By Chris Philips
Managing Editor 

For the People?

 

December 1, 2019



Your local, state and federal governments exist to serve your needs.

Or do they?

On September 25th, a press release from US Senator Maria Cantwell (D, WA), noted that Ron Warren, the Director of Fish Policy at the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, testified at a hearing about the impact of inadequate funding from NOAA for Washington State:

“If you add the charters from the coast and charters from Puget Sound, as well as the troll fishery and other fisheries that had been included, you’d be looking at about $100 million to the state of Washington,” Warren said.

We don’t dispute that claim – we have no basis to dispute it because we have never seen the data. The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife is renowned for not keeping accurate records of the state’s commercial fisheries. In the past the Department has relied on third-party firms working with cherry-picked data to produce whichever numbers the leadership in Olympia wanted to see.


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Our interest was piqued by Mr. Warren’s quote in Senator Cantwell’s press release so we reached out to him. Several times, in fact, via email and phone, over the course of almost seven weeks. At press time we have not yet received a response. After several weeks, we reached out to the director’s office, hoping he could shed some light on these data. The director of Fish and Wildlife, Kelly Susewind, was unable to take my call, and has not responded in any manner over the course of more than a month of emails and phone calls.

In early November the phone system for the Puget Sound Commercial salmon Fishers hotline failed, leading the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife to send a mass email for the Week 44 hotline.

The email informed the gillnet fleet (emphasis ours) that areas 12 and 12B would be open to gillnets using 6 1/4 inch minimum mesh on Tuesday and Thursday from 7am to 8pm.

The DFW then apparently revised the fishing opener, closing it on Tuesday at 7pm rather than 8, but neglected to tell the gillnet fleet, many of whom were blindsided by enforcement. The fishery coincided with a DFW enforcement drill, so fast response boats were in the area and choppers were in the air. The result was that any operators fishing past 7pm were issued class-C felony violations, even though the state had told them they could fish to 8 o’clock.


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With the fault clearly lying with the state, will the Department of Fish and Wildlife require these fishermen to each appear in court to fight these tickets? Does the DFW have plans to avoid this type of mistake in the future?

We asked the Director’s office these questions, again with no response.

We, the voters of Washington State, are the government. The Governor serves at our pleasure. Appointed by Washington State Governor Jay Inslee in 2018, Susewind formerly worked in the department of Ecology as the director of environmental policy. He supposedly serves the people of Washington, but the opacity of his office could lead one to assume he serves first and foremost Kelly Susewind.

We have been outspoken in this space in the past about the Governor’s treatment of his constituents, about his policies regarding commercial fishing and about his appointees who manage the industry.

In 2020, Washington will have another opportunity to hire a manager whose interests better align with those of the hard working small businesspeople in the fishing industry. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to remind your employees in the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife that they work for you: 360-902-2200.

Chris Philips can be reached at: 206-284-8285 or email: editor@fishermensnews.com

 
 

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