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.