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WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE     Print Version
NEWS RELEASE
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091


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December 29, 2004
Contact: Sgt. Russ Mullins (WDFW), (360) 201-0638; Or: Brian Gorman (NMFS), (206) 526-6613

Skagit chinook poacher pays state fines, could also face federal ESA penalties

OLYMPIA - Enforcement officers with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) have cited a Mount Vernon man for multiple fishing violations, including possessing wild chinook salmon, which are protected from harvest under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Melvin R. Kingma, 65, was cited Oct. 13 for illegal take and possession of seven wild chinook from the lower Skagit River. Kingma was observed fishing with multiple fishing poles, which is against state regulations.

In addition to the seven chinook, Kingma was also in possession of 18 coho salmon. He was cited for possessing more fish than the personal limit allowed. Kingma paid a total of $600 in state fines.

Kingma could also face federal penalties because the chinook salmon he possessed are listed as a threatened species under the ESA. Chinook have been off-limits to anglers in the Skagit since 1999.

A similar poaching incident occurred in 2001 when a Mount Vernon man was caught with a 40-pound chinook taken from the Skagit River. The man was fined $5,000 for violating the ESA, and his 16-foot custom-built fishing boat was seized.

The investigation into Kingma's activities was conducted by enforcement officers from WDFW and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Office for Law Enforcement (NOAA OLE), and is an example of the ongoing joint enforcement efforts to protect fish species with federal ESA protection.

"Recreational anglers, commercial fishers and others have all made painful sacrifices over the years to reverse the downward spiral of weak salmon stocks, and Mr. Kingma's actions demonstrate a total disregard for those sacrifices," said WDFW Enforcement Chief Bruce Bjork. "Our ongoing partnership with NOAA OLE will help us protect fish and wildlife resources."

The ESA was passed by Congress in 1973 and is administered by NOAA OLE and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The act is designed to save species and their habitats when other efforts have failed. NOAA OLE is responsible for species that spend most of their lives in marine waters, including marine fish, salmon and most marine mammals.

Vicki Nomura, special agent in charge for the northwest region of NOAA Fisheries OLE, said the agency has appropriated more than $885,000 to WDFW for joint enforcement patrols over the next two years to protect and conserve marine resources.

"We will continue working with and through our state enforcement counterparts to prosecute serious actions taken by individuals and organizations that violate wildlife laws such as the Endangered Species Act," Nomura said.