Editor’s Note: This is an installment in our occasional series, It’s Your Money, that looks more closely at public expenses that taxpayers may not realize they’re being asked to pay.
Edward Glazier’s scientific novel “Ecosystem Based Fisheries Management in the Western Pacific” probably wasn’t a Black Friday special at Barnes & Noble, but it would have had to have been for someone to afford it.
The 312-page hardbound volume has a list price of $209.95, although it does qualify for free shipping online and used copies are available at a discount. But that’s beside the point.
Taxpayers forked over at least $107,500 to publish this book, little more than a summary of a series of workshops over the past several years hosted by a government agency to further its agenda.
The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council — a taxpayer-funded federal agency that works with NOAA‘s National Marine Fisheries Service to ensure commercial fisheries stay strong in the 1.5 million square miles under its jurisdiction — spent $12,000 to buy 200 copies of the book as part of its contract with the publisher, Wiley-Blackwell. Wespac, as it’s more commonly called, also paid Glazier, the book’s editor, at least $95,500 for his services, which included organizing the workshops on which the book is based.
Environment Hawaii, a Hilo-based news organization, broke the news on the book in its November newsletter. Editor Patricia Tummons tracked down the numbers through a Freedom of Information Act request. She underscored the cost to taxpayers and the book’s role in buoying Wespac Executive Director Kitty Simond’s push to give native Pacific islanders a bigger role in managing nearshore and onshore resources, which are state jurisdiction.
“It’s an important story for the public to know,” Tummons told Civil Beat. “It represents a pretty extravagant expenditure in terms of what was received for the money that was paid. The council needs a lot more scrutiny of how it spends public funds.”
NMFS is supposed to supervise Wespac, she said, but that doesn’t really happen.
“They have a lot of other fish to fry, so to speak,” said Tummons, who has covered Wespac since 1993.
NOAA spokeswoman Wende Goo said she asked around the Fisheries Service’s Honolulu office Tuesday, but no one was familiar with the book situation.
By Tummons’ math, the book cost taxpayers $540 per copy. She points out in her story that this doesn’t include substantial costs associated with holding the workshops, which were attended by experts from around the world.
Wespac spokeswoman Sylvia Spalding said the book’s cost was born by the publisher.
“The proceedings of major conferences by government organizations, such as the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, are published as it is part of our responsibility to share the information learned to a wider audience,” she said in a statement. “These publications are to inform the public and are not commercial ventures. Academic books generate no royalties.”