Fishing interests unite at May 10 rally

May 13, 2022


Fishermen, seafood processors, marine suppliers, scientists, and members of multi-generational fishing families gathered in Coos Bay on Tuesday to send a unified message: protect U.S. fishermen.

Roughly 200 attendees representing West Coast states rallied in response to the recent announcement of call areas for offshore wind energy development off Oregon’s southern coast. Floating wind farms are also in various stages of discussion off of California and Washington, creating an existential threat for commercial fishermen who have fished those same waters for generations.

The event was also a celebration of Oregon’s seafood industry. On the Coos Bay boardwalk, one of the event organizers, Heather Mann from Midwater Trawlers Cooperative, reminded the crowd, “This is about all of us, all of you, who contribute to a way of life in Oregon that cannot be matched, and that is the commercial fishing industry, commercial fishing families. and all we contribute to local economies up and down the coast.”

Rallying the crowd were a variety of speakers, including  Lori Steele, of West Coast Seafood Processors; Mike Okoniewski, of Pacific Seafood; Kurt Englund, from Englund Marine Supply; Steve Godin from Oregon Coast Anglers; retired marine biologist Mike Graybill; Brian Blake, from Ocean Golds Seafood; Tim Novotny, from the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission; Scott McMullen, from Oregon Fishermen’s Cable Committee; and John Burns, a port commissioner from the Port of Coos Bay.

Several representatives of fishing boats also shared brief messages, including Justin Johnson (F/V Pegasus), Kelley Retherford (F/V Excalibur), Mike Retherford (F/V Coast Pride), Nick Edwards (F/V Carter John), Ty Cuttings (F/V Cape Foul Weather), and Rex Leach (F/V Miss Julie).

Johnson, a second-generation fisherman, urged the crowd to keep up the passion and momentum evidenced at the rally.

“They say history is written by those who show up and you all sure showed up today. Fishing families from eight months to 80 years old gathered here to defend their right to work and provide seafood for the world,” he said. “We must return to our hometowns with the same passion and recruit every man, woman and child to the fight for our way of life.”

Coos Bay fisherman of 43 years, Rex Leach, said his sons would take over the business someday, but only if there is a change to the offshore wind call areas.

“These call areas offshore here take up 70 percent of my fishing grounds. If these grounds go away forever, we’re pretty much toast,” he said. “It makes sense to push this stuff offshore, outside of our fishing grounds,” Leach added.

With a constant soundtrack of honking horns supporting those carrying signs of “SOS – Save Oregon Seafood” and “Fishermen = Food Security” – the rally marched to the Coos Bay Museum, where a seafood barbecue awaited them. On the way, they handed out flyers urging people to contact their elected officials at the federal and state levels to protest how the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is handling the issue.

“I think this was just the beginning of what people will see from an extremely motivated seafood industry,” Mann said afterward. “Different fisheries and parts of the industry have faced tough issues before, but something as wide-reaching and potentially devastating as 200 wind turbines twice the size of the Statue of Liberty in key fishing grounds is enough to unite us across all gear types, fisheries, and parts of the industry.”

For more information about the response to offshore wind development, visit


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 A sampling of the news coverage from this event: KCBY, Newport News Times,, Jefferson Public Radio, KLCC, KATU (ABC),, Saving Seafood, Oregon Beach Magazine







Jan. 16, 2023

By Rick Osborn, Oregon Coast Visitors Association

Buying local seafood promotes human rights.

TILLAMOOK – When consumers sit down for dinner, they don’t necessarily think about whether anyone was harmed in the making of their meals.

But in some cases, the seafood on our very plates carries the legacy of human rights abuses. Seafood imported from overseas has been linked to labor abuse, human trafficking and illegal fishing practices. Eating Oregon seafood is the best way to know that no one was purposely harmed to bring delicious foods to consumers’ plates.

A recent study commissioned by the Oregon Coast Visitors Association – the destination management organization serving the entire Oregon Coast from Washington to California – found shockingly that about 90 percent of the seafood consumed on the coast is imported from other distant domestic and international sources.

In 2021, nine of the 10 top countries importing seafood into Oregon are characterized as medium to high risks on the Global Slavery Index. Illegal seafood accounts for $2.4 billion (11 percent) of sales in 2019. In fact, Oregon’s top seafood importer – China – has ranked as the top country whose policies are contributing to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. An estimated 1,800 pounds of wild-caught fish are stolen from global seas every second due to these kinds of practices.

In response to these and other factors affecting the environment and Oregon coastal economy, OCVA has launched the Ocean Cluster Initiative. The initiative aims to help the Oregon Coast’s communities keep local seafood local in order to capture more economic and environmental value from the catch, as well as promote human rights.

“Respect for people of all countries and cultures as well as the ability to travel freely and safely are core values of tourism,” Oregon Coast Visitors Association Executive Director Marcus Hinz said. “Therefore, directing the purchasing power of our industry towards products and services which are in direct contradiction to our values makes no logical sense, particularly when we possess the ability to clearly differentiate high-quality Oregon seafood products from low-quality, imported seafood tainted by highly suspect human rights violations.”

According to a 2022 report by The Outlaw Ocean Project, cell phone videos were found dating back to 2014 that capture dramatically the murder of multiple deck hands onboard vessels in international waters. It has become well documented that in other countries individuals are often kidnapped and forced to work as slaves onboard vessels. One tuna long-liner, called the Indian Star, is owned by a Taiwanese company and flagged to Seychelles. It has a long history of violations, including forged licenses and fishing in forbidden areas. The captain of that boat was convicted and sentenced to 26 years in prison for ordering the killing of several deckhands.

A report by The New York Times published in September noted that many other countries’ fishermen and others are throwing false GPS coordinates to hide their actual locations. Chinese fishing fleets use technology to hide their operations in protected waters off South America. The same technology is used to conceal stops in Iranian oil ports, smuggling weapons and drugs and other illegal activities. With international waters seemingly operating as the “wild west,” one way to discourage such behaviors and eliminate human rights violations on the open sea is to be diligent about supporting Oregon seafood.

While Oregon’s top-quality products tend to be exported, the state imported about $105 million in seafood in 2021. In the meantime, Oregon Coast visitors spend about $840 million on food stores and food services annually, according to a 2019 Dean Runyan and Associates study. While a massive amount of locally sourced seafood is exported, it is replaced on visitors’ plates by internationally harvested seafood that may be linked to crimes. Buying local products discourages acts of piracy, human rights violations and a number of other crimes that have become rampant out on the international high seas. It also supports jobs right here in Oregon.

“Oregon’s fisheries are the lifeblood of our coastal and tourism economies – supporting jobs that families rely on and supplying communities across our state and around the world with exceptional products and experiences,” Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., said. “I’m thrilled the USDA has recognized the important work the Oregon Coast Visitors Association does for both Oregon’s fishing and aquaculture industry, as well as our great state’s tourism industry. The grant OCVA has received will support its important work, helping to establish and strengthen the much-needed infrastructure for our fisheries to efficiently operate and thrive, and help our tourism industry bounce back stronger than ever.”

For more information about the program, those interested can go online to