel fuel to the plant.
Adak Petroleum, the island's only fuel supplier, is an Aleut Enterprise subsidiary.
Without the fuel to run a backup generator, tons of seafood could rot and go to waste in the event of an electrical power outage, Adak Seafood's complaint says.
Indeed, it appears this is the landlord's intent — a catastrophic loss "to kill" Adak Seafood, contends company lawyer Brewster Jamieson.
He urges the RCA, which regulates utilities, to extend its authority over Adak Petroleum, which currently "operates illegally, far from the watchful eye of any regulatory body."
Jamieson says Adak Petroleum charges exorbitant prices to "gouge" its customers, and is putting the island's environment at risk as evidenced by a recent spill.
Well, Deckboss will be sure to watch for the other side of the story, which he trusts will be filed in short order with the RCA.
Alaska-based cutter aids rescue 900 miles southwest of Honolulu
KODIAK — The crew of the Kodiak-based Coast Guard cutter Alex Haley rescued a 28-member crew this morning and is attending two burn victims from the disabled Taiwan-flagged fishing vessel Hou Chun 11 about 900 miles southwest of Honolulu.
Corpsmen aboard the cutter are treating the two crewmembers who are reported to have suffered severe burns. The crew of the cutter Alex Haley is scheduled to transit to Christmas Island, Kiribati, where the two burn victims are to be medevaced.
The Alex Haley arrived on scene at approximately 5 a.m., Alaska Standard Time, today. A Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point HC-130 Hercules aircrew remained on scene after the Alex Haley arrived to relay the exact position of the life rafts to rescuers. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy aircrews were on scene throughout the night.
The Alex Haley was in Honolulu to complete a Tailored Ship Training Availability, which measures the crew's skills and operational readiness to complete all Coast Guard missions. They are expected to return to Kodiak toward the end of the month.
We've got a potentially hot legislative hearing scheduled for this morning on House Bill 266.
Rep. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, says his bill "directs the Board of Fisheries to place restrictions on sport and commercial fisheries before putting restrictions on personal use fisheries when the harvest of a stock or species is limited to achieve an escapement goal."
Translation: Cook Inlet salmon dipnetters could keep fishing after sport anglers and commercial gillnetters are shut down.
Click here to find Stoltze's full sponsor statement plus the actual text of HB 266.
The hearing begins at 10:15 a.m. in the House Special Committee on Fisheries.
The Discovery Channel is reporting some encouraging news on the condition of Phil Harris, the "Deadliest Catch" crab boat captain who suffered a recent stroke while the Cornelia Marie was in St. Paul making a delivery.
After a good deal of effort, Dockboss managed to land a copy of this fascinating letter to Alaska's senators, Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich.
The letter, from the Joint Committee on Taxation, estimates how much tax revenue Uncle Sam would lose if Congress clarified the law to exempt certain income the state's six Community Development Quota companies generate through various business ventures.
The tax break would be a humdinger: $92 million to $124 million through the year 2019, the committee staff estimates.
Murkowski and Begich requested the estimate last spring.
Regular visitors know we touch on the subject of the CDQ program a good bit.
It's a unique federal initiative started in 1992 to vest western Alaska villages with shares of the lucrative Bering Sea commercial fish and crab harvests. Six nonprofit companies represent groups of villages and arrange to catch their "community quotas."
The CDQ companies have grown into strong contenders in Alaska's rich seafood industry.
Recently, some doubt has arisen as to whether the companies can continue to avoid paying taxes on parts of their expanding business portfolios.
Not long ago one CDQ company, Norton Sound Economic Development Corp., which represents villages in the Nome region, decided it does owe taxes. The company worked out an IRS settlement to pay taxes, penalties and interest of $10.2 million, an aide with Alaska’s congressional delegation said. It also paid $2.2 million in state tax.
Most other CDQ companies, however, don’t believe they owe taxes.
And why is that?
Also, why would Alaska's senators even think of sponsoring legislation to secure tax breaks for firms that, in 2008, tallied an impressive $139 million in combined revenue?
CDQ companies and congressional staffers argue that the CDQ companies aren't like regular corporations, which are driven mainly by a profit motive.
The CDQ companies have a much broader mission to supply the often disadvantaged villages they represent with jobs, scholarships, local construction and other benefits.
Taxing the CDQ companies, and potentially demanding many millions of dollars in back taxes, could hamstring a program that's done much good in bush Alaska, supporters say.
We'll have to wait and see whether the Alaska delegation can win the CDQ tax break.
This year, however, might be a difficult time to ask considering the enormous federal deficit the country is building to finance the economic stimulus, the war on terror and general budget needs.
One final note: Norton Sound has told the delegation it's "only fair" to receive a refund if the tax break passes.