Sep 11 2015

Zeke Grader, Lifetime Advocate for Fish and Fishermen, Died at 68

 

Zeke Grader, who was born into the fishing industry, spent a lifetime representing fishermen and was a staunch advocate for sustainable seafood, died Monday of pancreatic cancer at a San Francisco hospice. The longtime Sausalito resident was 68.

For almost 40 years, Mr. Grader served as executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, the largest trade group of commercial fishermen on the West Coast. He retired this summer. Since 1992, he had also been executive director of the Institute for Fisheries Resources.

“There are a lot of guys who would say that there wouldn’t have been any small boat commercial salmon fishermen for 20 years at least if not for Zeke Grader,” said Tim Sloane, who took over Grader’s post as head of the Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. “He built bridges between fishermen, policy folks, environmentalists and the scientific community. His ability to unite people around preserving the fisheries was unmatched.”

The son of a Fort Bragg fish broker, Mr. Grader was an early advocate of seafood sustainability, and was particularly passionate about protecting wild salmon.

“I think it was not so much a conscious decision of wanting to be a conservationist or an environmentalist; it was simply an economic necessity,” he once said in an interview with the Seafood Choices Alliance. “It was pretty clear to myself and a number of others that it didn’t matter what government or others did. If you didn’t have fish, you didn’t have fishing.”

At a tribute to Mr. Grader at the Bay Model in Sausalito in April, Rep. Jared Huffman recalled Mr. Grader’s 2009 appearance on Sean Hannity’s conservative Fox News show. Hannity argued on behalf of government-subsidized fish farmers while Mr. Grader spoke forcefully for North Coast commercial fishermen.

“Sean Hannity barely got a word in,” Huffman told the amused gathering.

The congressman also commended Mr. Grader for helping stop the expansion of offshore oil drilling on the North Coast and for his role in the legal action to restore the San Joaquin River.

Former congressman and secretary of state Leon Panetta spoke in a video tribute. In his blog, Lee Crockett of the Pew Charitable Trust quoted Panetta as saying, “If our oceans are the salt in our veins, Zeke Grader is the fire in our spirit.”

Environmental journalist Dan Bacher wrote in the liberal political blog the Daily Kos that Mr. Grader “was one of the most quotable and witty people I’ve ever met.” He recalled his trenchant response to a 2006 federal government attempt to close the North Coast salmon season, ostensibly to protect the Klamath River.

Bacher wrote:“Zeke pointed out that without efforts to address the root causes of the salmon fishery’s decline, ‘Putting fish back into a river that’s killing them makes as much sense as tossing virgins into a volcano.”

Mr. Grader’s wife of 40 years, Sausalito attorney Lois Prentice, said that her husband was tireless in his efforts to protect the world’s oceans and rivers. Before he became ill, she said, “He was working on forming a worldwide organization for fisheries, to fight for clean water and against pollution. As a result, it would have a lot of clout and get a lot more done.”

A Marine Corps veteran, Mr. Grader was a graduate of Sonoma State University and earned a law degree from the University of San Francisco.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by his mother, Geraldine Grader of Fort Bragg, sisters Allison Grader of Reston, Virginia, and Lindsay Grader of Sacramento, and a brother, Samuel Grader of Fort Bragg.

A memorial is being planned.

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