Fishermen's News - The Advocate for the Commercial Fisherman

Support Your Local Fisherman


June 1, 2017

This column is being written following a delicious Washington Troll salmon lunch of marbled chinook at Seattle’s Lark restaurant. The lunch, sponsored by Washington’s Makah tribe and the Coastal Trollers Association, is a yearly effort to introduce the distinctive marbled Chinook, as well as the state’s other wild-caught salmon, to local journalists, who will then hopefully wax poetic about the delicious fish, write about it, and promote it to the local Western Washington population.

This is necessary because, as my father used to say, “most of Seattle is unaware of its waterfront, or even that there is a waterfront.”

This column has mentioned in the past the efforts being undertaken by Washington’s Governor and 2020 presidential hopeful Jay Inslee to eliminate commercial fisheries from state waters. While those efforts are ongoing, a small but growing group of state legislators are pushing back against bureaucrats and lobbyists. State Representative Mike Chapman, from Washington’s 24th district, was invited to the luncheon and thoroughly enjoyed the salmon. We hope to count him among the converted.

To paraphrase Rodney Dangerfield, commercial fishermen get no respect. Last month in San Diego we had the opportunity to speak with Peter Halmay, a veteran sea urchin diver and president of the San Diego Fishermen’s Working Group, who told us the port’s fledgling seafood market (see Fishermen’s News, January 2017) is threatened by a group of developers and city bureaucrats.

The market, which currently sells seafood fresh from the boat, including sanddab, lingcod, back cod, bluefin and bigeye tuna, sea urchin, etc. exists on a dock the developers would prefer to offer to pleasure craft.

The $1.2 billion development would reconfigure the San Diego waterfront, razing established and historic neighborhoods and public spaces in favor of tourist attractions including a 500-foot tall “spire,” open-air retail malls, two hotels and an aquarium.

Ironically, the developers claim the plan “revives San Diego’s legacy fishing industry,” but focuses on retail marketing, food and beverage vendors, attractions and special events. The waterfront development offers “state-of-the-art mega-yacht berthing facilities” but doesn’t detail how the operator of a multi-million-dollar mega-yacht will feel about sharing a slip with a crusty old 40-foot fishing boat, and the attendant noises and smells. The existing Tuna Harbor pier, the current location of the popular dockside market, would be developed as a “dock & dine” attraction, where pleasure craft could tie up and patronize the shopping mall.

When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. In this case, developers develop, and bureaucracies respond to the loudest voice. West Coast fishermen and their livelihoods are under attack by bureaucrats who simply don’t appreciate the value of the commercial fishery, or the amount it contributes to the bottom line.

Data released late last month from NOAA should make San Diegans sit up and take notice of the industry their civic leaders are preparing to sweep under the rug: Tuna landings alone in California amounted to almost 3 million pounds and were valued at $4.2 million. Sea urchin landings were more than 8 million pounds and almost $7 million. Perhaps more San Diegans should visit their local fisherman, and discover the working waterfront with which they’ve been blessed, before it’s too late.

Chris Philips can be reached at: 206-284-8285 or email:


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