Thursday, March 29, 2012


Just putting this old top 20 fleet reasons to support fleet consolidation post up again for edification, along with a reminder to vote YES for fleet consolidation.

Just a reminder in case some of you missed it.
While we talk about the 3% changing-- to a lower number-- it can NEVER be raised. Someone mentioned that to me recently as a concern. If we only get $1 worth of fish due to a cataclysmic event such as a SE wide oil spill or tsunami, we only pay 3 cents that year.

TOP 20 List

1. This round is already paid for. The 3% likely won't last past 2012. Even if it goes to 2013, we know we'll get it decreased after that year.It'll be 1% or slightly more if more rounds are voted in. Each round is voted separately so YOU can decide to just keep it at 1 round and minimize costs or go for another round.

AT this point it is a gimme. GEEZ.. SEAS got you back the 1% ASMI assessment for the 8 seasons we've fished since 2004 so this is technically a free buyback to get round one to 315 permits.

2. The 58 foot limit revocation is knocking on our door. The Board of Fisheries will vote it out regardless of what we do if we are unsuccessful in the fleet consolidation vote. (naturally SEAS will go back to the legislature to roll back any board action but this would be a much more tedious and uncertain route than just voting YES for the fleet consolidation)

Why does this matter? Well, here's why. Notwithstanding the new construction of seiners and the dozen or so Canadian boats that appear each summer on cue, the major increase in permits fishing from changing the 58 foot limit would mean that around 100 suitable, over 58 foot seiners would be available to come in the S01A fishery.

So for those arguing that buyback means nothing because boats aren't out there to come in? We have news for you.

3. 271. That was the CFEC number for 1974. Boldt decision made it 419 by sending more boats north. We aren't changing anything except for getting back to the number we should have been at in the first place. We began whittling the 419 down to the current 379 with the $2.88 million federal grant in 2008. This round will get us closer with 64 permits lowering the total permits to 315. With a couple dozen in pockets there will be only 285 or so ever fishing. That'll generate into savings for you as early as 2013 if the buyback passes. Our estimate of boats fishing in 2013 is 310 boats- for a savings of 8% in 2013 alone.

If the 58 foot change passes then there will be 350 boats in 2013 without a buyback.

4. ASSESSMENT is paid the most by those who catch the most. IF you skip a season you skip the assessment. IF you have a bad year, you get a break by not paying as much. This is about the highliners tax. The top 10% catch 35% of the fish and pay 35% of the tax. Last years top 3 boats would have all paid more than $45,000. What would you have paid last year.

5. Processor Pays. This comes off the fish ticket so the processor pays the assessment. Naturally this should translate into the processor figuring out the assessment and adjusting the price. But the bottom line is that the assessment will be a shared cost... not just paid for by the skipper or boat owner.

6. INTEREST RATE IS LOWEST SINCE WWII> Just a small reminder. Ironically just like home prices, the $205,000 average would be similar to a $130,000 average if we used rates from 6 years ago.

7. OPTIMUM # protection. IF there is a lawsuit, and there was against Sitka Sac Roe, and after 10 years they came up with.... you guessed it 51 permits ( there's 48 now) when there were 51 permits grossing $250,000 in a half hour. EVEN if we ever got rich and steady enough runs to add permits, after a decade of lawsuits, then the state of Alaska would pay us for those permits under HB484--- passed in 2006 by sponsor Peggy Wilson in the Alaska State Legislature.

8. STEADY COURSE. In the decade since starting this we've had only 2 seasons where the fleet made positive capital after expenses. Think about this. If you only seined, add you expenses in 2001-02-02-04 et. al and see how you could have made it. SEAS ED made it to 2003, then had to get a job, after being top boat in SE seine from 2000-2003. (Never been top since)

I know alot of you pride yourselves on your smart decision to have a 2nd job or lots of fisheries or a wife who has a good job. But WTF. Why should you take a risk on a summer with weather, travel and all the work you do to catch what should be enough fish to make a living on and still have to rely upon a host of other income producers. Seining is a job in itself. Other salmon fishermen, gillnet and troll, expect to make a family wage from salmon. Why shouldn't you?

9. New guys..Young guys. The best way to get and keep new skippers and crew is to have them make some money!! Why do we want to keep our young guys impoverished. I recall my first year, 1983, at age 19. It was a frigging mystery to me. The only way I made it was by watching what you all did. I know of more crew today who want to be skippers than 10 years ago when permit prices were 10 times cheaper. The consolidation plan plus the improved market is what is driving interest here.

Now we're looking at high crewshares and why shouldn't they be. They work hard.
The Fleet Consolidation program is for the young guys. If the assessment were in place my firsat 5 years I'd have paid 1/3 to 1/2 of what Leo Woods, George Hamilton, Roger Ingman, Ole Haynes, Joe Demmert, Greg Johns, Peter Babich, Rick Lindblom, Bud Marese, David Jones, Johnny Hinchman, Joe Lewis, David Street, Kurt Dobszinski or Chad Peterman would have paid. They would have paid to keep my lineups lower because, God knows, I wasn't competent to get in line with the likes of these guys.

10. Long Term. The buyback makes sense for the short term but especially for the longer term.

We will pay $10 a gallon for diesel in my lifetime-- it's $5 this summer guys in some ports.
When we get to the last gallon of diesel in a few decades, who is going to let us wait in fricking 19 boat lineups on lousy years? Ever see Iowa farmers waiting for 18 other John Deere tractors for 7 hours to get a shot at a row of corn. Come on guys, we are food harvestors. And as such we are a joke.

Just had to exceed the top ten so here's a few more.

11. The price factor: When the NMFS Financial Services Division estimated the pink and chum prices in order to determine our loan size, they used a price of 20 cents for pinks and 30 cents for chums. That's why all this hoopla about the substantially lower percentage assessment rate. Because the prices we're getting and will get in the future will be substantially larger by orders of magnitude than the prices that NMFS based this loan on.

This means that our 40 year loan could either be paid off in a half dozen years at these market conditions or that we could alternately drop the rate to the 1% that we've saved from ASMI these past 8 seasons. I'm with the dropping the rate crowd. Don't know about you.

12. The hatchery factor: While the past couple decades have produced approximately a hatchery component of your gross stock in the 30% range, we are now potentially facing a post Hidden Falls era as the hatchery produced 62,000 seine caught chums last year....slightly down from the 1 million average we've had the past couple decades. And the hatchery program- in the big picture- is on a decade long hiatus for major new production. Of course, we'll try to get a few more hatchery fish in select locations but it is becoming increasingly fragile in seiner hatchery land.-------------

13. The SE seiner seasonal disorder.

All summer long I hear from guys complaining about a new, funky looking boat at their traditional spot. Then the guy sets in front of you on the scoop and f---s up the haul.

Well it seems that this summertime energy is lost in the winter when we're all about being populists and wanting to have all of our buddies fish alongside us. One big happy family.

How do I know this? Because it happens to me. Especially happened to me for years before the light switch was turned on by the SEAS board. Heck I wasn't even on the SEAS board, let alone hired by SEAS, when this light turned on . I came along 2 years later and inherited this plan. And while it had to change due to the complexities of financing a state waters buyback with a federal program....... well, after my 8th year on the job and a decade of total SEAS time into this buyback I don't need to tell you just how difficult this had become.

Visualize that 4-5 boat lineup and wonder what you would have caught if it were just 2 or 3 of you.

14. The ADFG has a number of 280 where the entire management becomes more restrictive and we lose fishing time. Without a buyback we will be guaranteed to break the 300 mark by 2013 so we will immediately lose fishing time. There have been remarkable changes since 1974 in the efficiencies of the fleet and a further increase in efficiencies will make this fishery even more restrictive if there are more than 250 to 270 boats fishing. The inevitable 300 plus boat fleet will spell doom for your fishing time.

15. Professionalism. I can recall when the fleet was 380 boats. Some of the guys just came up with sea stores and had a party all summer on a cannery boat.

That was then.

This is now.

Now we are very careful in our conduct of the fishery and have alot more to watch out for with increasingly complex USCG reg's, ADFG reg's, complex marker and openings. A new or parttimer who doesn't know how to keep his fish cold hurts us all. A guy who breaks the law hurts us all. Heck, I remember being 19 and just going back to wherever I fished with Magnus because I couldn't even fathom going to a new area and figuring out where the lines where unless I went into the ADFG local office beforehand.

Without this buyback, you will see haymakers from Texas up here trying to coral humpies and they will not treat you nor the fishery with the respect you and the fishery deserve.

16. POLITICAL CLOUT. The post buyback fleet will be more Alaskan and will have more political clout. Just a fact. NO offense meant to anyone without a 574 or an AKLIC. SEAS wrestled with the political clout numbers game from 1984 through 2001, when we finally pulled the trigger on the fleet consolidation plan. In the final analysis, we determined that a couple hundred healthy skippers and seine operations were better than a hundred extra if that means we're all starving and trying to make a go of it.

And while the prices are obviously huge and stable for the foreseeable future, what is not at all apparent is what will happen to the run sizes. At anything under 30 million pinks we need a heck of alot of hatchery opportunities even to get to 2 on 2 off.

In 2010 we first went 2-2 on August 5th in half the districts.

In 2008 we first went 2-2 on August 12th

In 2006 we never went 2-2.

2012 will be somewhere in there. It's not going to be a great one. The Icy Strait fry outmigration predictor index for 2012 was one of the lowest on record. My prediction is 16 million. ADFG is 17 million. If there's no hatchery smash then we're fishing around 16-18 days this year. That's about half of last year. Half of last years fishing with 1/4 of the fish.

And so on these lousy years we'll be here. Us locals.
And when the runs get good at all there'll be a bunch of guys coming into the fishery from Cali, OR, False Pass, PWS and Kodiak.

And how much political clout does bringing in extra Cali or OR seiners give us in the Alaska State Legislature? Zero. Probably negative. No disrespect to those of you who choose to migrate up to fish each year. It's just a fact. How much do Cali and OR and WA think of us Alaskans when we come down to fish the Canal or Dungees or Sardines or Squid. Because we do. I doubt we're the reason the fisheries there stay politically intact.

17. Buyback will mean less marine mammal encounters. While we have an exemplary record of interactions, adding another hundred boats to the fleet would mean that our potential of encounters would increase by 40%.

The plain fact is that in the short time I've been fishing-- since 1977- and been going out on the boat- 1969- the number of humpback whales has increased by around 1000%.
I recall my first 2 week trip on the Pamela Rae in 1969 I counted 20 humpbacks-- including one albino or white whale. I also recall our pre MMPA response to Sea Lions and seals. It wasn't Neighbor Friendly.

We are a very alert fleet and have minimal encounters.

Let's keep it that way. Let's not bring 100 new guys in from outside and screw things up for us.

18. Less Lineups. Probably mentioned it somewhere in the body of this article.

19. NO LIMITS. The 2011 season, while bursting at the seams in 3rd week of July, produced no technical limits. Geographical limits, like running to town, lack of tender capacity, etc. were real but the processors did an admirable job of taking care of the fleet without having to put us on limit.

But there will always be Bristol Bay. And PWS. And there will be a time, especially with an extra bunch of boats, that we'll be on limit. Imagine what 2011 would have been like if we'd had 330 boats instead of 269.

Let's do the math. 61 boats. 80,000 lbs ea. 5 million pounds per day for 10 million extra lbs on the July 19-20 opener.

Don't think for one minute that you wouldn't have been on limit.

And then that 3% or 1% insurance policy would have paid off bigtime.


In 2004 there were 207 permits fished. In 2009, 255. In 2010, 235. In 2011, 269.

Notice a trend here. The buzz on the street is that there will be around 265 in 2012 due to the weak cycle and then 300 or more in 2013, unless the 58 foot limit gets lifted and there'll be a heck of alot more.

We need a steady number and a reliable number. WE cannot build business plans wondering if there will be 50 more guys showing up one year than the year before.


ps. guys. being seas ED doesn't make me a soothsayer on some of this stuff. But for those of you who don't think this fleet could massively expand, you just don't see the memberships and the permit transfers that cross my desk.

think about it. Just last year if you took awhile and counted, there were probably 30 boats that had never, ever been to SEAK. at that rate it ain't gonna take long to fill up SE with too many seiners.


  1. John Peckham12:00 PM


    In my opinion, instead of trying to persuade seiners (including the use of exaggeration) how to vote, SEAS should be trying to provide its members a full understanding of the pros and cons of a “yes” or “no” vote.

    The 13 million dollar question is: will the amount of permits fished ever rise above 315 (and how much higher) if no buyback takes place?

    I assume that future growth in the number of permits fished in the southeast seine fishery will depend on whether the value of pink and chum salmon increases and/or the volume of pink salmon harvests increase faster than the price of entry into the fishery and the costs of maintenance, fuel, and other operating expenses. It is not obvious to me which way to vote because I’m not sure what the future holds for our fishery.

    For 20 years prior to 2002 the number of permits fished consistently ranged between 338 and 394, usually over 350. During most of those years the cost of entry into the fishery was relatively cheap. Many fishermen got into the fishery by leasing a boat from a cannery and/or by buying one of the cheap cannery boats that the processors began unloading in the 1980s.

    When the value of pink salmon kept declining, the number of permits fished started to go downhill after 2001 and reached its lowest point in 2004 at 209. Since 2004 the number has been trending upward, with 279 fished in 2011.

    It’s difficult to predict what the future brings for southeast pink salmon returns. FYI . From statehood (1960) to 1988 the average pink harvest was 15 million.

    I don’t know how to quantify the political downside of having fewer permits available in the seine fishery. It might be negligible. It could be significant.

    There are a lot of other factors that could affect the number of permits used in Southeast. Most are unpredictable.

    In a nutshell, I think seiners who are somewhat pessimistic about the future i.e. are worried about potentially low salmon harvests, unimproving market conditions, higher capital and operating costs, and future politically related curtailments of our fishery should consider voting “no” on the buyback because the number of unused permits could remain high and the number of used permits could remain low. In this case the tax would be unnecessary. On the other hand, seiners who are optimistic about the future i.e. expect relatively consistent good-to-strong harvests, improving markets, a pro-seine (or at a least neutral-seine) political atmosphere, and capital and operating costs under some control should consider voting “yes” because the number of permits used could eventually approach the number of permits available. In this case the tax would prove to be a good value in keeping the fleet from expanding back to pre-2002 numbers.

    I think, in the short term, the value of permits will be affected by a buyback, but in the long term, the value will depend more on the value of the fishery than on the number of permits available.

    I attended the NMFS meeting in Ketchikan. The NMFS representative said they would review the amount of the tax percentage yearly, although he said they have no objective criteria for reducing it. He implied that we can expect that the tax would be reduced if the principal were on track to be paid off more rapidly than expected because of years of high gross value in our fishery and/or if we don’t borrow the full 23 million.

    I know that there are other issues involving the buyback that I haven’t discussed directly in this comment. These are side issues. When I vote, my main consideration will be this: will the downsides of the risk of possible negative political effects from a lower number of permits and the loss of income from paying the buyback-tax be worth the potential upside from limiting the number of permits that could be fished in our fishery to a number that would help an improving fishery be more viable for those who participate in the future?

    I will send a longer version of this comment to your SEAS member e-mail list.

    1. JP

      Thnks for the comments.

      I see things diffently. If our fortunes are lower than we'd like, the buyback will be increasingly more important to keep us afloat without being fleeced by far away fleets on the few big years we might have.

      If it gets so bad you can just quit seining and not pay the 1% or whatever it ends up being.

      You, of all people, remember the 8 years of ASMI 1% money that we have saved for this project. Looks like it might be enough to make this first round FREE FREE FREe