Executive Director

Riley Starks

Executive Director

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.

Board of Directors

Larry Mellum

President

I was born in Eugene, Oregon. I was always active in sports, playing football in college at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon where I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business & Administrative Studies (‘72). Earlier on I developed an interest in entrepreneurship which led me into the restaurant world. I managed several restaurant concepts, eventually becoming vice president of operations for the Red Robin chain—opening many of their restaurants around the country. This led me to opening my own restaurant, first as a partner in Webster’s, Charlestown St. Café in West Seattle before embarking on my own at Pike Place Chowder in 2003.

Pike Place Chowder has been my life for the past eighteen years. It has been an extraordinary journey where we have won countless awards, accolades and recognition from people, news agencies and organizations from around the country and the world.

The work in my seafood restaurant led me again in a new direction, to give back to this region that has meant so much, the Puget Sound—our Salish Sea. The seafood coming from these waters have given us everything and now needs our help. Over the decades that I have lived here, I’ve seen the population grow exponentially, this growth and the industrial development coming with it significantly impacts these pristine waters and the sea creatures that call this home. Our southern resident orcas are starving because the salmon population they rely upon for food is in sharp decline. Our salmon population is in decline due to overfishing, salmon habitat degradation, dams blocking salmon passageway, forage fish that are nowhere to be found. The list goes on.

A few years ago, I met Riley Starks, Executive Director of Salish Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to revitalizing the Salish Sea. Salish Center is working to rebuild reef-net fisheries and all sustainable salmon fishing practices. Working to highlight the salmon, halibut and shellfish sustainably harvested here with medallions stating they are Salish Sea Certified. Working with organization to fund habitat protection and restoration for our salmon and the forage fish they depend on for their own survival. Working on CO-2 sequestration through seaweed farming.

When I met Riley, he told me that all is not lost yet. Through strong political will and good management practices we have a history of being able to bring things back from the brink. We can do the same with salmon and in doing so create, again, a sustainable salmon fishery that will support the survival of our southern resident orcas.

Daisy Berg

Secretary

Daisy is the Seafood Program & Category Manager for New Seasons Market in Portland and Seattle and New Leaf Community Markets in Northern California. Her history in the seafood industry runs deep, starting at the early age of 9 in her family’s seafood business, Nantucket Shoals New Mexico. Her father supplied fresh seafood to high-end restaurants in the Albuquerque area and later opened several seafood markets. Daisy spent a few years in Atlanta, working with a small distributor specializing in sushi grade tuna, before relocating to the Pacific Northwest. There she joined the New Seasons team in 2006 and has overseen the seafood program since 2013, sourcing and building relationships with small, local, eco-safe fishing and farming operations. Daisy’s commitment to sustainable fisheries extends beyond New Seasons and New Leaf; she serves on the Fisheries Advisory Council (FAC) for Fair Trade Seafood and sits on the board of the Salish Center for Sustainable Fishing Methods.​ Daisy enjoys fishing, jumping into cold bodies of water, surfing (newbie) and running in the forest with her rescue pup Kodi.

John Upton

Treasurer

John Upton is a native of the Upper Peninsula of  Michigan. Growing up, John spent summers in rural coastal Alaska, where he developed a lifelong passion for understanding the life cycles and habitat of Pacific Salmon.  

John attended Oberlin College, majoring in English Literature. Since college, he has founded and managed multiple businesses focused on responsibly producing commodities and natural resources, including commercial fishing and merchant environmental initiatives.

Currently, John is focused on expanding the awareness and practice of sustainable fishing and crabbing methods in the Pacific Northwest and Southeast Alaska, while at the same time working to grow the commercial market for the ultra premium fish and crab product that is the result of these practices.

John splits his time between Ft. Worth, Texas and Southeast Alaska.

Lucas Kinley

Lucas Kinley is a member of the Lummi Tribal Nation, and he has been a Commercial Fisher all of his life; following in the footsteps of his father, Larry Kinley, who died in 2018. Larry was a larger-than-life Lummi leader who is still an inspiration to tribal peoples up and down the West Coast. Lucas hopes to be as good a fisherman as his grandfather, legendary Fisher Francis ‘Goog’ Kinley.

For the past two years, Lucas has worked to reclaim his tribes heritage of reefnet fishing.