So I wrote this post several months ago and have been sitting on it, afraid to post it because I feel guilty for not talking about this earlier and also because I’m embarrassed that it might all be totally false, someone just pulling my leg, and because some of my facts may be wrong. Then last night, April 2, 2011, I saw a news program talking about The Arctic Rose Tragedy:
So I guess it’s been ten years as of yesterday since this occurred, so I think this is a good time to finally publish this post.
Around the turn of the century I was working for an all-you-can-eat fish and chips restaurant, up in Bellingham Washington. We had some of the best and the cheapest fried Alaskan cod in the city.
One day I saw on the front page of the local paper a tragedy had occurred up in the Bering Sea. A ship called The Arctic Rose went down, killing all 13 on board. The ship had been from Bellingham. If you look at this link you’ll see it’s considered “the worst fishing tragedy in U.S. waters for 50 years”.
However, at first I didn’t think anything of it. People die on the highways every day. There’s no reason to think arctic waters are any safer. But then, the manager mentioned the incident, and seemed surprisingly upset about it, and said, “we don’t know where we’re gonna get our fish now.”
“We were buying our fish from the Arctic Rose?” I asked.
“Yup.” He put his finger to his lip. “But don’t say anything. It’s kinda hush-hush… we kinda… well… it’s kinda our fault this happened.”
“I don’t remember reading anything about this place.”
“Of course not. It wasn’t on the books.”
“I read they got way off course or something.”
“Nope. They were right where they were supposed to be, fishing for our cod. Officially though, they were supposed to be miles away fishing for Sole. How do you think we keep our fish prices so low? By not paying taxes or obeying fishing laws. John and the captain of The Arctic Rose had a special agreement.”
“So the investigation is completely off base?” I asked.
“They’ve spent like $100,000 on investigating this, and they don’t even have the basic information about what was going on. They’re probably gonna say officially it was a navigation error which sent them into stormy waters, which is just ludicrous. What we think happened was they over-filled their hull with a big catch, the freezer went haywire and the ice accumulated and they didn’t want to call for help because their hull was filled with illegal fish. They got greedy. But we’re certainly not gonna say anything. John would have a fit if he knew I was telling you about this.”
I payed attention to the story after that, but kept my mouth shut about what I’d been told. In fact, I haven’t really talked about this until now, and I still don’t know what to think. The manager may have been talking out his ass, making up stories. It wouldn’t be the first time I’d seen him tell a lie, though I had never seen him lie simply for the fun of it. I certainly never discussed this with the owner. However, we did have problems getting fish after that, and we raised our prices shortly after.
I knew if I talked about this, and it wasn’t just a lie, I would lose my job. I was just a prep-cook, and certainly didn’t have the programming skills I have now so keeping that kitchen job was necessary for my well-being.
So over the years since this I’ve thought about what it means to my anarchism.
If not for our system of capitalism I could have talked about this years ago without the fear of destroying my ability to feed myself. If not for our economic system, they never would have had a motivation to fish in such a dangerous and environmentally damaging way in the first place. If not for the fear of governmental retribution, we all could have been open and honest about this incident.
Then I think about all the people out there who think conspiracy theorists are all wackos, that it’s simply ludicrous that, for example, someone in the White House may have known about 911 before it happened, or that the average police officer occasionally frames innocent people.
I was a prep-cook, making $8.50 per hour, and I was–possibly–a part of a conspiracy where 13 people died. Just imagine what kind of conspiracies are possible with people who are trained in the art of deceit and dealing with millions of dollars.