The state says it won't fine salmon fisherman Pete Knutson for his 2-ounce oil spill at Shilshole.

Share story

The state Department of Ecology has backed off its plans to fine a local salmon fisherman for a 2-ounce oil spill.

The state announced Thursday it is issuing a warning but no penalties to Pete Knutson, whose boat Njord leaked an estimated quarter-cup of hydraulic oil into Shilshole marina in November.

Knutson went public this week with the story, calling it overkill that both the federal and state governments were spending time and money investigating such a tiny leak of oil.

Though all spills are illegal, no matter how small, records show the state typically assesses fines when spill amounts are in the gallons, or when clear negligence is shown.

A number of readers responded to my Wednesday column by calculating that if Knutson were to be fined at a per-gallon rate comparable to other recent spills, he would owe the state only about 25 cents.

“We believe that this warning letter is the most appropriate action for this particular incident,” the Ecology Department wrote Knutson on Thursday, closing its case.

Knutson still faces a $250 fine from the Coast Guard.

Danny Westneat’s column appears Wednesday and Sunday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or