Fishermen's News - The Advocate for the Commercial Fisherman

By Chris Philips
Managing Editor 

Bryant for Governor


On October 28th, Washington Governor Jay Inslee wrote a letter to the chair of the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission. The Commission is appointed by the Governor, and serves at his pleasure, so a letter from the governor carries some weight.

This particular letter indicated that Governor Inslee would like to see “a prioritization and expansion of the state’s recreational fisheries,” thereby indicating the governor’s opinion of the value of the state’s commercial fisheries.

In stark contrast to the state’s current governor, Port of Seattle commissioner (and candidate for governor) Bill Bryant is touring the state, meeting with small groups of citizens to listen to their concerns and ideas, and to share his own views with potential voters.

Last month in Bellingham, Washington, the Commercial Fishermen of Whatcom County invited Bryant to come talk to them about the value of the area’s commercial fisheries to the state. In a room set aside for the meeting at the Whatcom Creek Hatchery at the Maritime Heritage Park, Bryant introduced himself and listened to what the fishermen had to say.

Among those in attendance was Earl Steele, hatchery manager. Steele told Bryant, “The hatchery system doesn’t work.” He says hatcheries in Alaska work well under a private non-profit (PNP) system in which the fishermen, both commercial and recreational, pay a self-imposed tax to maintain hatchery production. The result is more fish supplementing the wild runs.

Steele said plenty of streams with no runs could benefit from a small hatchery to create a run where there wasn’t one before.

The Whatcom creek hatchery, for example was built on a stream with no fish.

“When I started here it was a dead stream,” he said. “No fish were coming back. Well now I’ve had up to 30,000 chum come back in a season.”

Steele says the run from his hatchery has saved many local fishermen who were able to supplement their catch with hatchery chum.

In spite of this, Steele says the state isn’t willing to let the hatchery increase the number of fish. “With the facility I’ve got I can do 4.5 million here but I’m limited to 2 million,” he says, “because the state doesn’t want us to get any bigger.”

Steele says many of the state’s hatcheries have been cut back each year. “They need money for the food, but a lot of hatcheries have been cut back each.” A hatchery’s biggest expense is food, followed by labor, Steele said, but the cost of labor doesn’t change with the volume of fish produced.

“So we don’t need to build new hatcheries,” Bryant said. “We just need to get the hatcheries we’ve got up to production levels.”

“That’s right,” Steele said. “If there’s a hatchery needed on that stream its pretty much there already.”

“So who’s against it?” Bryant asked.

Laughter and responses from the audience:

“United Anglers.”

“Sports groups.”


“They want pure genetic fish returning like they were 100 or 200 years go to the streams,” one of the fishermen said. “They’re the big opposition.”

“Purist sport fishermen want only original genetic salmon and want no part of hatcheries,” Steele said. “The truth is, those fish are the same fish, whether they’re raised in a hatchery or elsewhere.”

The candidate for Governor left after almost two hours of discussion having learned quite a bit about the state’s commercial fishery, and some of the problems it faces. He told the assembled small businessmen and women that he understands the economics of the fishing industry, and appreciates the contribution they make to the state.

You can show Bryant your support at


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