Zeke Grader, Champion of Salmon Fishermen, Ocean Conservation, Passes Away

For Immediate Release:  September 9, 2015
Contact:  Michael Coats, 707-935-6203


Zeke Grader, Champion of Salmon Fishermen, Ocean Conservation, Passes Away

San Francisco, CA  —  It’s with great sadness that the Golden Gate Salmon Association marks the passing of salmon champion Zeke Grader. Zeke was a GGSA board member as well as the executive director for 39 years of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, the group representing commercial salmon fishermen on the west coast.

Zeke grew up working in a seafood family business in Ft. Bragg, on the Mendocino coast. His loyalty to his roots and the fishermen who were his friends, neighbors, and community, stayed with him all of his days.

Zeke came from a hybrid family, part sea food oriented and part political.  In addition to running the seafood business, Zeke’s dad served in Sacramento as undersecretary for natural resources in the 1960’s.  Early on Zeke learned his way around the halls of the capitol and the politics in his blood drove him to get a law degree.  He worked for the family seafood business in Sausalito before agreeing to take the helm at the newly formed PCFFA.

He was loyal to fishermen for making a clean living based on hard work and for providing the best natural food California has to offer.  He had a deep respect for fishermen’s ability to survive and succeed working on the ocean.

During his 39 years leading PCFFA, Zeke might best be remembered for the bridges he built between the fishing and environmental community based on his belief that at the end of the day, both valued healthy, sustainable fisheries, a clean ocean, and intact freshwater, land-based habitat needed by salmon.  He viewed the health of salmon as an indicator of the health of our rivers, streams and the Bay Delta.

GGSA executive director John McManus said, “In addition to being a central figure in keeping California salmon alive from the 1980’s until now, Zeke was a great mentor, friend, and sound advisor. In working to protect freshwater salmon habitat in California, and the fishing communities whose lives hang in the balance, Zeke was up against the biggest, wealthiest, most politically connected adversaries the state has probably ever known. He never flinched.”

After federal Endangered Species Act protections were extended to California winter run salmon in the early 1990’s, Zeke and PCFFA took a leading role in getting ESA protections for other west coast salmon runs.  He almost single handedly reframed the “fish versus farmers” debate to a jobs versus jobs debate.

Zeke also led the effort to establish a state program to double anadromous fish populations.  That goal was subsequently adopted as the State Water Board Bay-Delta salmon doubling requirement, as well as in the federal Central Valley Project Improvement Act, the most important water policy reform legislation ever passed by Congress.  Ultimately, the ESA and the CVPIA each required flow improvements to protect salmon. Zeke spent the rest of his career defending water set aside to protect salmon.

“Salmon fishermen owe a lot to Zeke Grader,” said Captain Roger Thomas, a GGSA board member and president of the Golden Gate Fishermen’s Association, an organization representing charter boats.  “Zeke was a real asset to our fishing community. He was deeply involved in the fishery conservation and habitat issues that enhance our fishery and kept us all working.”

GGSA secretary Dick Pool said, “I always admired Zeke for broadening the scope of the people we were working with, including teaming with environmental groups.  We would have lost many more of the early year efforts to conserve salmon without Zeke who was more tuned in than many of us to what was going on.”

GGSA founder Victor Gonella said, “Zeke Grader’s life centered on fairness for fishermen as well as promotion of conservation and sustainable fishing.  We have lost a strong voice in support of salmon habitat and restoration.  His wit and leadership will be missed.”

Zeke, thank you for everything you did to keep salmon and salmon communities alive in California during your time.