Fishermen's News - The Advocate for the Commercial Fisherman

By Chris Philips
Managing Edi 

Credit Where It's Due


May 1, 2020

This column has been justifiably hard on Washington State Governor Jay Inslee. A career politician, Inslee’s accomplishments for his constituents haven’t been particularly notable, and since he moved into the Washington Governor’s office in 2013 he has done everything in his power to dismantle the state’s non-tribal commercial fishing industry.

It is therefore appropriate that we give credit where it’s due and recognize Governor Inslee for a recent line-item veto of a couple of amendments on a budget bill that crossed his desk in early April.

One of the items would have halted a gillnet license buyback program being developed by industry in conjunction with the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Instead the new section would insert a revised buyback idea being promoted by anti-commercial group Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) and their supporters in the legislature.

The second would have created an anadromous fish advisory board, duplicating the current process but adding an opening for CCA to insert lobbyists into the advisory and legislative process.

Governor Inslee vetoed both sections, offering the following explanations:

Section 307(22), pages 339-340, Department of Fish and Wildlife, Columbia River salmon Policy

This proviso directs the Department of Fish and Wildlife to implement a voluntary buyback program to purchase commercial gill net fishery licenses for Columbia River, Grays Harbor, and Willapa Bay. It is premature to move ahead with a buyback program. To be successful, any gill net fishery buyback needs to be developed in concert with license holders and the state of Oregon. I encourage the department to continue work with Oregon and commercial gill net license holders on developing a workable buyback program. For these reasons, I have vetoed Section 307(22).

Section 307(27), pages 340-341, Department of Fish and Wildlife, Independent Science Review Council

This section directs the Department of Fish and Wildlife to convene an independent science review council to advise co-managers on critical anadromous fish management decisions. The state and tribal co-managers already utilize a robust scientific process to manage salmon. This proviso adds unnecessary review and administrative burden on the co-managers. For this reason, I have vetoed Section 307(27).

Governor Inslee rightly deserves praise for these vetoes, as well as for appointing a Department of Fish and Wildlife director and commissioners who are interested in maintaining the important commercial fishery in Washington State.

Another Washington State politician who has stepped up in support of the commercial fisherman is Senator Maria Cantwell, who has been instrumental in securing $300 million in economic relief for fishermen in a COVID-19 package approved by the US Senate.

“Thousands of fishermen in the Pacific Northwest and across the nation will now have access to grants and other forms of financial relief from NOAA,” Cantwell said.

Cantwell noted that the fishing industry has already seen layoffs and fishing season closures. “It is crucial that we support fishermen and ensure they have access to emergency grants and other assistance as they face the unprecedented challenges of this pandemic,” she said.

A provision within the package would direct the Commerce Department to distribute $300 million in financial assistance in the form of direct payments, including grants, as well as other forms of investments in the fishing industry and shellfish farms. Cantwell collaborated with Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both R-Alaska, and Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine, on the relief package.

Cantwell noted that there are already reports of the devastating economic impact of COVID-19 on the fishing industry, with fishermen experiencing significant economic losses. This new financial assistance will help all fishermen, including those who may not qualify for other forms of aid because many fishermen are self-employed.

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


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