Fishermen's News - The Advocate for the Commercial Fisherman

Your Tax Dollars at Work

 


Washington’s Fish and Wildlife Commission serves at the pleasure of the Governor, currently Jay Inslee. Governor Inslee says nice things about the North Pacific and Bering Sea big boat fleet, but has, over his entire tenure in Olympia, shown a desire and an ability to close the state’s waters to local commercial fleets.

Much of the salmon in state waters was put there at the expense of Washington State taxpayers. More than 75% of the salmon caught in Puget Sound and 90% of the salmon caught in the Columbia River originate from hatcheries, and contribute more than $1 billion to the state’s economy according to estimates by the US Department of Commerce.

This makes for quite a bit of hatchery fish caught in state waters, but less than could be caught if the Department of Fish and Wildlife were more interested in responsibly managing the resource for the benefit of Washington State taxpayers and consumers.

The latest insult to the state’s suffering commercial fleet is the addition of Willapa Bay hatchery Chinook, called “natural” by the state, to the NOAA list of fish stocks that are subject to overfishing. In other words, the state has created runs of Chinook in our hatcheries, renamed these hatchery fish “natural,” and has gotten them listed by NOAA as subject to overfishing.

So as a small business operating in the State of Washington, you’re paying taxes to produce hatchery fish that you’re not allowed to catch.

You may not be allowed to catch them, but every year seafood buyers along the West Coast, including British Columbia, are invited to bid on all the returned hatchery fish.

Of course by the time the fish return to the hatchery, they’re beat-up, spent or dead – not the best fish to display at the Whole Foods fish counter. Every year the state has to dispose of 500,000 to 750,000 “surplus” fish and eggs, in various states, from food grade to pet food to fertilizer. Many females are stripped for their eggs, which are then sold.

Fish reared with US taxpayer dollars might be sold at a loss to foreign buyers. Only a deeply embedded bureaucrat could come up with such a scheme.

As my father, Richard Philips, said in an editorial in this space 40 years ago this month, “Calling any commodity that brings $1.75 a pound to fishermen and costs the retail buyer up to $4.00 a pound ‘surplus’ is a contradiction in terms. There is no such thing as a ‘surplus’ salmon; there are only wasted salmon.”

 
 

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