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WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE     Print Version
NEWS RELEASE
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091


April 20, 1999
Contact: Tim Waters, (360) 902-2262 or Margaret Ainscough (360) 902-2408

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Carefully crafted seasons, increased conservation keys to maintaining fishing opportunities

OLYMPIA—Carefully crafted seasons, coupled with innovative harvest techniques and stepped up enforcement will allow the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to provide fishing opportunities while protecting fragile wild fish, WDFW Director Jeff Koenings said today.

"We are trying innovative seasons to allow science based harvest consistent with (troubled) wild stock recovery," Koenings told reporters at a news conference.

Koenings emphasized that while harvest restrictions have been put in place, freshwater habitat improvements ultimately are the key to recovery efforts.

"Without making changes in freshwater habitat, further reducing or even eliminating harvest only delays extinction," Koenings said.

Koenings said this year's salmon season-setting process was "steeped in science." Seasons were set about two weeks ago in Sacramento, Calif., by the Pacific Fishery Management Council. Fish scientists from California, Oregon, Washington and the tribes, as well as the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, participated in the process.

Koenings explained to reporters that better management through increased stock assessment, closer monitoring of the harvest and stepped up enforcement should provide for increased conservation as well as innovative harvest opportunities.

Koenings also said the Department is hopeful that pending federal legislation could bring millions of dollars a year for new state wildlife viewing activities. In the meantime, the department is attempting to cover some maintenance costs at wildlife viewing access sites by re-instituting a parking decal requirement at those locations.

"Watchable wildlife in the state of Washington is a nearly 2.2 billion-dollar industry, supporting over 21,000 jobs, in spite of the fact it hasn't been promoted," Koenings said.

On other topics Koenings said:

  • The Department hopes to receive funding in the legislative budget process to restore 15-20 enforcement officer positions which were cut last year. Those restored enforcement positions are important to the monitoring required for salmon recovery including new selective fishing techniques for recreational and commercial fisheries.
  • Negotiations are continuing with Puget Sound tribes to extend mass marking of hatchery chinook beyond the South Sound area. The marking programs are important to distinguish hatchery fish from protected wild stocks and allow future selective fishing opportunities.
  • Sales of hunting and fishing licenses have picked up this month, after an earlier downturn in the first three months of the year.

Koenings, who was appointed director by the Fish and Wildlife Commission in January, also said he believes the Department is making significant strides in improving its business practices. Antiquated business practices contributed to a budget deficit last year that prompted lay offs and program cuts.

Chinook salmon sport fishing closures in Washington marine waters for
seasons from May 1, 1999 to April 30, 2000.

OCEAN SALMON
ILWACO to NEAH BAY
CHINOOK
1999 Quota - 50,000
1998 Quota - 10,000
COHO
1999 Quota - 130,000
1998 Quota - 16,000

CHINOOK:

  • Columbia River hatchery chinook runs increased five-fold over 1998 projections;
  • Impact rate on critical Columbia River stocks reduced from 1998 level

COHO:

  • Columbia River hatchery coho runs increased four-fold over 1998 projections;
  • Washington Coastal hatchery and wild runs at twice the 1998 forecasts;
  • Use of selective release of wild coho reduces harvest rates by about 80%;

STRAIT OF JUAN DE FUCA

NEAH BAY to PORT ANGELES
Summer Sport Season

1999 August 1 - September 30
1998 August 11 - September 7

  • Selective release of wild coho keeps total non-Indian harvest rates on wild stocks at or below 1998 levels, with more than double the season length;

  • Chinook release required as in 1998;

  • Chinook "savings" from closures during January through April help buffer potential increase in chinook encountered during coho season, keeping total harvest rates at sustainable levels.

SAN JUAN ISLANDS

Summer Sport Season

1999 July 1 - September 30
1998 August 1 - September 30

  • Stock composition estimates from 1998 showed contribution to sport fishery from critical chinook stocks was zero - Canadian stocks dominate in northern portion of Area 7;

  • Closed region extended in 1999 to cover entire southern portion of Area 7 (Rosario Strait west through Strait of Juan de Fuca);

  • Chinook "savings" from winter season closures keeps total harvest rates on critical stocks at or below sustainable fishing levels;

Commercial Sockeye & Pink Season

  • Stock composition estimates from 1998 showed contribution to net fishery from critical chinook stocks was zero - Canadian stocks comprise 84% of total catch;

  • Purse seiners required to release all chinook and coho - monitoring of fishery to limit "encounters" of chinook in Area 7 to not more than 2,500;

  • Gill netters catch of chinook limited to not more than 715;

  • Reef netters will evaluate potential of selective fishing for coho;

  • Shoreline closures required to keep chinook encounter rates low;

  • Log books required for all gears

HOOD CANAL, CENTRAL and SOUTHERN SOUND

  • Chinook "savings" from winter season closures keeps total harvest rates on critical stocks at or below sustainable fishing levels;

  • New restriction on use of downriggers and weights greater than 2-ounces is expected to reduce chinook hook-ups;

  • Expanded closures, including:

    • May in Area 11 (Tacoma)
    • Commencement Bay starting April 1 (from April 16)
    • Expansion of Lake Washington chinook closed area (north of Shilshole)
    • Expanded Elliott Bay closure prior to in-season abundance assessment;

  • Selective release of wild coho in Area 13 (Olympia to Fox Island)

  • New "Terminal Area" fisheries in Sinclair Inlet and Elliott Bay targeting abundant hatchery stocks;