Remaining a Boat Haven

Commercial Fishing Decline

Squalicum Harbor has increasingly transformed from a thriving fishing haven into a commercial center. As commercial fishers have left the marina, recreational charter boats have increasingly taken their place. Since the 1970s, commercial fishing licenses have dropped from over 3,200 to only 155 licenses for 50 working boats. Today, Squalicum Harbor contains 1,417 moorage slips for both fishing and pleasure boats.

Reasons for Decline

Although there is no single factor to account for why commercial fishing has declined since the 1970s, key changes are worth mentioning. The 1974 Boldt decision, which rectified more than a century of Washington State’s refusals to uphold its treaty promises to its natives, required that half of all salmon caught in the State of Washington be reserved for the state’s native populations.

The Boldt decision indeed signaled a decline in non-tribal fishing. The state issued a total of 3,261 commercial fishing licenses for fishing trollers in 1974; only 155 trolling licenses were issued and 50 working fishing boats were estimated in 2004. However, a myriad of other factors have probably played a much more significant role than the decision. Human population growth, pollution, destruction of habitats, dams, and overfishing have all significantly reduced the viability of commercial fishing in the State of Washington.

Fishermen Memorials

A memorial to Bellingham’s fishermen who went to sea “in pursuit of their livelihood, never to return” now stands at Zuanich Point Park at Squalicum Harbor. Development of the memorial began in 1974 by the Puget Sound Gillnetters Women’s Auxiliary. The memorial started as a wooden panel engraved with the names of those Bellingham fishermen who lost their lives at sea. A large, historic anchor was later added to the site. According to local legend, the anchor got caught in a local fisherman’s nets and, due its weight, substantially damaged both his boat and his fishing equipment. To pay for the damage, he approached Tom Glenn and offered to sell it for $2,500. Tom Glenn accepted the agreement. Later tests revealed that the anchor was probably brought to the area sometime in the early 1800s by Bellingham’s first English explorers.

Safe Return

On May 31, 1999, a new, larger monument entitled “Safe Return” was dedicated at the opposite end of Zuanich Point Park.
Next: Tom Glenn Spit and Bellwether on the Bay