OCEAN SHORES–Booming waterfowl populations will mean strong hunting opportunities in the 1999-2000 season, under hunting rules adopted last weekend by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission.
In other action the commission, which convened here for its regularly scheduled meeting, also:
- Tabled a proposal to adopt a revised Puget Sound crab and shrimp fisheries policy which would specifically allocate recreational and commercial fishing opportunity in six regions of the Sound. The commission asked WDFW staff to work with constituent groups and advisory boards to develop a revised policy. About a dozen commercial fishing representatives objected to provisions in the draft policy that would have designated some areas of the Sound exclusively for sport fishers.
- Adopted a rule requiring recreational Dungeness crab fishers to keep a catch record card beginning next April 1.
- Adopted revised management objectives for coastal Dungeness crab fishing to respond to 1994 state legislation aimed at spreading harvest more evenly over the season.
- Adopted general guidelines which will be used to develop the 2000-2002 hunting rules package.
The favorable waterfowl hunting prospects are a result of healthy waterfowl populations, which are above long-term averages and for some species, such as mallards, are at record highs. Favorable weather and better habitat conditions in both the United States and Canada likely are helping the birds, Don Kraege, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife waterfowl section manager, told the commission.
That good news means the state can continue the maximum 107-day waterfowl hunting season allowed under federal rules. Hunting will run statewide from Oct. 9-20 and Oct. 22 -Jan. 23. A one-day Oct. 21 closure was set to allow hunting to begin on a Saturday and end on a Sunday, while adhering to federal season-length limits. A one- day youth hunt will be held Sept. 25.
Brant hunting will be increased to nine days from five, but is set below federal limits because brant populations still fall short of state management objectives, Kraege said.
Meanwhile, the commission heard a summary of a recent independent scientific panel review of WDFW's brant management strategy. The panel's draft report supported WDFW's two North Puget Sound brant reserves. The commission adopted WDFW proposals, based on panel recommendations, that will reduce the size of the Bayview brant reserve and extend hunting days for other waterfowl species on that reserve. Still under consideration are other panel recommendations, including a possible shift in future brant hunting seasons to late February to better protect gray- bellied brant, the weaker of two types of brant which reside in the state.
The state could not shift future brant hunting seasons without first obtaining approval from the Pacific Flyway Council and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Kraege said.
Hunters should consult the WDFW Migratory Waterfowl Game Season pamphlet, available in September, for specific details on waterfowl hunting rules, including bag limits.