OLYMPIA - The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission today voted to adopt a new state hatchery and fishery reform policy designed to accelerate recovery of wild salmon and steelhead while also supporting sustainable fisheries.
The new policy, which has been under review by the commission and the public since last spring, establishes guidelines for realigning state fisheries and hatchery programs to meet conservation and harvest goals for salmon and steelhead in each watershed.
The commission, a nine-member citizen panel that sets policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), based its guidelines on recommendations issued by a group of scientists created by Congress in 2000 to review Washington’s hatchery system, which is among the largest in the world.
The new policy is intended to provide clear direction for WDFW, which has already begun to incorporate recommendations by the independent Hatchery Scientific Review Group (HSRG) into its hatchery-management practices.
Key provisions of the new policy, available on the commission’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/commission, call on the department to:
- Increasingly focus state commercial and recreational fisheries on the harvest of abundant hatchery stocks to support sustainable fisheries and reduce the number of hatchery fish spawning in rivers.
- Develop and promote alternative fishing gear to maximize the catch of hatchery-origin fish with minimal mortality to native salmon and steelhead.
- Improve the fitness and viability of wild salmon and steelhead runs by working toward a goal of meeting HSRG broodstock standards in all state hatchery programs by 2015.
- Integrate hatchery-reform initiatives into comprehensive action plans designed to meet conservation and harvest goals for specific watersheds throughout the state.
The policy adopted by the commission also directs WDFW to seek necessary funding "from all potential sources" to implement these hatchery-reform measures, expand selective fisheries and ensure state facilities comply with standards for fish passage, water-intake screening and pollution control.
In other action, the commission approved the purchase of two properties spanning 175 acres of critical fish and wildlife habitat in Okanogan County. Those acquisitions, funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, will also improve recreational opportunities and access to the Methow Valley Wildlife Area.
In addition, the commission received a staff briefing on more than 100 rule-change proposals that would affect various freshwater and saltwater sport fisheries throughout the state, starting next year. The proposed changes are located on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/rule_proposals.
WDFW will accept written comments on the proposed rules through Dec. 1. Comments can be sent to the department via e-mail to Lori.Preuss@dfw.wa.gov or by regular mail to 600 Capitol Way N, Olympia WA 98504 or by FAX to (360) 902-2155 (attn: WDFW Rules Coordinator).
The commission will also accept testimony and written comments on the proposals during its Dec. 4-5 meeting in Olympia, before considering adoption of the rules in February 2010.
Tomorrow (Nov. 7), during the second day of a two-day meeting, the commission is scheduled to receive briefings from WDFW staff on:
- The status of a statewide wolf conservation and management plan.
- Proposed guidelines for responding to assertions of traditional tribal hunting areas.
- White sturgeon populations on the Columbia River.
The commission will also take public comment on a proposal to resolve land ownership and boundary issues associated with the Johnson/DeBay Slough Game Reserve.