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Guest Editorial

Open letter to Washington State legislators from John Jovanovich


The following is an open letter to Washington State legislators from John Jovanovich, former Washington State representative and owner of Jovanovich Fishing Supply, a Washington State commercial fishing equipment supplier that has been paying taxes and supporting the local economy since 1970.

Dear Legislators:

Until 1995 the title of the State’s fish and game resources was “The Washington Department of Fish and Game”. The State theorized that combining the Washington Dept. of Fish and Game with the Dept. of Fisheries would result in cost savings, but the changes that were made in 1995 have instead resulted in a terrible management policy for salmon and other seafood resources. Allowing the Governor to appoint the members to the fish and wildlife commission, and to set and oversee the department and department policy and operations, was a very costly mistake.

In 1995, Referendum 45 granted the Fish and Wildlife Commission, selected by the Governor, the authority to select the director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife. This has opened the door to political cronyism and is costing the State millions of dollars in revenue.

A recent NOAA fisheries economics report for the Pacific region listed the Washington State seafood industry sales impact at $8 billion and 23,000 jobs, compared to the saltwater (sport) fisheries sales impact of $514 million and 4,900 jobs.

University of Alaska, Anchorage professor of economics, Gunnar Knapp, makes an important point about the recreational dollars spent fishing: it is discretionary spending for entertainment. If not spent fishing it will most likely be spent in another part of our economy.

The law will have to be changed before any progress can be made to properly manage the salmon and seafood resources, but Governor Inslee’s proposal to cut the fisheries budget by 15 percent makes no sense at all. The fisheries director proposed a plan to limit hatchery production to save money at the request of the Governor. The director that proposed the ridiculous plan has since resigned his position. The plan proposes that commercial fishermen pay 100 percent more for their fishing licenses in order to raise money to keep the hatcheries open. The plan indicates that chum salmon production at the Hoodsport hatchery will be eliminated. This would mean that hundreds of jobs would be lost and the money they would have earned will be lost to the economy.

The chum fishery is a big fishery and the State will be the biggest loser:

• The State will lose the 5.6% catch tax they would have gotten on the value of the commercial fishers’ catch.

They will lose the unemployment tax collected from fish processors.

• They will lose the labor and industries tax as well.

•The State economy would lose the money that would come in from sales of fish to buyers in other states.

The legislature should reject the proposed plan and demand a plan that makes sense. The proposed plan is typical of ideas that originate from the hand-picked and terribly unbalanced fish and wildlife commission. There is a lack of transparency in the policies being used, and legislators should demand to know what is going on. Sport fishers take up to 80 percent of the various salmon runs on the Columbia River. They pay no catch tax to the State on what is taken, and they pay no unemployment tax or labor and industry tax to the State as the commercial fishermen and other commercial seafood harvesters do.

I suggest that the legislature be supplied with complete documentation from WDFW on what percentage of the fish runs on the Columbia River were caught by the recreational fishers for the last 3 years. The data won’t be accurate because it is impossible to get a true picture on the number of fish sport fishermen catch, and I am not aware of any yearly limit of fish an angler can catch, all for private use.

Commercial fishermen make seafood available to the public sector. Commercial harvesters must pay taxes on what they harvest. Their catch must be recorded. Their data is documented by fish tickets.

The legislature has the power to put an end to what in my opinion is corruption and the terrible mismanagement of Washington’s seafood resources.

I pray that a bill will be submitted during the session that will take the resources management out of the mess it has become. Public hearings on these matters are long overdue.

Respectfully, John Jovanovich


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