WDFW will pay two former commercial fishermen $130,000 to resolve a 2010 federal lawsuit.
This morning, Director Jim Unsworth is briefing the Fish & Wildlife Commission on the settlement, which stems from a 2007 traffic stop by state fish and wildlife officers.
A letter from him to the citizen panel says, “The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that WDFW violated the constitutional rights of Alex and Matthew Tarabochia. We have settled with the Tarachochias, agreeing to pay them $130,000.”
With that, WDFW considers the case over, and according to Unsworth, the agency’s enforcement division “has revised its operations to ensure the issues raised in the case do not recur.”
The traffic stop occurred March 23 in Wahkiakum County near Skamokawa because officers wished to inspect the Tarabochias’ salmon and the fishing records of the brothers, their father Joe, and another brother, Bryan.
After a slow-speed chase, a standoff ensued until a sheriff’s deputy arrived.
The Tarabochias later filed a lawsuit over the incident. It was dismissed in 2011, but then reinstated by the federal court in 2014.
While the Tarabochias claimed they were targeted, WDFW Chief Steve Crown says contacts with game wardens come with the territory of being a commercial fisherman.
“There’s high dollars, high stakes,” he told KUOW, which this morning broke news of the settlement. “When you’re engaged in commercial fishing practices you can have huge impacts on a particular species of fish and they know that.”
Crown also told the radio station, “We’ve told our officers, ‘Hey, don’t make those kinds of traffic stops unless you have reasonable suspicion to do so.'”