There’s one longtime exhibitor you won’t see at the Seattle Boat Show this year.
Puget Soundkeeper Alliance (PSA) has been a regular at the show for a decade or so, occupying space provided at no cost by the Northwest Marine Trade Association (NMTA), which co-produces the show.
But things changed after the nonprofit environmental watchdog group sent intent to sue letters in December 2009 to five Seattle-area boatyards — four of them NMTA members — for alleged violations of the federal Clean Water Act.
A few weeks later, PSA appeared at the show as usual, its booth located just a few rows over from one of the boatyards it was threatening to sue. The organization’s presence outraged some exhibitors, who questioned why the NMTA was providing free space to an organization that was threatening to sue several of its members, who pay for exhibition space — an awkward situation, to say the least.
The five boatyards settled out of court last year with PSA, paying more than $77,000 in combined legal fees and a total of $6,000 to help fund two environmental projects.
NMTA President George Harris said he consequently “had a conversation”with PSA Executive Director Chris Wilke, who took over the organization after former director Bob Beckman abruptly left last July. Harris said he suggested it might be appropriate for PSA to skip this year’s show.
“I initiated the conversation and said I think would be the right year for PSA not to attend,” Harris said. “We agreed that it probably would be in the best interest of both organizations not to have them on display.”