RIDGEFIELD – A Klickitat County Superior Court judge has sentenced a Columbia River tribal fisherman to four months in jail and fined him $1,050 for illegally selling sturgeon and chinook salmon, concluding a case sparked by a tip to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
Donnell Frank, 46, of Portland, Ore., pleaded guilty to three felony counts of unlawful fish trafficking and was sentenced March 19 by Judge Randall Krog.
WDFW Capt. Paul Golden, who heads the department’s statewide investigative unit, said the case began in the spring of 2015, when officers received a tip that one of Frank’s associates was illegally trafficking fish and wildlife.
WDFW Capt. Jeff Wickersham, who heads the department’s southwest Washington enforcement office, said the investigation revealed that Frank illegally sold two wild chinook salmon and five sturgeon, including one that was less than legal size.
Wickersham said Frank caught all of the fish during tribal subsistence fisheries, when commercial sales were prohibited. He said Frank made multiple sales of up to $500 per transaction during 2015 and 2016, primarily out of the back of his vehicle in Goldendale.
Columbia River fisheries are highly regulated to ensure conservation and resource sharing objectives are met, Wickersham said. Populations of harvestable-size sturgeon between Bonneville and McNary dams – the stretch of river where Frank caught the fish – have generally declined in recent years, and both hatchery and federally protected salmon and steelhead are present in that area.
“Salmon and sturgeon have significant economic and cultural importance to people and communities throughout the state,” Wickersham said. “Black-market activities like these tend to increase poaching and undermine efforts to recover endangered stocks.”