Meet the Director
A crowd of concerned fishermen gathered at the Fishermen’s News booth at Pacific Marine Expo last month to talk to James Unsworth, director of the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Director Unsworth had agreed to meet commercial fishermen at our booth to answer questions from industry about several areas of concern. For example: how does the State of Washington see the value of the commercial fishery, compared to sport fishermen? In fact, does the state consider the commercial fishery at all when considering allocation?
A former Columbia River gillnetter called the current Washington and Oregon gillnet plans a travesty, and his concerns were echoed by a current Columbia River gillnetter. A commercial crabber noted that recreational crabbers couldn’t turn in their catch records until a month after the season had ended, keeping valuable catch data from the department and possibly affecting the commercial crabber’s allocations. The trollers on-hand seemed to be satisfied with the status quo, but another gillnetter complained that the state was mismanaging the hatcheries. He suggested the Director support a recent state House Bill 1270, calling for the increase in salmon populations in Washington through the implementation of a new fish hatchery management structure modeled on the successful structure utilized by the state of Alaska for the past forty years.
Trollers, gillnetters and crabbers asked Director Unsworth about issues affecting their fisheries, and the Director was forthcoming in his answers, admitting at one point that he didn’t know of a recent state ruling affecting hatchery fish.
For his part, Director Unsworth suggested that commercial fishermen’s voices would be heard better if there were more in attendance at commission meetings, held on Fridays and Saturdays. He makes a valid point. If the only voices the commission hear are those of sport and conservation voters, that’s how they’ll make their decisions. The next meeting is at the Northwest Maritime Center in Port Townsend on the 11th and 12th of December. Washington State fishermen who wish to have a voice in the management of the resource in Washington State should plan to be there. It’s a safe bet the CCA and sport-fishing concerns will be.
Unsworth also suggested he would be amenable to a meeting for commercial fishermen in Seattle to address statewide concerns.
Unsworth has been called to task previously in this space for his seeming indifference to the commercial fleet. His words and actions at Pacific Marine Expo indicate a concern for the industry that has been lacking up to this point. His suggestion that commercial fishermen lobby the Governor is a good one. Governor Jay Inslee’s hand-picked commission has been responsible for developing and enforcing the fisheries regulations. Industry, including suppliers like those exhibiting at Pacific Marine Expo, need to convince the Governor that the state’s best interests are served by promoting a robust and well-managed commercial fishery.
Chris Philips can be reached at: 206-284-8285 or email: