OLYMPIA – The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has approved a new three-year management policy for Columbia River sturgeon that maintains annual catch guidelines at current levels while providing additional protection for spawning fish.
The new policy, adopted Dec. 3, one day after similar plan was approved by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission, caps the annual catch of white sturgeon by Washington’s non-tribal fisheries at 40,000 fish, the same level in effect since 1997.
Catch allocation formulas also will remain the same, earmarking 80 percent of the harvest for both states’ sport fisheries and 20 percent for commercial fisheries. Sixty percent of the sport harvest will be allocated to anglers fishing in river estuary, downstream from the Wauna power line near Cathlamet.
One management change endorsed by both states creates a new sturgeon spawning sanctuary extending from McNary Dam downstream to the Highway 82 Bridge. Starting next year, sturgeon fishing will be prohibited on that stretch of the Columbia River from May 1 through July 31 to protect large, breeding sturgeon, some measuring more than 10 feet long.
The Washington commission also authorized Jeff Koenings, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), to work with his counterpart in Oregon to expand the existing spawning sanctuary below Bonneville Dam.
“Current data indicates that the white sturgeon population in the lower Columbia River is healthy and stable,” said Ron Ozment, chairman of the Washington commission. “We are determined to keep it that way, while also working to increase the abundance of white sturgeon upriver from Bonneville Dam.”
The commission also directed WDFW to examine ways to provide additional protection for green sturgeon, which are currently under consideration for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Ozment noted that the commission took action on the new sturgeon policy after reviewing comments received by fishers and others at a series of public meetings held in southwest Washington in October and November.
In other action at its Dec. 1-2 meeting, the commission:
- Extended the current 9.5 percent transaction fee for recreational fishing, hunting and other types of licenses and permits issued by WDFW through June 30, 2007.
- Banned the importation of dead moose into Washington from the list of states and provinces with chronic wasting disease, and added New York, West Virginia and Alberta to that list.
- Increased the number of mountain goat raffles from one to two.
- Authorized spring bear hunts in the Blue Mountains in southeast Washington, the Capitol Forest near Olympia and on land owned by Hancock Forest Management near Mount Rainier.
- Relinquished an easement for a three-quarter-mile fishway on the Klickitat River to the Yakama Nation.
- Merged Game Management Unit (GMU) 558 with the Lewis River unit (GMU 560) and created five new deer-management areas on islands in San Juan, Island, King and Pierce counties.
Commissioners also received briefings on a variety of other issues, including progress on plans to remove the Elwha Dam near Port Angeles, efforts to combat spartina and other invasive species, and the coastal sardine fishery.