A long-time professional fishing guide who attempted to conceal the fact that he had killed two protected wild salmon was fined $7,500 today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma for violating the Endangered Species Act, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes.
Billy Swann, 52, owner and operator of Swanny’s Guided Fishing service which operates on the Lower Columbia and Cowlitz rivers, pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge last year. At the sentencing hearing Magistrate Judge Karen Strombom described his conduct as “shocking” and told him, “You had a responsibility and you failed miserably at it.”
“With so many putting so much into bringing back our cherished wild salmon runs in the Pacific Northwest, this conduct is particularly offensive,” said U. S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “A salmon fishing guide who makes his living off our natural resources should have respected the rules that are meant to ensure those resources will always be there for all of us. The fact that he was willing to ignore those rules knowing others were watching makes his conduct all the more troubling.”
According to records filed in the case, on October 1, 2014 Swann led a promotional fishing trip on the Cowlitz River with the top salespeople from a national fishing bait company. The trip was being broadcast over the internet. Swann encouraged two men on the trip to catch two native Coho salmon.
Native Coho on the Cowlitz are protected by the Endangered Species Act and Washington law, and may not be removed from the water. After the clients landed the fish, Swann clubbed both of them and then cut off the adipose fins on each fish to make it appear they were hatchery fish and therefore legal to catch and keep. However, the catching and clubbing of the wild and protected fish was caught on the web broadcast, and the illegal conduct was reported to the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife. When contacted by authorities, Swann first lied about the conduct saying the photos of the fish with the adipose fin still intact could have been ‘photo-shopped’.
“NOAA Fisheries has worked hard to rebuild the salmon population in the Pacific Northwest,” said Samuel D. Rauch III, acting assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries. “This kind of illegal action by a guide, who should be setting an example, undermines the progress we’ve made in restoring salmon and squanders an invaluable resource that belongs to all of us.”
The case was investigated by the NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement with assistance from the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife – Police.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Seth Wilkinson.