Part 2 of 2
ILWACO - A recently completed Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife report, "Adding it Up," shows the economic stimulus provided in Washington by recreation associated with fish and wildlife, including nearly $1 billion in 2001 spent by people who enjoy watching birds and other creatures.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reports that 2.5 million wildlife viewers in the state of Washington spent $980 million in 2001 on various sporting goods ranging from binoculars and bird feeders to guide books and rubber boots. The state of Washington, in its report, arrived at a similar estimate.
The popularity of wildlife viewing comes as no surprise to the growing number of entrepreneurs responding to the increasing eco-tourism by creating birdwatching, seafood, wildlife and fishing festivals in their local communities. Festival organizers point out that the festivals boost tourism and quite often become an overall part economic fabric of a community. The Bald Eagle Festival in Skagit County draws people from all over Puget Sound as well as people from other countries. Our own International Kite Festival is a prime example of utilizing a predominate force of nature, wind, for economic stability.
Will Koenings, WDFW director, said "One of the most important jobs in the years ahead will to work even more closely with civic leaders, business groups and citizens to find ways to increase fishing, hunting and wildlife-viewing opportunities."
But few question the continued importance to the economy of the full array of fish and wildlife recreation activities. For example, outdoor shows bring venders together with hunters and fishers. Besides venders catering to shopping needs of hunters and fishers, the shows typically include seminars by professional fishermen, kid's activities, demonstrations by local bird hunting clubs, outdoor photography contests and much more. In 2001, vendors spent $500 to more than $5,000 on booth space to reach the shows' attendees. Many venders attend four or five of the eight shows held through the state. Gear manufacturers typically fare best at the shows, while some hunting camps, charter boats and rafting guides book a good portion of their season while renewing past acquaintances.
Another example of outdoor recreation's economic impact is how the lack of a razor clam season this fall has certainly cut into the pocketbooks of many coastal merchants. In 2001 razor clam diggers made 178,000 trips to harvest 2.4 million razor clams on Washington beaches, contributing an estimated $4.6 million to the coastal economy.
And although recreational fishing generates big revenues for small businesses, so does commercial fishing.
No recent study by the WDFW has tallied the value of the state's commercial fisheries, nevertheless their economic benefits to rural communities are real. "If we go away, we go away and we don't get replaced," said Pierre Marchand, who operates Jessie's Ilwaco Fish Company, a successful fish processing firm founded by his family decades ago.
According to the Pacific Fishery Management Council, an estimated $140 million was paid in 2001 to commercial fishers at Washington ports for catches ranging from salmon, halibut, shrimp and sea cucumbers. Dungeness crab was the most lucrative for fishers ($38 million) followed by Pacific oysters ($19.8 million) and geoducks ($19.2 million).
If the total value of the catch is calculated as 2.1 times the ex-vessel value of the catch - in the form of fishing wages and income spent on other residents' products and services - the economic impact of the 2001 commercial fishery in Washington state was $294 million.
Mack Funk, manager of the Port of Ilwaco, echoes others on the importance of commercial fishing on related businesses such as his own. Fishing, despite its contraction in recent years, is still the backbone of Ilwaco.
Last year 11,450 tons of sardines worth an estimated $1.1million were landed at Ilwaco. The fishery provided a couple of hundred jobs for Ilwaco residents with seasonal jobs at Marchand's fish processing business - no small thing in a town whose total population is 950.
"The key for the commercial fishing industry will to be remain flexible to new opportunities," Marchand said. "What we do today we may not do tomorrow, and what we do tomorrow, we may not do the next day."