Sunday, September 26, 2010
Open letter sent to newspapers, radio and TV stations:
Government destroys ecosystem and steals your livelihood.
In the 1970’s I had a good life. I lived in Halibut Cove in a house that I had built with my own two hands. I had a wife that love me, four good children who were learning how to fish salmon and crab. I had a shop building to work on my fishing gear and numerous out buildings. I owned a 72’ boat that I had rebuilt to catch king crab and tanners to provide for my family. I had worked on the old Mary M many years even running it to Seattle twice to change the engine and do hull repairs. I had worked extremely had to reach that point. I was creating work by providing jobs for three desk hands and I was earning close to two hundred thousand dollars a year.
In the 1960’s and 1970’s Cook Inlet had a 3.5 million pound to 4.5 million pound king crab quota for the outer district from Cape Douglass, Barren Islands up to Anchor Point. Kachemak Bay had an additional 3.5 million pound quota which kept us busy for two to three months. After that in November 15 they opened the tanner season for another 3-million pound quota. All that crab and shrimp amounted to from 30 to 60-million dollars that went directly into the private sector. This also helped municipalities, grocery stores, fuel distributors and a little trickled down into everyone’s pocket.
Little by little my livelihood was destroyed. The crab because fewer and fewer and Alaska Department of Fish and Game extended the quotas as if they were trying to wipe out the fishery. ADF&G allowed large shrimp draggers to come into the bay and virtually wipe out the shrimp population. Kachemak Bay, once referred to as the most productive bay in the world was eventually closed down to commercial fishing by the Democrat Governor Tony Knowles.
In installed a single sideband marine radio in our house so that I could talk to my wife and pursued the Kodiak king crab and tanner fishery. When I would get home after three months with little to show for it my wife would unload all her problems on me. This went on for two or three years and she eventually took up with one of my employees so I lost my wife and my family.
I ranged further and further from home to make a living eventually running 24 hours south of Kodiak Island to fish out of Nakawalak Bay near Chignik. I set up headquarters in Port Wrangle which had no facilities but offered good shelter from the weather.
My boat was too small and too old to compete in the Baring Sea fishery. I couldn’t get a loan to buy a bigger boat because the politicians in Seattle control who gets loan guarantees from National Marine Fisheries. If you were from Alaska your chances of getting a boat loan were much less than if you from Washington, Oregon or California.
Unbeknownst to me, the oil and contaminated drilling mud from 23 oil wells in the upper Cook Inlet were leaking into the lower inlet polluting the waters and killing plankton, shrimp and crab spat.
Additionally the State of Alaska allowed the oil tankers to pump oily ballast water into Cook Inlet more than twenty years. When the tankers departed the open sea and entered the mouth of Cook Inlet by the Barren Islands they started pumping dirty ballast water from such harbors as Los Angeles, Anacortes and San Francisco. By the time they reached Drift River Terminal and the Texaco refinery in Nikiski their ballast water tanks were empty and ready to take on oil.
If you don’t believe me do the math. One tanker dumps 30 to 50-million gallons of ballast water. A hundred tankers a year will pump out 300 to 500 million gallons of algae contaminated ballast water. Ten years and you have three to five billion gallons of algae and oil contaminated ballast water that sucks up oxygen from the oxygen-rich waters of Cook Inlet and Kodiak.
They eventually constructed a ballast water treatment plant in Nikiski. It didn’t go on line until 1984 but by that time it was too late to save the crab and shrimp fisheries. It was also broke down half the time. The tankers didn’t want to use it because it caused them down time waiting for the ballast water to be removed. It also made the ships draw more water on the run up Cook slowing them down.
The point of this article is the state wanted to get rid of all commercial crab and shrimp fisheries in lower Cook Inlet so that the State and Feds could put oil wells all over Cook Inlet. Then the State of Alaska sued the feds costing taxpayers millions of dollars in a futile attempt to claim the oil rights out to twelve miles offshore. The government had plans to make lower Cook Inlet look like the Gulf of Mexico with a hundred oil wells in every direction but it never happened—probably because there isn’t much oil there.
The result of all this insane oil for seafood tradeoff was that the cities of Homer, Seldovia and Port Graham lost an income of 30-million to 60-million dollars a year that went directly into the pockets of the townspeople. It helped the grocery stores, bars, construction of new houses, fuel distributors, increased jobs and increased taxes to municipalities. Not only was this a hardship inflicted on fishermen, it was a theft of resources from citizens.
The reason the Bearing Sea still has a fishery is there are no oil tankers plying the waters and fewer ship traffic dumping oily ballast water. Nobody seems to understand this and nobody cares. You would think that if you had no job that you would be more cognoscente of the harvest of resources which is driving force of any economy.
“Thanks for opening your heart.” –Bob Shadelson, Attorney, Cook Inlet Keeper.