OLYMPIA – The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, meeting via conference call, today authorized continued negotiations with Oregon fisheries officials on a joint catch-sharing plan for spring chinook salmon fisheries on the lower Columbia River.
The commission, which sets policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), authorized three of its members as well as top department managers to work with their Oregon counterparts to find a consensus recommendation on the issue.
Differences between the two states emerged on an allocation plan for sport and commercial fisheries last month, when the Oregon commission approved a formula that would provide a larger share of the harvest to commercial fisheries than the one recommended by a bi-state subcommittee of both state commissions.
Known as the Columbia River Fish Working Group, the subcommittee includes three commissioners from each state, along with fishery managers and citizen representatives who serve as advisors.
Agreement on an allocation plan is essential, because the two states jointly manage spring chinook fisheries on the lower Columbia River. Nearly 300,000 upriver spring chinook salmon are expected to enter the Columbia River this year, which would make it the largest run since 2002. The fishery is open now, although spring chinook do not begin to arrive in significant numbers until mid-March.
The Washington commission asked members of its negotiation team to report on their progress by Jan. 16, when the issue of a new management plan for spring chinook will be back on the commission’s agenda for possible approval. The public will be able to listen to that meeting, set to begin at 8:30 a.m. via conference call, on speakerphones at WDFW offices in Olympia and Vancouver, Wash.
The Olympia office is in the Natural Resources Building, Room 172, 1111 Washington St. S.E. The Vancouver office is at 2108 S.E. Grand Blvd. More information about the Jan. 16 meeting is available at (360) 902-2267.
Today’s meeting, originally scheduled as a two-day session in Olympia, was conducted via conference call because of weather-related transportation problems. Working through an abbreviated agenda, the commission:
- Deferred action on electing a new commission chair and vice chair until the Jan. 16 conference call. Those two-year leadership positions have been held by commissioners Jerry Gutzwiler and Miranda Wecker, respectively, since Jan. 2007.
- Heard public testimony on policy direction for the North of Falcon season-setting process for 2009 salmon fisheries. Written comments can be submitted on the policy through Jan. 30 to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA, 98501-1091.
- Received briefings on Gov. Gregoire’s proposed budget for 2009-11 and a new analysis of the economic value of recreational and commercial fisheries in Washington state.