OLYMPIA - The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is seeking public comment through Jan. 9 on draft policies for managing Grays Harbor salmon and lower Columbia River white sturgeon populations.
The commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), extended public comment on the two policies during discussions at its public meeting Dec. 6-7 in Olympia.
Also during the meeting, the commission approved proposals by WDFW to purchase three properties to protect fish and wildlife habitat and provide public access for outdoor recreation.
State fishery managers have been working with a citizen committee and the public since October to develop the draft options for a new policy to address conservation and catch allocation for Grays Harbor salmon fisheries.
The goal of the policy is to ensure spawning goals are met for wild salmon returning to the basin and to give anglers and commercial fishers a clearer picture of what fishing opportunities they can expect each year.
The draft policy options are available on WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/fisheries/grays_harbor_salmon/. The website includes information provided during recent public meetings, along with the dates and times of two additional public meetings scheduled in January.
Written comments on the draft policy may be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Ron Warren, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091.
Key principles of the draft policy include:
- Promoting the conservation and restoration of salmon and steelhead by working with partners, such as the Regional Fishery Enhancement Groups, to protect and restore habitat productivity, implement hatchery reform, and manage fisheries consistent with conservation objectives.
- Developing fishing opportunities that are fairly distributed across fishing areas and reflect the diverse interests of fishers.
- Structuring recreational and WDFW-managed commercial fisheries to minimize conflicts between the two gear types.
- Seeking to enhance the overall economic well-being and stability of Grays Harbor Basin fisheries.
- Ensuring salmon management is well documented, transparent, well communicated, and accountable.
The commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the draft policy during its January meeting in Olympia. The commission is scheduled to make a final decision on the policy at its February meeting in Olympia.
Also at the February meeting, the commission is scheduled to make a final decision on the draft policy for managing lower Columbia River white sturgeon. A public hearing will be held on the draft policy in January.
During its December meeting, the commission was briefed on proposed revisions to that policy. The minor revisions are designed to ensure that the policy applies whether fisheries are open or closed to the retention of white sturgeon.
Those changes do not affect current regulations, including a rule beginning Jan. 1 that requires anglers to release all white sturgeon in the lower Columbia River below Bonneville Dam, the Washington coast, Puget Sound and their tributaries. However, catch-and-release fishing for the species will be allowed in those areas.
The draft sturgeon policy is available on WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/policies/c3001_draft120913.pdf.
Written comments on the draft sturgeon policy may be submitted to email@example.com or mailed to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, 600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091.
In other action, the commission approved three land transactions, including the purchase of 2,639 acres in Asotin County, 640 acres in Kittitas County and just over two acres in Mason County.
The property in Asotin County - located 22 miles southwest of Anatone - contains important habitat for a variety of fish and wildlife species, including steelhead, bull trout, deer, elk and bighorn sheep. Once the sale is completed, the property will become part of WDFW's Blue Mountain Wildlife Area.
The 640-acre property in Kittitas County is located near Cle Elum and provides critical habitat for fish and wildlife, including northern spotted owls, bull trout and other federally protected species. This property will become part of WDFW's L.T. Murray Wildlife Area.
The smaller property in Mason County is located just south of Belfair and provides important habitat for fish, shellfish and waterfowl. The property will become part of the department's South Puget Sound Wildlife Area.
More information about the land transactions is available on the commission's webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/meetings/2013/12/dec0613_05_summary.pdf.