Guide fined for cutting fins off wild coho

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TACOMA — A Western Washington fishing guide has been fined $7,500 in U.S. District Court for violating the federal Endangered Species Act in a 2014 incident on the Cowlitz River.

Billy Swann, 52, owner and operator of Swanny’s Guided Fishing, pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge in 2016.

Swann encouraged two customers to land wild coho, which he clubbed and then cut off the adipose fins on each to make it appear they were hatchery-origin fish and legal to keep, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Swann led a promotional fishing trip on the Cowlitz River with sales people from a national fishing bait company. The trip was broadcast over the internet.

The catching and clubbing of the wild coho was caught on the web broadcast and the illegal activity was reported to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

When authorities contacted Swann, he initially lied about the conduct and said the photos of the fish with the adipose fin still intact could have been manufactured by photography software.

“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,’’ said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “The fact that he was willing to ignore those rules knowing others were watching makes his conduct all the more troubling.”

The case was prosecuted by Seth Wilkinson, an assistant U.S. attorney.

“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,’’ said Samuel D. Rauch III, acting assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries.