OLYMPIA - The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will take public comment on a proposed plan to restructure salmon and sturgeon fisheries on the lower Columbia River at a meeting Dec. 14-15 in Olympia.
In addition, the commission will take action on new options proposed for allocating the Puget Sound shrimp catch and a proposed update to rules for compensating commercial livestock owners who lose livestock to bears, cougars and wolves.
The commission, a nine-member citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), will convene at 8:30 a.m. both days at the Comfort Inn Conference Center in Tumwater, 1620 74th Ave. SW.
A complete agenda for the meeting is available on the commission's webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/meetings/2012/.
In mid-November, a work group made up of representatives from Washington and Oregon developed a set of recommendations to restructure salmon and sturgeon fisheries in the lower Columbia River. The work group - assembled at the request of Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber - included members from each state's fish and wildlife commissions.
At the upcoming meeting, WDFW staff will brief the Washington commission on the recommendations and their implications for Columbia River fisheries. The commission will then take public comments on those recommendations, which are posted on WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/fisheries/lower_columbia/.
Key provisions of the proposed plan, "Management Strategies for Columbia River Recreational and Commercial Fisheries: 2013 and Beyond," include:
- Prioritizing the recreational fisheries in the mainstem Columbia River and commercial fisheries in off-channel areas.
- Transitioning commercial fisheries remaining in the mainstem Columbia River to alternative gear, such as beach and purse seines.
- Phasing out the use of gillnets by non-tribal fishers in the mainstem by 2017, while maintaining the economic viability of the commercial fishery during and after the transition.
- Shifting a greater portion of current hatchery salmon releases to off-channel areas, and exploring options for expanding those areas for commercial fisheries.
- Gradually increasing the catch share of salmon for the sport fishery in the mainstem over the next four years and by 2017 providing 100 percent of the summer and mainstem spring chinook harvest to the sport fishery, while increasing spring chinook opportunity for the commercial fishery in the off-channel areas.
- Requiring sport anglers fishing for salmon and steelhead in the mainstem Columbia River and its tributaries to use barbless hooks beginning 2013.
- Considering catch-and-release only recreational fisheries for white sturgeon in the lower river, as well as Washington's coast and Puget Sound, to protect lower Columbia River-origin white sturgeon. Closing non-tribal commercial fisheries for white sturgeon in the lower river and coast also would be considered as part of this effort.
- Reviewing the plan during the transition to ensure objectives are being met. If necessary, changes will be made to meet the established objectives.
The commission also will discuss potential revisions to current policies that reflect the work group's recommendations. A timeline for additional review and final consideration of the revised policies also will be discussed at the meeting.
The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission approved a new management framework for Columbia River fisheries on Friday (Dec. 7).
On a separate issue, the Washington Fish and Wildlife commission will consider approving a new Puget Sound shrimp policy, along with a new management strategy for allocating the catch of spot shrimp between recreational and commercial fisheries. Those options are posted on the commission's website at http://goo.gl/c092L.
The commission will also take action on several changes proposed in state rules for compensating commercial livestock owners who lose livestock to large carnivores.
In other action, the commission will consider for approval several land transactions, including the purchase of nearly 162 acres in Pacific County to protect fish and wildlife habitat and ensure public access for fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing. The property will be managed as part of WDFW's Johns River Wildlife Area complex.