OLYMPIA - The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has approved a new Grays Harbor salmon-management policy designed to conserve wild salmon runs and clarify catch guidelines for sport and commercial fisheries in the bay.
The commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), approved the new policy Feb. 8 during a public meeting in Tumwater.
Miranda Wecker, commission chair, said the new policy provides clear direction to make conservation of wild salmon the first priority for fishery management in the harbor.
"Most importantly, this policy sends a strong and unmistakable signal about the importance of meeting our conservation objectives, even if that means seriously reining in both sport and commercial fisheries," Wecker said. "It also represents a fair accommodation for both fisheries when harvestable numbers of fish are present."
The new policy includes provisions for state-managed fisheries that:
- Limit the total catch of wild chinook salmon to a maximum of 5 percent of the adult return if established spawning goals have not been met in three out of the previous five years.
- Prioritize the recreational fishery in allocating the chinook salmon catch between commercial and recreational users.
- Allow an increase in the base allocation of chinook salmon for commercial fisheries in years of high abundance.
- Structure commercial seasons so that recreational anglers have at least three consecutive days per week to fish when no commercial fisheries take place.
- Focus commercial fisheries on coho and chum salmon when harvestable numbers of fish exist.
Since last October, WDFW has held eight public meetings in Grays Harbor County to encourage public involvement in the development of the policy. More than 350 written comments were received on the draft policy during that time.
State fishery managers expect to post the final text of the new Grays Harbor Salmon Management Policy on WDFW's website (http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/fisheries/grays_harbor_salmon/) by mid-February.
In other business, the commission approved an updated policy for lower Columbia River sturgeon fisheries that includes technical amendments to the version approved in 2011 and extends the policy through 2018.
Updates to the policy do not affect the closure of retention fishing for sturgeon below Bonneville Dam due to conservation concerns. That closure remains in effect until further notice.
The commission also approved a proposal by WDFW to purchase two acres of uplands and tidelands at Lynch Cove in Mason County, where the department plans to provide parking and access to waterfowl hunting on Hood Canal. The project will also provide a migratory pathway for juvenile summer chum and chinook salmon, and preserve habitat for shellfish, shorebirds and waterfowl.