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Long-Time Local Fish & Rivers Advocate Passes Away

ZekeGraderZeke Grader, a legendary defender of fish, fishing communities, the Bay-Delta Estuary and the public trust, passed away Monday night.

The Executive Director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations (PCFFA), Zeke was one of one of the most quotable and witty people I have ever met. I spent many, many hours in meetings, conferences, protests and rallies with him - and he would always come up with the best quote summarizing what happened.

In 2007 when the "marine protected areas" created under the controversial MLPA Initiative went into effect on the Central Coast, Glen Martin, then writing for the San Francisco Chronicle, published one of the most memorable quotes that Zeke ever made:

"For (the reserves) to work, they have to be integrated with a strong water-quality policy," Grader said. "By themselves, the reserves will afford about as much protection to fisheries as the Maginot Line did for the French in (World War II)."

Whenever I wanted to get a good quote for a story, I would call Zeke. One of his best quotes was in 2006 when the Bush administration was trying to close down the salmon season in a cynical move to allegedly “protect” the Klamath River.

Zeke famously 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.”

In Zeke’s appearance on the Sean Hannity Show in 2009, he slammed Hannity and the subsidized corporate mega-growers for blaming the Delta smelt for water cuts during a drought.

Zeke said, “Sean, I think what you have to realize is we’re not just talking about the Delta smelt – we’re also talking about salmon. These salmon are food – they provide jobs for people. You need to come up and provide some balance here. I want you come up to the North Coast, the place where I’m from, Fort Bragg, not one of your studios, Sean. You come up to Eureka and visit with the unemployed fishermen there and give this some balance. Because let me tell you – the Delta smelt did not cause the problem with those farmers.”

Upon hearing of the news of Zeke's death, Restore the Delta announced: "It is with a very heavy heart that we share with our followers the passing of Zeke Grader. Zeke, the Executive Director for Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, was a 40-year leader dedicated to protecting the Bay-Delta estuary, Northern California rivers, fisheries, coastal communities, and fishermen. He was brilliant, kind, brave, and always morally centered. Working with him was a complete honor. He will be missed."

“You would probably not be eating a wild California salmon today if it were not for Zeke,” Tim Sloane, the executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations who replaced Zeke this spring, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “He was not afraid of speaking truth to power. He wasn’t afraid of anyone.”

I completely agree with Sloane and Restore the Delta. All of us who care about salmon, fish, the oceans, wild rivers, the Bay-Delta Estuary, the public trust and environmental justice will really miss Zeke.

Zeke was also a steadfast defender of Klamath and Trinity River restoration. Zeke's PCFFA and the Institute for Fisheries Resources recently joined the Hoopa Valley and Yurok Tribes as intervenors for the defendant, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and the U.S. Department of Interior, in the successful legal battle to stop the San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority and Westlands Water District from blocking higher supplemental flows from Trinity Reservoir being currently released to stop a fish kill on the lower Klamath River.

Zeke died at the age of 68 from pancreatic cancer at a San Francisco hospice.

He is survived by his wife, Sausalito attorney Lois Prentice. At his request, there will be no funeral. Plans for a memorial service are pending.

Below is the link to Zeke's obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle, followed by a link to my report on the event held to honor Zeke Grader in Sausalito in April as he was battling cancer. I'm glad that hundreds of people turned out to honor Zeke and his family at that gathering.

San Francisco Chronicle obituary:

Report on Sausalito gathering to honor Zeke:

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