On April 1, 2013, “Hamilton vs. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife” was filed in Thurston County. The suit alleges WDFW has breached the public disclosure laws of the state of Washington by withholding documents and records from view of the public. The actual suit (here) lays out the entire history of the controversy.
Recreational Fisherman and Conservationists have watched in frustration over the last decade as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) uses a “secretive” process called North of Falcon (NOF) to set salmon seasons in the Chehalis Basin and Willapa Bay that. Those seasons grant commercial gill nets in excess of 80% of the salmon available for harvest each year. As recreational fisherman find it increasingly difficult to actually catch a fish, the overharvesting prevents adequate numbers of salmon from reaching the spawning grounds and our stocks of salmon continue on a downward trend.
Fishingthechehalis.net was established to provide the public with “the transparency” necessary to tear down the wall of secrecy used by WDFW to set seasons for non-tribal and tribal commercial gill nets. Using the Public Disclosure Act, long time fish advocate Dave Hamilton repeatedly filed public document requests with WDFW for use in public education (Exhibits). While some records were provided and posted in the FishiLeaks Library, literally hundreds if not thousands of records believed to exist were not provided. Especially, WDFW withheld those documents and records associated with WDFW’s interactions with the Quinault Indian Nation and Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis. After 6 attempts stretching over 16 months, Hamilton finally gave up and filed suit.
Another suit challenging the proposed 2013 commercial net seasons in Grays Harbor and Willapa bay is expected if the WDFW does not reverse its historical practice of awarding the overwhelming share of the public’s fish to a handful of commercial gill-netters. In order to provide the public side with legal representation, the Olympia law firm of Rodgers Kee & Pearson has been retained (http://www.buddbaylaw.com/). An enthusiastic recreational fisherman, Joe Frawley is lead counsel.
Simply put, doing nothing is not a vehicle for change and this can not continue to the point the salmon are gone forever. WDFW season setting practices have repeatedly been overturned by the courts. Litigation is expensive, but required if these objectionable practices are to come to an end. While the costs of standing up to the state usually exceed most individual’s ability to pay, citizens can come together in an effective fashion. A recreational fishing legal defense fund has been developed where those who have had enough of this unfair treatment can contribute and help share the legal expenses.
To contribute via a check, send your donation payable to: Rodgers Kee & Pearson, PO Box 179, McCleary, WA 98557. If you would prefer to donate using PayPal or a credit card, please use the secure processor on the right side of this page.
If you have friends or acquaintances that do not come up on the net, you can download a special contributors form in pdf format that you can print that explains the suit and shows one how to contribute by mail (here).
For more information about the suit, use the contact page on the web site.