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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

HOW PRIVATE INVESTORS ARE LOOKING TO CORNER THE FISHERIES MARKETS

“On the most volatile day ever on Wall Street, plunging technology shares sent the stock market into a stomach-churning rout…”

This was the lead sentence in an April 5, 2000 story in the Associated Press about a massive selloff of stocks just 12 years ago at a time when both Nasdaq and Dow had each recorded their widest point swings in history on record volume. The primary culprit of this mass movement of stock was the technology sector, what many financial analysts had called “insanely overvalued” while explaining the big drop in price “long overdue.”

One tech stock investor who got pounded especially hard was Michael Miglini of Austin, TX. "I lost more money in this week than I made in the previous two years," Miglini said at the time, telling the Associate Press that he had recently sold his construction company and invested heavily in the stock market on technology stocks.

"It was the absolute worst timing possible," Miglini said, adding "It's a painful lesson."

After losing his shirt in the stock market, Miglini started up a new business out of Corpus Christi, TX in May of 2001 called Great Sage, Inc., running a fulltime business in the Gulf of Mexico operating fishing and dive boats and hiring staffers and interns to help with grant writing and social media campaigns.

Just 10 years after learning a “painful lesson” as a technology investor in the stock market, Miglini has now gotten himself in on the ground floor of a new investment opportunity revolved around personal ownership of once public resources. Miglini now runs several business enterprises listed under NOAA Fisheries has having an ‘IFQ User ID’ which is what is required for a business owner to apply for individual fishing quota (IFQ) and transferable shares of fish stock.

In addition to possessing an IFQ User ID for himself, Miglini is the owner of at least two other enterprises out of Corpus Christi, TX listed in NOAA shareholders listing forms, including South Atlantic Fishing, Inc. and Great Sage, Inc. Miglini’s Great Sage itself is also connected to other Gulf of Mexico limited liability corporations (LLC) including Going Pelagic, Out to Sea, and South Atlantic Grouper, Inc.

While technology stocks are old news at this point, ripe for the picking are stocks of fish which are now being eyed by business savvy investors looking to corner the market on a once publicly held resource. Miglini now owns commercial IFQs for deepwater grouper, red grouper, gag grouper, shallow water grouper, tilefish and red snapper, ensuring that he can get paid for harvest even if he doesn’t actually perform the work. Once an IFQ allocation is established, a commercial owner like Miglini can catch that share of fish to sell direct to market, or he can sell the shares outright when the timing is right, while leasing out that harvest to real fishermen until such a time is right to cash in and sell out.

Same thing that Miglini did in the late 1990’s when he sold his Texas construction company and invested all the profits in technology stocks, stocks which eventually collapsed. This time however, Miglini has received some start-up cash from groups willing to help him invest, like Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). In the past 3 years, EDF and their political action arm have invested more than $750,000 on Miglini and his associates, helping him to form several non-profit organizations in the Gulf of Mexico designed to give cover to efforts to wrestle fish stocks away from the public domain, including the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders Alliance, Gulf Fishermen’s Association and South Atlantic Fishermen’s Association. As these organizations have continued to lobby legislators and fisheries managers to further restrict coastal fishing opportunities to further divide the community and expand on limited entry schemes to protect individual shareholders’ bottom line, Miglini has been active in creating yet another investment diversion.

In 2011, Miglini took $48,000 from the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders Alliance account to start a new organization called the Charter Fishermen’s Association, a group designed to look like a recreational fishing industry outfit made up solely of charter boat captains. However, upon closer look of its board of directors (Gary Jarvis, Mike Jennings, Michael Colby, Billy Archer, Chad Haggert and Steve Tomeny), one will find three of the six members hold commercial IFQ permits, another is president of a commercial marine association on the Gulf.

The fact that the original funding to create this faux charter association came from a group of commercial IFQ shareholders should send enough cautionary flags to scare off skeptical anglers.

With the commercial sector already being force-fed a cap and trade fisheries policy whereby entry into the fishery is limited and ownership of the resource is awarded to a select group of established fishermen, the recreational sector has survived via open access for everyone under the harvest management mechanism of season, size and bag limits. With continuing pressure by the EDF-funded members of Miglini’s new Charter Fishermen’s Association, many charter boat captains are being led to believe that by separating the recreational sector into two parts, the private angler and the business owner, a new set of rules and regulations can be adopted to improve access.

What Miglini and friends are not explaining is how this system will operate in the same exact way as it does with commercial fishermen; a mechanism will have to be put in place to cap the number of overall fishermen, offering access to individual fish stocks through public auction or government allocation whereby shares can be openly bought, sold and traded on the open market. The sector separation and catch share scheme which would effectively trade off ownership of our coastal public resources to a few well-connected investors would effectively shut the public out of the fishery; without shares, or ‘tags’ or personalized allocation of specific quota, the average, everyday angler will not be allowed to access a given fish stock like red snapper or gag grouper.

Just like he was in the late 90’s with his technology stocks, Michael Miglini on the ground floor of the sharecropping gold rush in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic, gobbling up as many individual shares of commercial quota as he can conceivably get through the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders Alliance and South Atlantic Fishermen’s Association. Simultaneously, Miglini and his fellow investors at the Charter Fishermen’s Association are hoping to divide the recreational sector into smaller pieces, divesting of private anglers to more readily invest on the commercial component of the recreational community.

Once the community is divided and recreational IFQs are finally allotted and made transferable between the sectors, Miglini is hoping to recoup that money he originally lost as a tech trader during that dismal week back in April of 2000. Then, when Miglini has cashed in his shares and the entire Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic reef fish complex is under a privatized cap and trade fisheries policy, those who had refused to fight in opposition to this corporate takeover of public resource will no doubt say the same thing as Miglini did 12 years ago.

"It's a painful lesson."