Fish & Feathers 
Worries linger over theoretical claim of tribal crabbing rights

Crab boats are pictured loaded with pots, about to depart Chinook Harbor.

For those crabbers who were still setting out pots, Saturday and Sunday were brutally cold. The seas were moderate, being around 7 feet at 13 to 16 seconds, but the northeast winds Sunday morning were blowing in the 23 to 25 knot range with a temperature of 25 degrees and a wind chill around zero.

This crabbing is definitely a young man’s game, even if you are the captain of the vessel and working in the cabin.

This is a profession where the workers are not overpaid. With the pulling of pots starting on Monday, it may warm up a little but the wind will continue — diminishing to 10 to 15 knots with gusts to 25 knots. The swell will, hopefully, lay down a bit to between 3 to 6 feet.

Crabbers pray for these openers early enough to provide a memorable Christmas for their families. More than 100 crab boats and crews operate out of the harbors of Ilwaco, Chinook, Astoria and Warrington. Other economic benefits include shore-side support units — electric technicians, cannery workers, shipwrights, machine shops, shipyards, fuel docks, crabbing supply merchants and the bait industry.

For those brave sisters and brothers who choose to fish on the high seas during the winter months when the crab season is at its peak, they risk their lives in an industry that has one of the highest fatality rates of any occupation in the nation. You have to be hungry to feed your family to venture into the ocean in vicious weather conditions — high winds, driving rain, sometimes sleet and snow, seas that range from 6 to 20 feet in height and that “all famous killer” of crossing the bar.

These fishermen work and pay for themselves plus, as you can see for yourselves non-tribal crabbers provide thousands of paychecks to the supporting industries which are the basis of our communities goods and services that are provided.

Chinook recognition is an overall negative, costing every taxpayer money. No one is against them celebrating their heritage rights, school and health funding and the First Salmon ceremony.

But the crabbing community is scared to death that recognition with resource rights would devastate an industry that is already feeling the huge economic impacts of the 1994 Rafeedie Decision where their fishing fleet lost 50 percent of harvestable crab on 70 percent of the Washington coast. The transfer of effort from those areas to south of Klipsan Beach is already costing the Pacific County crab industry $8 million to $10 million a year. Recently, a study estimated Pacific County is the fourth most fish-dependent community in Washington state. The loss of 50 percent more crab would be the death knell in the fishing coffin that has already lost 90 percent of the fishing fleet on the coast. In the late 1970s there around 600 charter boats in Westport and Ilwaco; today about 60. Losing another 50 percent of crabbing would be the end of fishing.

In the opinion of many, tribal recognition is all about the money that is advantageous to a small subset of U.S. citizens. Tribal recognition is not the bone of contention. It is the right to exercise newfound recognition in the crab fishery with the intent to take 50 percent of the crab between Westport and Tillamook Head. Chinook recognition, if it ever happens, must never lead to reallocation of public natural resources.

According to KIRO TV, a 22-year-old suspect began pounding on a mother’s door so long and so loud that she thought she must know the person. So she cracked the door open to see who it was and that is when the suspect pushed his way into the home. When she realized that she did not know him it was too late — he was already inside and fought back when she tried to push him out.

The father grabbed the four children and huddled them for safety when a shot rang out — it was the sound of the mother shooting the home invader in the stomach.

Police arrived, treated the suspect on the scene, and then transported him to Harborview for surgery. Police said the women faces no charges because she shot in self-defense.

Ron Malast call be reached at 665-3573 or

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