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In late December, a group of 51 Washington State legislators, 36 in the House and 15 in the Senate, signed a pair of identical letters to Bradley Smith the Chairman of the Washington Fish & Wildlife Commission, and the director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, James Unsworth. The letter urged the state to prioritize increased recreational fishing over commercial fishing in State waters. Commercial fisherman Pete Knutson responded to his elected representative, who was one of the signatories of the “sport priority” letter. Here is his letter:

Dear Representative:

We were disappointed to read your co-signed December 7, 2016 letter to the Fish and Wildlife Commission, which advocated against the commercial fishing community on the Columbia River.

Our company, Loki Fish Company (, has been based in West Seattle since 1979. We market our fish from Alaska and Puget Sound every week at the West Seattle farmers’ market. We employ a dozen people and work with many subcontractors and independent fishermen.

The assertion in your letter that sport fishing is more valuable than the commercial contributions is not accurate. Sport fishing essentially recycles discretionary income, which has already been generated at a job. It’s a service industry which services a small and relatively affluent sector of our state’s population. In contrast, commercial fishing brings new wealth out of the water both in Washington State and in Alaska. It is a manufacturing industry that serves as access for the general public. The 2013 maritime study commissioned by the Economic Development Council of Seattle and King County finds that maritime industries are responsible for 30 billion dollars of economic activity. Sixty percent of that is generated by our state’s commercial fishing industry.

The primary sport fish organization that has pushed the Columbia River reallocation is the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA). You will never find this organization opposing developments that threaten salmon habitat, because they emerge from the oil industry. Not once have they spoken up about coal ports, deforestation or Snake River dam removal. They were founded by Walter Fondren, heir to the Exxon fortune. Nationally, they push the interests of wealthy sport fishermen over and against working communities. Local commercial fishing communities have legal standing to sue the oil industry in the event of a spill, whereas sport fishers do not. Thus demonizing commercial fishing communities is a business decision. The primary mission of the CCA has been to destroy commercial fishing communities, use short-sighted sport-fishing groups, while greenwashing their underlying motives. Journalist Robert Fritchey has documented the CCA history in his book Wetland Riders.

CCA Pacific Northwest Fisheries Director Heath Heikkila also represents the American Forest Resource Council. The AFRC is a powerful timber group, which pushed for the weakening of ESA protections as part of the Bush “Healthy Forest Initiative.” Heikkila earlier served as spokesperson for the Washington/Oregon industry “Astro-turf” group known as “Citizens for a Sound Economy”. This group supported the agricultural water withdrawals on the Klamath River, which resulted in a Chinook spawning disaster and consequent salmon-fishing closure of the Washington and Oregon Coast.

The CCA claim that hook and release sport fishing is “selective” is belied by the few studies which have tracked fish from release to spawning success. These studies on the Kenai River in Alaska, which we would be happy to share with you, demonstrate up to 50 percent spawning failure from a single hooking.

We hope you will reconsider your position on sport priority in fisheries. At this point in our state’s fight to preserve and enhance our natural resources, we should be building alliances, not pushing a fish grab.


Pete Knutson

Loki Fish Company

Seattle, Washington

If you live in Washington State, the odds are pretty good that one of your elected representatives signed one of these letters. We suggest you use Pete’s letter as a model for your own letter to your representative. The signatories of the two letters and their contact information can be found below. –Ed

The following Washington State lawmakers want to put you out of a job.

Senator Jan Angel

Senator Randi Becker

Rep. Bruce Chandler

Rep. Judy Clibborn

Rep. Cary Condotta

Senator Steve Conway

Rep. Jessyn Farrell

Rep. Jake Fey

Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon

Rep. Roger Goodman

Rep. Mia Gregerson

Rep. Dan Griffey

Rep. Larry Haler

Rep. Paul Harris

Rep. Dave Hayes

Rep. Laurie Jinkins

Senator Karen Keiser

Senator Curtis King

Rep. Dan Kristiansen

Senator Patty Kuderer

Senator Marko Liias

Rep. John Lovick

Rep. Drew MacEwen

Rep. Joan McBride

Senator Mark Miloscia

Rep. Terry Nealey

Senator Steve O’Ban

Rep. Ed Orcutt

Senator Jamie Pedersen

Rep. Strom Peterson

Rep. Eric Pettigrew

Rep. Liz Pike

Rep. Gerry Pollet

Senator Ann Rivers

Rep. Jay Rodne

Senator Christine Rolfes

Rep. Cindy Ryu

Rep. Joe Schmick

Rep. Mike Sells

Rep. Tana Senn

Rep. Derek Stanford

Rep. Drew Stokesbary

Rep. Gael Tarleton

Rep. Steve Tharinger

Senator Kevin Van De Wege

Rep. Brandon Vick

Senator Maureen Walsh

Senator Lynda Wilson

Rep. Sharon Wylie

Signatories Mike Hewitt, of the 16th Legislative District, and Luis Moscoso, from the 1st Legislative District, no longer hold office.


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