Fishermen should have their own cold storage

Guest Opinion from 9.30.08 issue

By Pete Nichols

The most recent blow to the Humboldt Bay fishing industry – the closure of the dilapidated Eureka Ice Company owned by Hunter Enterprises – is yet another reason to question the powers charged with implementing the future vision for Humboldt Bay.
In 2005, Humboldt County Environmental Health informed Eureka Ice of issues related to the safety of the operation, stating that failure to address these problems would pose a significant risk to public health and the environment. No action was taken at that time by Eureka Ice to remedy these serious issues. In January of this year, the county laid out a plan for Eureka Ice to come into compliance and to avoid, as noted by an EPA official, “…a threat to the surrounding community” from the release of anhydrous ammonia gas into the Old Town area. The response from Eureka Ice was a 5-year plan that failed to address any of the issues raised by the county or the EPA.
Now, due to the blatant negligence of Hunter Enterprises, led by Dennis Hunter – President of the Humboldt Bay Harbor District – the community, and the fishing community in particular, are left to fend for themselves for cold storage and a steady supply of ice to support their already economically-challenged fishery. How could a representative of the governing body charged with maintaining the health and viability of the commercial fishery here around Humboldt Bay be SO negligent in managing the most basic of his duties and responsibilities as a business owner, employer and public official?
Worse yet, with crab season on the horizon, Mr. Hunter has offered no solution to the problem. One would think that he would be working day and night to ensure, and fund, a contingency plan to be enacted until a more permanent solution is put in place. To date, we have heard nothing beyond that another former Hunter Enterprises decrepit fishing vessel has sunk at the dock, spilling diesel and its associated toxic stew into Humboldt Bay, and that Hunter Enterprises has dodged the massive fines that could/should have been his fate.
So, once again, the onus falls upon the fishermen to seek a solution. Many local fishing representatives have approached the City of Eureka to act as the savior for this impending crisis. While the city may be well intentioned, I believe that their efforts will fall short of meeting the needs of the fishing community over the long-term. It is time for the fishing community (the Humboldt Fishermen’s Marketing Association in particular) to follow the lead of many of their colleagues throughout the Pacific Northwest to pursue operating and maintaining a cold storage facility – for the fishing industry, by the fishing industry.
There are many successful examples of cooperative cold storage and ice facilities from Seattle to Sitka, and there is no reason why our local fishing leaders should not take this opportunity to free themselves from the reliance on third parties to support and market their product. Creating and maintaining their own facilities will empower the fishing industry, create a sense of ownership and pride surrounding their product, and produce some of those ever-illusive jobs that the Harbor District keeps promising to deliver.
In many a crisis lays opportunity, and I believe this is one opportunity that the fishing community should seize upon. There are existing models to bring cooperative cold storage to ailing fishing communities. Most of these ventures are not so fortunate as to have institutions in place that could provide financial support to 1) provide immediate relief for the current crisis, and 2) secure funds to implement the long-term vision of a modern, fishermen-run community cold storage facility.
The Headwaters Fund was designed, and is uniquely situated, to accomplish both of these tasks. In the wake of funding the boondoggle of the Redwood Marine Terminal feasibility study and business plan, one would think that they would see the development of a cooperative cold storage facility as both a refreshing and realistic opportunity to fulfill the Headwaters Fund’s mission.
The Humboldt Bay community is best served by maintaining and supporting a strong fishing fleet. Not only is it our heritage, but it is one of the best suited industries for this region. Commercial fishermen are famously independent and self-reliant, and once again it has fallen to them to control their own fate. This may be a blessing in disguise, since the last place their fate should lay is in the hands of the Humboldt Bay Harbor District.
(Pete Nichols is the Executive Director of Humboldt Baykeeper and Pacific Northwest Representative to the Board of Directors of the International Waterkeeper Alliance.)

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Fishermen should have their own cold storage

  1. For an alternative view. There three other commissioners defended commissioner Hunter.

  2. salty

    This crap came out just in time for some good P R for baykeepers fund raiser. The only thing Nichols or baykeeper does is raise money by lies.law suits or intimidation. Make no mistake these as#####s do not speak for or represent fishermen. We can speak clearly for ourselves. Nichols is a scam. Sadly there is a sucker born every minute.

  3. Indie

    Salty, I hope you will write more and elaborate on what you’ve written. It is in blogs like this that the public can see dialogue taking place on issues, and have a chance to read more than one side.

  4. salty

    I don’t know the whole history but after setteling a law suit with EPIC cousins the center for biological diversity where a huge amount of money came their way they had to promise not to sue certain parties and specific issues for a number of years. To get around this the X-Mrs Nichols helped form baykeepers and fund it for 2+ years. Fancy boston whaler boat , fat salary,young female lawyers and swank down town office to boot. The deal ,Sue baby sue. Not sure she knew the whole Kennedy style booze,drugs and babe’s came with the package. Now she’s an X,Nichols is a zero and the rest of us will have negitive bank accounts while baykeeper sues,lies and swindels us with its phony saving the world bulls*#t. Not a new formula. P T Barnum new it long ago. Only P T gave us marks something for our money. So you wonder why making a living fishing keeps getting harder and harder in an area where fish populations are outstanding? Just look at the vacations Nichols takes all on our dime.

  5. ERF, the “Ecological Rights Foundation” is the predatory litigious parent of the predatory litigious “Humboldt Baykeeper.” “Humboldt Baykeeper” is a “project” of ERF, the money to set up “Baykeeper.”

    Both groups are about suing the deepest pockets they can find – Arkley and Red Emmerson, for example.

    “Ecological Rights Foundation’s” website said they have 16 lawyers on staff – what they do is threaten a lawsuit, and in some cases FILE the suit – what they want is hundreds of thousands of dollars in ‘go away’ money – a settlement, in other words.

    It appears that, in the case of setting up “Baykeeper” they had a settlement from SPI, and a stipulation that they could not sue again within a period of time, but by setting up a new entity, they can skirt that deal.

    Make no mistake, “Baykeeper” does not need your donations. They need you as memebers and volunteers as cover, to PRETEND to be a “grassroots” group… they can also claim, acting in concert with ERF and other “projects” that they are “A growing coalition” of – fill in the blank… “environmental groups” “human rights groups” – they are anything but.

    These are new age con men. Nothing more.

    This attack on Dennis Hunter is political – the “Baykeeper” stooges have their sights set on all of the Harbor Commission seats, and Hunter stands in their way. They’ve managed to install Higgins on the Commission, and one more will give them a majority.

    It is part of an orchestrated effort. You can see one of the other prongs of the effort on the “Humboldt Herald” blog.

  6. welder

    But my God,can’t everyone see what a complete BOOB Higgins is?

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