"[Expletive] the Fishermen!"
July 1, 2018
This seems to have been the sentiment for years among those elected to represent you in the City of Seattle and the State of Washington. Finally, someone has come right out and said it.
Seattle City Councilman Mike O’Brien and his wife were kicked out of a gala reception for the arts in early May. The private reception was hosted by a local business with ties to commercial fishing, and Councilman O’Brien’s presence, in shirtsleeves and suspenders among the tuxedoes and cocktail dresses, was not welcome. The organizers made it clear that his political positions are in direct contradiction to the continued success of Seattle’s commercial fishing industry. Having been asked twice to leave, O’Brien was escorted off the premises, spilling his beer along the way. On her way out the door, O’Brien’s wife, Julie, allegedly turned around and shouted to the hundreds of well-heeled guests, “[Expletive] the fishermen!”
This incident came as no surprise to those in the local fishing and maritime industries. Seattle’s recent institutional antagonism toward the fishing industry is well known. As early as 2004, Mayor Greg Nickels, famous for welcoming transients to camp on private property, told the press that the fishing industry in Ballard and Fremont was dirty, and he would rather they moved to Kent, a landlocked city south of SeaTac airport.
His successors, Mayors McGinn and Murray, have also been hostile to the businesses in Ballard and Magnolia that rely on the city for transportation infrastructure.
The state itself has been working to force local, non-tribal fishermen out since at least the 2012 election of Governor Jay Inslee, who has been an outspoken proponent of reserving the state’s seafood resources for the sport fishermen. The Governor’s latest salvo in his efforts to rid the state of commercial fishermen is his “blue” economy initiative, in which he promotes the distant-water fleets that fish outside of state waters to the detriment of local fishermen, which he promoted at another gala event, this one attended by bureaucrats and captains of industry but no local fishermen.
The “Maritime Innovation Advisory Council” includes a panel of representatives from several state agencies but carefully avoids including any non-tribal commercial fishermen on the panel. Governor Inslee argues that tribal fisheries can supply all the necessary commercial fish to the state’s consumers. Of the three co-chairs leading the group, one is State Representative Gael Tarleton, who represents the state’s 36th legislative district, which includes Ballard and Fishermen’s Terminal, who recently urged the state to prioritize increased recreational fishing over commercial fishing in State waters.
A study in 2015 found that those involved in the commercial fishing industry in Seattle earned an average of $70,000 – enough to support a family and pay taxes in a city and state that are working hard to chase them away. Julie O’Brien simply shouted publicly what her husband, the Governor and many state lawmakers have undoubtedly been saying privately for years.
Chris Philips can be reached at: 206-284-8285 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org