The Gillnet Empire Strikes Back | Commissioners Getting Picked Off?

An extremely serious situation is emerging on the WDFW Commission itself, with commissioners who voted to support the Columbia River reforms being scrutinized and replaced by the Governor’s office. A string of specific and troubling developments this past week indicates at least 2, and as many of 3 of the 5 commissioners who voted in support of the policy could be removed and replaced within the coming weeks.

The story involves 4 commissioners, three of whom saw their terms expire on December 31st, and a fourth who has been appointed but never confirmed by the legislature. All are potentially vulnerable to replacement, and it appears their votes to sustain the removal of gillnets from the Columbia River is a litmus test for their continued membership on the Commission.

Commisioner Mahnken’s term expired on December 31st, and he announced his intention to retire from the commission at that time. At the last minute, he agreed to stay on for the final vote on the Columbia River gillnet reform — and he voted in favor of those reforms. His seat on the commission was recently filled by Barbara Baker. While we have an open mind about how commissioner Baker might vote on future Columbia River reform issues, we note a concerning detail from her short tenure with the commission: During her first commission conference call, (Jan 20, 2017, audio here) there were 20 minutes of discussion about a proposed Budget Policy Memo, which endorses the oversize economic and licensing revenue role of recreational fishing–and directs the department to consider expanding that opportunity where possible. Unfortunately, new Commissioner Baker spoke at great length about her opposition to this policy, speaking against it for 5 of the total 20 minute discussion.. We note that her objections were at least somewhat procedural in nature-a thin silver lining perhaps. We score this as a concerned wait-and-see.

Commissioner Thornburn’s term also expired on December 31st. She voted against the continuation of Columbia River gillnet reforms. Days after her No vote, she was promptly re-appointed by the governor, as announced in this press release from the WDFW.  The message? Vote in favor of gillnet interests, get re-nominated days later. We rate this as concerning.

Commissioner Carpenter’s term also expired on December 31st. He is the vice-chair of the commission, and the second longest serving member. He has been an active participant in many North of Falcon sessions, and is generally considered an advocate for recreational fishing interests. Carpenter is arguably the most knowledgeable commission member on the Columbia River, and neither the WDFW nor the recreational fishing community can afford to lose his service on the commission. He voted in favor of gillnet reforms–but unlike Commissioner Thornburn, his re-appointment has not been announced. The message? Vote against gillnet reform, suddenly you find yourself dusting off your resume. We rate this as very concerning.

Commissioner Wecker’s term on the commission is listed as ending in two years, but her situation is less certain than it might appear. Due to some complexities during her nomination (including Governor Inslee’s unsuccessful attempt to later rescind that nomination under pressure from gillnet advocates) she has been serving without being formally confirmed by the legislature. As a result, it is possible her nomination has “automatically” terminated when the new legislature was convened. This puts her commission seat in an unclear state–which is alarming for two reasons. First, she is one of, if not the most thoughtful and effective commissioners at working through complex issues–and if you spend time at commission meetings you can’t help but be impressed by her command. Second, she — you guessed it — she voted in favor of continued gillnet reforms on the Columbia River. We can see a pattern developing which would see her as the 3rd victim of the Empire Striking Back. We rate this situation as concerning.

This is a deeply troubling pattern, and we do not have a good handle on how quickly this situation will continue to develop. What is absolutely certain is that the political power of the gillnet lobby is being demonstrated. Remember there are just forty (yes, 4-0) gillnetters who take more than $10,000 worth of fish each year from the Columbia River. Those 40 people are being favored over the tens of thousands of recreational fishermen who paid millions of dollars in Columbia River Endorsements. People talk about draining the swamp in Washington D.C.? Well we have our own swamp to worry about right here in Washington State.

In the short term, we strongly encourage our readers to reach out to Governor Inslee (via his advisor on these matters: JT Austin, see below). We will not stand idly by while people of good conscience get picked off to protect the interests of a handful of politically well connected gillnetters.

We’ve created an easy way for you to make your voice heard! Use the letter we provided below, or better yet, draft your own!

Give the Governor Your Thoughts!

This petition is now closed.

End date: Jan 01, 2018

Signatures collected: 730

730 signatures

47 Comments on "The Gillnet Empire Strikes Back | Commissioners Getting Picked Off?"

  1. Private citizens over commercial intrests period.

  2. Great job, good work. I hope you crash a few folks in-box.

  3. It’s finally time to impeach inslee. His lack of leadership has finally come to a head.He is in contempt of court as is his legislators.The fine is at approximately 104,500,000 dollars, and continues to ring up at 100,000 dollars per day This has been going on since February 2010. Lack of control at Western state hospital, department of corrections and dshs. His comments that he will not enforce federal law concerning illegal immigrants.This should be more than enough to start his impeachment.If he can’t handle any of these agencies he doesn’t need to screw up the department of fish and wildlife. He wants to support commercial fishery that brings in less than 2 million dollars while disregarding the 70+million dollars recreational fisherman pay in license fees alone, that’s not even to mention the copious amounts from boat purchases, motors,yearly registration, gear, fuel, ect.I am willing to give up fishing this year, something I have been doing for 50+years and use the money to have this incompetent governor removed from office.Lets also not forget his support of the tribes, whom are less then 2 percent of the population of this state.

  4. David a. Taylor | January 27, 2017 at 2:28 pm | Reply

    Gill netting the Columbia is just wrong! Let your conscience be your guide…

  5. Inslee is a puppet of the commercial and tribal gilnetters. What iss the alternative? Some republican stooge who is even more embedded with these resource rapers?

  6. todd m teeters | January 27, 2017 at 3:32 pm | Reply

    This is unbelievable, all of this hard work, potentially down the drain. 40 gillnetters attempting to regain control…Inslee needs to go. Over 10 million in Columbia River Endorsements collected from the sports fleet, since 2009. I hope they put that money away for a rainy day, because I for one, am going to want my money back.

  7. steve wilkening | January 27, 2017 at 3:33 pm | Reply

    Gill Nets have nothing to do with good fisheries management. They destroy it. Here is my story of a truth fact of recovery and management: Our Northwest salmon populations are so important to our State and others States economy, businesses and State revenue income that management of the this resource requires smart decisions. I would like to see the Appropriations Committee of this State of Washington with the CCA of Washington help look at what I personal experienced at the Salmon Day event at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery. It was so amazing and the results were overwhelming. Here is what I witness:  . Lets get with the real problem. We hear funding issues, closing of hatcheries, and so on. I personal witness on the Sammamish Slough at the Issaquah Hatchery on a lunch time break . Before I started to eat lunch at the hatchery, I was in just totally amazed as there was salmon  every where. People all over a small bridge, pointing at Salmon working there way up steam to do what they do best. Local school buses with kids every where witnessing God’s gift to us. Returning Salmon bring more salmon to us and keeping there life’s duty in tack. What a gift. There were so many salmon from Kings and Silvers I had to ask a hatchery employee what happen as I have never seen this many fish since I was a small boy 55 years ago. He said they were going to close the hatchery and cancel Salmon days for the town due to the escapement for the hatchery was just about dead to sustain the demand keeping the hatchery open. That means NO FISH everyone. The employee told me how this happen to have some many fish return. They asked the local tribes to remove there GILL NETS from Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish. They did. I saw the hatchery employees gathering salmon in the fish pond area, loading them up in a fish truck and trucking them up stream and to another stream to hatch and increase more salmon and bring back another stream. Then here is what I saw next. The hatchery empolyee’s loading SURPLUS salmon in a large plastic tub. They counted 125 salmon and I asked where are they going? They were taking the surplus nice salmon the hatchery could not handle to the local tribes of that area. MAN! What a concept. NO Gill NETS in the rivers. Surplus fish to bring back health runs for everyone. Gill nets have to go and managing predators are even more we can do every where. All I can say is join your States  (CCA) Coastal Conservation Association in your local area. Get with people. Face the truth head on….    I believe we need to change how GILL NETS are a killer to salmon and steelhead recovery. We need to change how we fish and how we manage. It is not about rights. Rights can be manage completely different and have more positive results benefiting everyone. Thank you for your time to listen: Washington State Long time fisherman..  CCA Life time Member Steve Wilkening

  8. George Bateman | January 27, 2017 at 3:36 pm | Reply

    Gillnets in the Columbia has always been wrong, time to right to make things right

  9. Inslee is not a man of the people. His bend is so far left that the effect on Washingtonians is to get less while he takes more! “Investment” is just a fancy word for more taxes and burdens.
    The longer he is in office the more things get upside down and screwed up……Stop the madness!

  10. Mike scheehean | January 27, 2017 at 5:42 pm | Reply

    No gill nets in the rivers! Sportsman have been getting ripped off for years. No gill nets in the rivers!

  11. No gill nets in any Washington streams or rivers.Last year I did not buy a permit in protest of the mismanagement of the fisheries.This year I will not be able to afford a permit due to the price increase.What happens when no one will be able to enjoy what god has given us all because of a few confused government employes,jaded by self serving profitability.It’s not about being fair,it’s about doing the right thing for all.

  12. Gillnets should be a thing of the past. River systems like the Chehalis, which has 3 groups that gillnet…QIN, Chehalis Tribe and the NT fishers. NT should be cut back to 0 (zero) time.

  13. No gill nets in any Washington streams or rivers.Last year I did not buy a permit in protest of the mismanagement of the fisheries.This year I will not be able to afford a permit due to the price increase.
    Despite assertions from the tribes that want to gill net who actually is preserving the salmon fisheries? what a bunch of hypocrites !

  14. Stop the insanity, support those that support Gill Net Removal!

  15. The gill nets MUST be removed immediately!

  16. It looks like MANY more have read this article than have responded. If we can’t get over 2,000 responses on this, Shame On Us! Step up, Let your friends, family know, ask them to respond. This is important, more than important.

  17. I’d like to point out that Gov. Inslee went on The Outdoor Line last October to pander sportfisherman for votes. During the interview he stated, “more opportunity is a priority” and “we want to maximize opportunity” and “[recreational fishing] is an economic pillar”.

    If he asked these commissioners to step down for merely staying the course (that everybody already agreed on), it would be a clear contradiction to what he told our community in order to get our votes. I think now would be a good time to remind him of these promises.

    The interview can be found here, and it starts at 27:30:

  18. The gill net fisheries within the State of Washington are nothing more than a mirror image of a Welfare Program. The state’s budget raises and plants the fish for those whom have a business license (permit) are allowed to participate. When the returns are low and escapement goals may not be met, the gillnetters get shut down they simply apply for Federal Disaster money and receive it for bad years. Name me one other business that you still get paid when your business choice go’s bad and you fail.

  19. Commissioner Larry Carpenter: own’s master marine,sport boat dealer.Commissioner David Graybill:calls himself the fishin magician,owns tackle shop.Other commissioners are frequent honorary guests at the fake conservation group CCA event’s.With these conflicts of interest it’s no wonder they are being replaced,they have embarrassed the state of Washington.

    • Keith,

      You’re most certainly entitled to your opinion, and we welcome you here. But we recognize your name as a Bellingham fish-broker and if we’re going to be worried about conflicts of interest, then it seems reasonable to disclose yours as well. And the entire POINT of a commission drawn from diverse regional and interests across the state is to accurately represent the diverse citizens of washington. It’s not a conflict of interest to have some members of the commission who have experience and interest in recreational fishing—given that is overwhelmingly the largest constituency they represent. At least to our way of thinking.


  20. Take your nylon nets and put them where the sun don’t shine.

    Kill Everything!

  21. Now that Washington has terminated the livelihoods of its Columbia river non treaty fisherman,you will now see most of the tribal fisheries move west to the lower parts of the river(Astoria).The fish have more value and are closer to processing plants as you get closer to the ocean.Up river sportfisherman will have the river to themselves,those upriver fish are probably pretty good if you smoke them.

  22. Governor Jay Inslee (via JT Austin)
    Cc: Kelly Wicker
    Cc: Kirk Pearson

    Governor Inslee,

    “While we have made a couple changes to the policy for the next couple of years, we are committed to full implementation, meeting conservation goals and transitioning gillnets into off-channel areas,” said Larry Carpenter, vice chair of the commission.

    Nothing could be further from the truth. The never were and never have been any conservation goals, none were met. Washington has no “off channel” areas except Deep River, which is such a failure that funding has been suspended. The only thing to come out of the columbia reform was more allocation for the sportsmen, the only goal to start with.

    Please try to remove the overwhelming influence of the sports fishing special interests and do not re-appoint Commissioner Carpenter or Miranda Wecker to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission.

    Our hope is for a policy that shares our precious salmon resource with as many Washingtonians as possible. The majority of Washingtonians don’t fish themselves but depend on a source provided by the commercial fleet.

    Thank You

    • Get the nylon nets out of Washington State Waters.

    • We don’t mind dissent–but remind all readers that commercial fishing (certainly inclusive of the 50% of allocation for the tribes) isn’t going anywhere regardless of this policy. We find conservation arguments hard to swallow from gillnet proponents, and while we appreciate your point about non-fishermen needing access to fresh healthy salmon, we submit that the 50% of the fisheries going to Tribal Commercial fishing can meet this need. To us, these arguments appear to be defending the financial interests of a very select few.

  23. steve Radisich | January 30, 2017 at 1:13 am | Reply

    I think the Tens Of Thousands of sport fisherman are killing more fish with the pollution from there boats and trucks than forty gillnetters> There is to many sportys! Lets start by getting some of the sportys off of the river!

  24. Conservation as applied to the columbia river reform is simply a buzz word. By transferring allocation to sports there is no conservation what-so-ever. All ESA listed fish in 2014 are still listed as ESA. The buzz words that imply the public can get their fish from other sources is also a fallacy. Sure there are troll fish, indian fish, Alaska fish and yet the price of these fish goes up, year after year. Supply and demand. There simply are not enough fish for the non fishing public. Last year springer fillet went over $40/lb. in some retail stores. Restaurants were over $40 a plate. If non tribal netting is eliminated surely these prices will go higher.

    • Sentence 1+2 are FALSE.

      Your (heartfelt?) concern about spring Chinook pricing are not surprising you continue to defend the financial interests of a very select few, likely including yourself.

      “Simply are not enough fish for the non fishing public” is hardly true, we routinely see fresh salmon at market at prices between $8.99 and as low as $5.99 per pound–routinely below the price of decent cuts of beef.

      • Disclaimer – I’m a retail seafood market owner. This means that I count as a ‘dissenter’ to most of these comments, but it also means that I have an intimate and extensive knowledge base around the price of wild salmon. Right now, today, fresh wild salmon from Alaska is clocking in at $35 + per pound and there are far more customers than fish available – our vendors are on allocation and they offer their fish to the customers they have the best relationships with, and we in turn do the same. You practically have to be on a Good List somewhere to get a piece of fresh king today. That supply/demand scenario will absolutely carry forward to the Springers that come off the Columbia when they show up. I think the one thing we might all agree on is that the Columbia River Spring King is the finest salmon in the world. Actually, I think we can also all agree that the future of our salmon runs is of vital importance.

        Of course pricing waxes and wanes with the seasons and supply changes, but the idea of $9 to $6 per pound pricing “routinely” for fresh wild king salmon hasn’t been a reality for many years – we occasionally see little spots of quality wild sockeye out of Alaska and/or Canada in large volumes in the summer where pricing for filet can reach $10-$9, but that’s hardly a regular thing and if you’re talking about kings, you’re not even in the ballpark. Maybe mislabeled farmed fish, or hatchery surplus product? I had a customer bring in some fish over the summer last year that they had received for *free* from a hatchery, and they were not worth the money they paid for our knife and wrapping work – complete garbage.

        If you’re eating fresh (or frozen) wild salmon for dinner instead of a ‘decent cut of beef’ you’re a fortunate soul. I hope all Washington State residents are able to be fortunate, and not just those who have the time, financial resources, and energy to go catch their own. In order for that to happen, we rely on commercial fishermen. Perhaps combining resources to focus on ideas and solutions for problems like outrageous predation impacts from sea lions would help all of us be more fortunate in the years moving forward.

      • Thanks for the notes Kira, and we appreciate a diverse set of comments here!

        Salmon runs, and therefore salmon prices, are highly seasonal indeed… There are many perishable produce items which are unavailable at virtually any cost for half the year, and similarly salmon prices swing seasonally by a significant degree. And of course the gamut of rarity careful handling and quality will be reflected in pricing even during the high-availability seasons.

        We understand you rely on commercial fishermen for fish! With 50% of the catch already going to Tribal, almost exclusively commercial fisheries, we feel like the second half of the harvest is worth prioritizing carefully. We believe the overall benefits of this natural resource to the statewide economy and for the reduced impacts on wild fish are the most important considerations. Both suggest increased focus on recreational fishing.

  25. Get the nets out and shoot the sea lions, end of problem.
    If someone want’s to eat fish, buy a license, boat, etc and go catch your own.

    $35.00 a pound, any fish going to Japan?

    • Two things — first, we understand the frustration with predation by sea-lions, but we want to emphasize that we do not support vigilante actions of any kind. The surest way to lose the support of the general public–who we must bring along if we are to find lasting solutions–is to start taking actions like this in violation of the marine mammal protection act.

      You also raise an interesting point that out-of-state (and certainly out-of-country) sales of Washington natural resources. Certainly this dilutes the benefits of commercial fishing to Washingtonians at large.

      • When I said,”shoot the sea lions”, only with the proper permits! It’s 10 or 20 thousand dollar fine! They are out of control!


  26. Why are we not talking about catch and release mortality rates,the Columbia basin bulletin has a interesting article on this issue.I think the saying goes something like this:don’t throw stones if you live in a glass house.New science on catch and release is showing high mortality in pre spawn salmon,up to100 percent for females.Has the sport fish industry considered using onboard recovery boxes to address this problem.The article I referenced indicates that 60 percent of all sport caught fish are discarded or as you would say released in pursuit of the targeted species,if this is true I find it interesting that your readership often refers to sport fishing as (Selective).Its time to look in the mirror!

    • Not buying that line of Bull, 60%? don’t think so, 100% females, sure thing, who is doing this study, indians?

      Recovery boxes? I want to see that! Maybe just leave the fish in water and let it go.

      How about the nylon nets? What kind of recovery is there? That’s what I thought! crickets……

    • Keith,

      This is a reality and science driven news site… If you have peer reviewed data to back up your posts, please provide it, otherwise stop spreading fake-news. As it stands, the authority on this — comprised by a collection of studies of hook-and-line fisheries, and release mortality rates for troll and recreational fisheries in the ocean — formally adopted by the PFMC following analysis by Salmon Technical Team (2000). You can find that data here, see table 4-1B.

  27. I referenced the article in the Columbia basin bulletin,give it a look,I didn’t write it.The keepers of this site can choose to pick what ever science they choose,but the study I referenced is the most recent study I have seen.I believe the study was done by the Canadian government.Your study is a ocean study,I thought we were talking about the Columbia river,the study I reference is from the Fraser river.It always makes sense to compare apples to apples when interpreting science.Do you recall who paid for the science that the PFMC adopted.I would applaud science based fishery management,every gillnet fishery in Alaska is managed with best available science at its core,and these fisheries continue to produce record runs of salmon.So you can pick the science you like,and pick the reality you like,but declaring other people’s views as fake news is a form of censorship when you have the key to this site.If I were the gatekeeper of this site I would be more concerned about some of the racially charged comments about tribal fishing ,and the rouge discussions about shooting sea lions.

    • Keith, starting now we will stop approving posts containing your accusations about about mortality rates if you don’t supply links to peer reviewed data in your posts. Paste the web addresses to studies themselves, not on news coverage of them.

      If you like studies about Fraser River hook and release mortality on salmon, we’ll provide you one. As just like you prefer, it’s done by the Canadian government. Here’s the link You’ll find their results show below 2 percent mortality, and if you actually read all the way to the end, you’ll see one of those two was likely the victim of a significant seal encounter prior to being hooked. Note that 2% is 5x less than the 10% mortality rate used to model Washington seasons, and 50 times lower than your ridiculous 100% mortality claims. Bring your science links or move on to another site please.

      We regularly and routinely screen racially charged comments off the site, with an emphasis on trying our best not to squelch voices — even dissenting voices like yours. We do appreciate your concerns for our well being.

    • So why are you here?
      Do you love to kill everything with your nylon net?

  28. Have I been terminated?

    • Nope, we are waiting for you to post the link to peer-reviewed research which substantiate your questionable claims. We also wrote your given email address as you asserted (incorrectly) that link posting isn’t working. Either put up your data, or email with it. This is our last reply on the topic.

    This is the link that I referred to in my previous post,better late than never.Your site has been very quiet the last few days,is everyone up at the boat show visiting with commisioner Carpenter?Could you send me a link to the study the PFMC adopted,was it purely a ocean study or river and ocean?

    • First, that paper is not available to the public, and unless you’re a member of the American Fisheries Society, we suspect you didn’t actually read the source paper.

      Second, using that abstract, we did find the Columbia Basin Bulletin article you read from June 2016, it’s here We can’t speak to the accuracy of the CBB reporting on this particular study, but we’ll point out that your claims of catch-and-release mortality of “100%” of some fish is thoroughly unsupported by simply reading the CBB article you’ve been making a fuss about. Again, we haven’t read the source paper, but even the CBB article properly points out that the high mortality you’re talking about is from release of fish that were seined from the river (not caught by hook/line) and then run through forced burst swimming. These fish, even if released immediately following this sequence had high mortality. That’s bad news for seiners, but not recreational hook/line anglers.

      Ah, but they did a test with hooks and lines! They hook/line caught the fish, then did two things illegal in the state of washington. First, they attached a radio transmitter on them for telemetry (unclear if this impacts survival) then second they held the fish in the air for 1 minute. Anglers in WA have to keep those fish in the water precisely because it decreases the impact on the fish. And still, we find with telemetry attached, and 1 full minute out of the water, do we see the “100% mortality” you were claiming? Nope, not even close. Their numbers are 27% — and again that’s with telemetry attached + a minute on the deck, neither of which is legal in WA.

      Now man up and admit you were spreading entirely false mortality data.

      P.S. The Salmon Technical Team’s recommendations from 2000 are available here:

  30. It would also be nice if our Government would take a look at the “treaties” and bring them up to todays economical and society values. I for one see no valid reason that the “tribes” show receive 50% of the resource ..they certainly do not put in 50% of the effort or funding. Its time that we become one society and no longer tolerate “special payments/allotments” to any user groups. Its time to move on and the tribes need to pay their fair share and no longer receive any special treatment or funding…. they have been from the “golden spoon” long enough..

  31. I agree 100%, time for them to join the real world.

    “Indian Treaties, American Nightmare”. good paperback book from early 70’s.


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