OLYMPIA – A Westport charter boat captain and two deckhands each face $1,596 in fines after they were cited for numerous fishing violations during a charter trip off the Washington coast Sunday.
During a routine boarding of the 43-foot Lady Dee, marine enforcement officers from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) found 11 wild coho salmon, one undersized chinook salmon and evidence that some of the 15 anglers aboard the vessel had been using barbed hooks.
"There was a lot of shuffling around on deck as we approached," said Sgt. Mike Cenci, one of the two WDFW officers who boarded the vessel. "That was our first tip that we might have a problem."
Cenci called the violations the "most egregious disregard for fishing rules" he's seen this year, noting that the charter industry as a whole is generally very observant of fishing rules. Last year, 97 percent of all charter boats boarded were found to be in compliance with state laws, he said.
"This guy really has no excuse," said Cenci, a member of WDFW's marine patrol. "I hate to think what kind of example he's been setting for his customers and other vessel owners."
Cenci said WDFW will not release the name of the vessel owner or the two crew members until they respond formally to their citations. The 15 customers aboard the vessel were not cited, Cenci said.
WDFW director Jeff Koenings said the department's enforcement officers are on the lookout for any violation of state fishing rules, particularly those designed to protect depressed natural stocks. As part of that effort, officers with the agency's marine patrol make routine boardings to check for infractions.
"We've worked very hard and spent a lot of taxpayers' money to fashion selective fisheries that allow people to fish on healthy stocks and still protect those that need time to rebuild," Koenings said. "Violations like this undermine the whole idea of selective fisheries and jeopardize everyone's fishing opportunities."
Cenci said catchable hatchery coho, as opposed to the wild coho aboard the Lady Dee, are readily identifiable by their missing adipose fin. Size limits for all species are spelled out in the 2000 Fishing in Washington pamphlet and barbed hooks have been illegal in Washington state for more than 20 years.
"Like I said, this guy has no excuse," Cenci said. "He knew better."