Open letter to the Astoria Port Commissioners: I am a career professional commercial fisherman. I just purchased my 59th Oregon commercial fishing license. I have lived in this community all my life and paid property taxes, state taxes and licensing fees in this state and community for the last 55 years.
I have built four new boats in the surrounding area, and I have owned, operated and outfitted over 50 boats in my fishing career. I spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in this community. I am a lightweight compared to some of the multimillion dollar fishing operations in the community that some gillnetters own.
I have delivered into Astoria, Warrenton and Chinook and Ilwaco, Washington, seafood products from almost every fishery on the coast. I have fished off the coast and inland waters of Alaska, California, Oregon and Washington. I have traveled throughout these states for 58 years, plus I have traveled through Canada, and have run boats from San Francisco to the Bering Sea.
When I was asked to write this letter, I sat down and started writing down all the ports, harbors, small fishing communities, fuel docks and harbors I took shelter in to protect from storms, for fuel, and delivering products into these communities. There are 67 of such harbors and ports that I have been in throughout my career. But I have always operated out of Astoria and Warrenton.
As a commercial fisherman, I have employed hundreds of fishermen for deckhands and have spent hundreds of thousand of dollars in shipyards in this community and surrounding areas. I have delivered over $1 million worth of product within this community on a 5-1 ratio.
I heard that I might be called one of Bill Hunsinger’s cronies although, I disagree with Bill a lot of the time, and have throughout the last 50 years we have worked around each other. But, on this issue. Bill and I stand shoulder to shoulder.
I understand that the president of the Port Commission does not want to sign a letter supporting the gillnet fishery, but that does not surprise me one bit about the Port of Astoria. They treat every fishery in the community equally, including the draggers, shrimpers, tuna boats, trollers, crabbers and longliners. This is why 95 percent of the commercial fishing fleet is moored in Warrenton. You go where you are treated better.
In the 67 ports and harbors that I have been in, the attitude of the Port of Astoria, in its infinite wisdom, has shunned the commercial fishing fleet as a whole. It has the least facilities of any port, including storage and room to tie up commercial boats. It is not about the hard working employees of the Port, they treat you with respect and friendship. I hear that tourism is more important than commercial fishing, does that mean that if there are gillnet boats in mooring basins in Astoria that the tourists will not come?
I want to cite an experience I had two years ago in Homer, Alaska, just to give the Port an example that you can walk and chew gum at the same time. I have never experienced, or seen a busier port in my career, than what I saw in Homer. I witnessed thousands of sport boats, a huge charter fleet for sports fishing, a huge gillnet fleet operating with purse seiners, halibut boats and processors. I have never been in a better-run port — it is clean and excellently maintained. In addition, where the commercial boats deliver their products, it is clean, and the commercial side of the port is run excellently.
This is my point: When you walk up the dock, and get your feet on land, you see thousands of tourists, hundreds of little 10-foot by 20-foot shops of all varieties and terrific restaurants to accommodate the tourists. It is so crowded you can barely walk across the street because of tourism traffic. About 200 yards from the port there are about 300 campers. The place is absolutely alive with commercial fishing boats, sports boats and tourists, all coexisting and booming with activity.
To imply that you have to get rid of commercial fishing boats to have tourism is ignorant, and the people of Astoria need to understand that and the governor of Oregon should acknowledge and understand that when you attack one of us, you attack us all. There is a clear and present danger in this country that there is a war against the commercial seafood industry, and that 99 percent of the commercial fishermen feel this way, but that is for another time and another discussion.
For myself, I take a fierce pride in being a commercial fisherman, and no governor, legislator, port commissioner or fishery is going to make me bow my head. I stand with all the fishermen and fisheries on the coast, and I am proud to have them as my friends.