After graduating from WWU in 1972, Riley Starks bought a fishing boat and has been a lifelong commercial fisherman. In 1992, after moving to Lummi Island where reefnet fishing saturated the community, he bought one of the 50 gears then deployed in Legoe Bay, and has fished there every summer, since.
During Riley’s years on Lummi Island, he built Nettles Farm, now a culinary B&B; co-founded Lummi Island Wild, a fish company; and, from 2001-2013, created the present iteration of the Willows Inn on Lummi Island.
In 2017 Riley founded the Salish Center for Sustainable Fishing Methods with the goal of continuing the educational work he has done since 2001, first through the Willows Inn and then through Lummi Island Wild, educating people about the reefnet fishing industry and the sustainability of the Salish Sea. Where once there were hundreds of tribal reefnet gears, there are now only 11 non-tribal reefnet gears, and 1 Lummi Nation gear operating in the Salish Sea. With such small numbers, serious outreach needs to be maintained or reefnet fishing may disappear altogether. Reefnet fishing and other selective methods are the past, but also the best hope for the future of Salish Sea salmon populations.