OLYMPIA – Anglers, commercial fishers and others interested in Washington state salmon fisheries can get a preview of this year's salmon returns and potential fishing seasons at a public meeting Feb. 28 in Olympia.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will present initial forecasts compiled by state and tribal biologists of 2017 salmon returns. The meeting is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the auditorium of the General Administration Building, 210 11th Ave. SW, in Olympia.
This meeting is one of many opportunities to participate during the 2017 season-setting process, said Ron Warren, head of WDFW's fish program. Throughout the process, WDFW will seek input at various public meetings, via an online commenting tool and through advisory groups.
"The public plays an important role in shaping salmon fisheries across the state each year," Warren said. "We encourage people to participate either by attending one of the many public meetings or by providing comments online."
A schedule of meetings is available on WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/
The annual process of setting salmon fishing seasons is called "North of Falcon" and is held in conjunction with public meetings conducted by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC). The council is responsible for establishing fishing seasons in ocean water three to 200 miles off the Pacific coast. North of Falcon typically takes place in March and April.
"Last year, negotiations went into overtime, which delayed recreational salmon fisheries around Puget Sound," Warren said. "To avoid a repeat, we've been communicating earlier and more frequently with our tribal co-managers and have been working together to make North of Falcon more efficient."
This year, state and tribal fish managers started preliminary discussions earlier than in previous years in an effort to ensure they reach agreement on 2017 salmon fisheries on time – during the PFMC meeting, scheduled April 6-11 in Sacramento, Calif.
State and tribal fish managers are committed to improving the season-setting process, but reaching an agreement on salmon seasons can be challenging, Warren said.
"It's important that we work together as co-managers in order to meet conservation objectives and to provide as many opportunities as possible," Warren said.
More information about the annual salmon-season setting process can be found on WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/